Golden Gate University thumbnail logoThis is to accompany a panel session at my alma mater GGU – Women in Leadership. Wednesday November 5th 2014. Topics I cover here include Career Planning, Integrating Work and Life, Negotiating Salaries and Effective Communication at Work.

It’s very exciting to be invited to participate on this panel.  Since it was set up a month or so back, there was the fire storm around Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s remarks at the Grace Hopper Conference, and that same week I went to a conference at Google about the future of PR – and there wasn’t a single woman speaker or panelist at an event tailored for an industry with so many fantastic female practitioners. What’s going on?

I hope the session on Wednesday night will act as a think tank for all of us and give us renewed vigor and confidence to get out there and rock our careers, our personal lives, and support the network of women around us.  A tall order? Maybe – but I am very hopeful.

Here are some of my notes based on the Q&A we have been preparing for the panel session.

Career Planning

Keep in mind that a career plan is only as good as its execution and you can’t hold yourself hostage to a plan that no longer works for you.  As John Lennon observed “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Having said that, if you don’t have a plan at all then you’ll be denying yourself the opportunity to pursue your dreams, reach a bit further, achieve a bit more. There are a lot of books out there to help you identify your core skills and motivators and from there, you can decide where you want to go.  Two favorites of mine are “The Big Sister’s Guide to the World of Work” and “Strengths Finder” – a book that is also an online quiz. And for overall life planning I believe the Grand Daddy of them all “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” is good at explaining why you should begin with the end in mind, and for an excellent study in happiness I would recommend checking out Gretchen Rubin’s website.

Integrating Work and Life

Don’t underestimate the power of your home team – whether or not you have a family, you have people around you who can help and support you, and you can help them too.  When you are snowed under with work, sometimes it’s good to work with a friend, while she works too.

Most of my challenges in this area have been to do with international travel where a business trip can last weeks at a time. It’s important to keep up some personal activities even if you are on extended business trip. A good rule of thumb is to carve out 30 minutes a day for yourself, it doesn’t matter too much what you do.  As a sporadic jogger I find it’s great to use Walk Jog Run to map routes in the places I am staying in. Also use Podcasts to keep up with your favorite audio, and Skype to keep up with your loved ones.  Running allows me to snatch a little bit of sightseeing or local color before the day begins.  Take care and ask for advice, but you’ll be amazed how memorable these excursions are.

Another area of integration is working out how to have good boundaries with work, when you are on vacation. My family would tell you that I am not very good at this, but what I do try to do, is to use my cell phone to check email first thing and last thing, rather than opening up my laptop which just drags me into the email swamp.

Negotiating Salaries

How to Ask for a Raise” by Jocelyn Goldfein is really thorough, fresh and informative. is your friend. Also ask around and work out all the little details that could make a difference to how you feel about your overall compensation. Agree milestones in advance which can trigger a compensation review. Keep asking.

During the hiring process you will have to negotiate your salary. “What did you Earn at Your Last Job?” by Liz Ryan will help you stay strong as you are questioned and cajoled to reveal your previous salary. Do not cave!

Effective Communication at Work

Think about what you say, how you say it and when you say it.  It’s important to put yourself into the conversation, do speak up and when speaking, hold your space, maintaining strong eye contact will help avoid interruptions. And when you are interrupted, do make sure the rest of your comments are heard.  Work on your voice and tone – do you have a lighter, higher, or abrasive tone that does not communicate gravitas or intelligence?  Learning to drop your voice, speak slower will pay off enormously. Get a speech coach, I highly recommend Eugene O’Reilly at Contemporary Speech and Voice Services, in a few weeks he can transform your voice, greatly enhancing your personal style. Check yourself on the number of times you say um, sorry, like, God, yeah etc etc – they do not convey authority or persuasion.

Make your emails worth reading! You can build your reputation by sending concise emails that have a relevant subject line and clearly call out action points and who is responsible.  Do bother to add salutations and sign offs, Carson Tate’s recent post sums this up perfectly (No Subject); How Sloppy Emails Ruin Your Productivity.  When possible use direct communication with your colleagues – in order of precedence there’s face to face, then phone, then Skype or instant message, texts and then email.  You can’t build relationships over email, so take the time to get to know people.

Finally there’s the thorny subject of appearance.  Books, magazines, YouTube will give you an avalanche of how to look – I think the most important thing is to make your appearance work for you, but then leave it be, “Set it And Forget it”. The last thing you need to be thinking about while you are working, is your appearance.  Be mindful of the industry and company culture you are in, and dress accordingly, it’s good to take it up a notch or two, but that can be difficult in the Bay Area’s casual climate.






Blowing off steam – GGU MBA 2008