Happy International Women's Day 2020!

The wonderful thing about work is the people that you meet and the connections you make along the way. My career, has spanned nearly 30 years...and I have at least another decade to go!

I've met so many incredible professional women who have inspired me over the years. They have led businesses I've worked for and teams I have worked in.

These women have taught me many valuable lessons throughout my career, such as; how to own up to and rectify a mistake, how to think creatively, how to manage a crisis, how to network, how to negotiate, how to juggle/balance/say no... and even how to master Excel and Powerpoint!

Luckily, I continue to meet inspiring professional women every day, both young and old, in real life and in my professional Guild communities and groups.  

I approached three inspiring women in my shared Guild groups. They all have careers that have spanned more than 2 decades.

I asked them:  "For International Women's Day, what words of wisdom would pass on to young women at the start of their careers?"

Hope you enjoy their answers!

Emma Sexton - CEO & Founder of Make Your Words Work and The Inside Out Awards

Emma Sexton CEO and founder of Make Your Words Work and The Inside Out awards

I grew up in a world without the internet and social media, so it took me a long time to realise that I could create and be anything I wanted to be in this world.

In my twenties I used to help run an organisation called SheSays (now a global network of over 40,000 women in the creative industries). I worked with the co-founders Laura and Ale to run their events. I would do all the organising and then hide at the back for the entire evening feeling super inspired - but a complete imposter.

This went on for the first 5-6 events until something in my mind switched and I questioned what I was doing. Why wasn’t I making the most out of being surrounded by amazing women doing things I could only dream of?

That moment changed my mindset, which changed my life. It was the beginning of me having what I can only describe as never ending work adventures.

I was the UK director of SheSays for eight years and then set up my own creative agency and in-house design awards. After seven years of entrepreneurship, here is what I now know for sure.

1. Be the dumbest in the room...always!

You are the sum of the people you spend the most amount of time with.

Now, I’m not making any limits on the number, BUT I am saying get yourself into the right rooms. The rooms where all the people there are living bolder, braver, lives than you. Give your ego a big talking to when you feel intimidated, turn that into awe instead and then ask them how they did it. Perhaps they can help you to do the same.

[Note: Take a look at Guild's Model for Professional Networking in The Digital Age  - it's a helpful way to think about how to segment and manage your professional networks]

2. Get out of your own way

I have an obsession with psychology and the mind. It started with my first therapy session at age 25 when I was so utterly miserable yet my life seemed to be so good. My emotions were making my decisions for me - not my mind. I had no idea that by changing the way I was thinking, I could change my life.

It is a never ending journey to understand myself, to grow and unpick the fears and insecurities which continually want to hinder me in life. The mind growth I have experienced since being an entrepreneur has been huge, but it is amazing to look back to see how you grow and change for the better.

3. Rejection is an opportunity to step your game up

In my first year of setting up my agency Make your Words Work I realised rejection was going to be a big problem for me. I know that no-one likes rejection but, up until then, it wasn’t really getting in my way.

Once the business was set up, I quickly realised that I was no longer hiding behind someone else’s business idea and credentials - these were now my own. The more I intended to hide, the less money I was ultimately going to make - not an option. I decided the only way forward was to try and make peace with rejection - to ‘reframe’ it.

What if I thought about rejection as an opportunity to learn, evolve and step my game up?

But let me be clear - I have no time for the haters or people who want to pick holes. For that type of rejection you have to become like ‘teflon’ and don’t let it stick. I have enormous amounts of time for those willing to give me constructive feedback, tips and insights to improve what I am doing. Anyone else needs to jog on - because even Beyonce has haters.

My favourite quote to sum up my approach to life is this one:

"The world will not invite you to the feast. You must burst in, demand a seat, and take it." John Carlton

Go get ‘em girl x

Sarah Waddington - MD Astute.Work and founder of #FuturePRoof

Sarah Waddington - MD Astute, founder of #FuturePRoof and former CIPR president

Here are my three top tips for International Women’s Day:

1. You can’t have everything

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is how I manage it all. How to run a business, have a successful relationship, bring up happy and healthy kids, maintain status and engage in industry give back while staying fit, looking good and enjoying positive mental health. The short answer is you can’t.

Balance is key, as is moderation and learning how to say no.

Know this: those who appear to have it all often have large support networks behind them or may be presenting ‘Swan Face’ and paddling hard to keep it all together. No one continuously makes the right choices – I’ve certainly made some lousy career ones in my time. Aged 42 and ¾ I’ve yet to meet anyone genuinely Living The Dream.

2. Choose your own measure of success

Which brings me on to this: life dictates you should have the perfect body, partner, big job, nice car and posh house. And in time, kids too. I got caught in this cesspit of a world early in my career.

I’ve never been happier than when I decided to set up my own business. This meant taking a financial hit but it gave me control over who I worked with and what I worked on. It also saw the start of a permanent shift from dresses to jeans. Basically what you now see is what you get – me. Not some corporate construct trying to be something I’m not.

If you’re ambitious and want all the money and status this brings, go for it! Equally, if you want a nine to five and to fit work around your life, that’s absolutely excellent too. Work out what makes you happy and stick to it.

3. Ask for help

There will be times when you feel that that your life or career has hit a roadblock. Talk to people. Those you trust AND those you’ve only just met.
People genuinely appreciate being asked for advice. Some may be busy, perhaps overwhelmed themselves, and that’s ok too. Just move on and try again.

Six years ago I needed to innovate my business and was devoid of inspiration. I rang a well networked industry contact, now a good friend, who wangled me a ticket to a conference where I heard from other entrepreneurs. I walked out of the event and immediately set up a video production division. It’s now a third of our business at Astute.

Similarly, when I was struggling with infertility issues and then later on my marriage failed, I trusted my team and clients with my heartache. These amazing people gave me the support and space I needed until I was able to move past just making it through each day.

Later, they joined me in celebrating the birth of my two boys and partied with us when I got remarried.

Life is short so you’ve got to make the most of it.

The best advice is to surround yourself with people who keep you grounded and have your back, no matter what.

Annie Friedlein is a fiction writer, publicist and Guild advisor

Annie Friedlein is a fiction writer and publicist. She’s on the Guild Advisory Board as Annabel King.

Happy #IWD2020. Here are a few thoughts from me:

1. Keep your eye out for people who give inspiring advice

They come in all ages and forms but make the difference when things get difficult. Some bosses come into this category – Julia Peyton-Jones at the Serpentine Gallery for example, who had the highest standards; my agent Giles Milburn – but it also applies to teachers and friends.  If you’re lucky, their influence rubs off on you.  

If you like something, a subject or a professional angle, keep at it. Read, build a network, observe detail, and share ideas. It takes a while so don’t be put off.  I remember going to art events after graduating where I would have to pay very close attention to the pictures because I had no-one to talk to. Nowadays, though I don’t go often, there’s more of a sense of hello! – I mean it’s still mostly to the paintings, but to a handful of people as well ;)

2. Very few colleagues wish us ill when they criticise

Mostly they are just tired or venting. Stay calm when you’re judged. Focus on gathering useful feedback, as long as the source is trustworthy, and on offering it in return.

I learned the power of this on a group novel-writing course at Curtis Brown. Other people’s brains are a brilliant resource and if the support’s mutual, i.e. you’re able to give input back, that’s even better.

3. We muddle through in family life, doing our best to manage.

The early years of raising our daughters (beautiful, smart young women) were challenging at times, even though I knew I was lucky.  And we don’t always know what those closest to us are feeling, so I’d say ask as a conscious effort, and listen to the answers. Think about how to make things better, if you can, as you would at work.  With the love, obviously!

4. If it’s in any way an angry email you’re drafting, or a whinge, hold off on hitting the send button.  

Walk away and think, and then either re-word it or have a positive face-to-face to fix the problem. I’m embarrassed about one or two I’ve sent, and remember the worst I’ve received.  Hard words linger and we’re all human.

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Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash