When I was in elementary school, I ran for student council president – against a boy. I lost the election by one vote – and it was my own. I lost the election for myself. If I had any advice to give to my younger self, it would be “Vote for yourself – always.”
To celebrate International Women’s Day, we reached out to top women in the sales industry to ask what advice they would give to their younger selves. The responses we received were both inspiring and extremely fitting for the spirit of this year’s theme – #BeBoldForChange. We hope that you enjoy and learn from them.
Never turn down an opportunity to “sit at the table” - be present and participate. Always take time to reflect on your successes and when people tell you that you are an inspiration, a rockstar, or that you are good at what you do …say thank you – and believe them.
Women are funny. We don't apply for a job or promotion unless we feel we have 100% of the tick boxes checked. That same stat for men is 85%. I would tell myself … go for it. You can figure out the other 15% and you will rock!
What I have learned since my 20s is even without a well thought out plan of what I wanted my long-term career goals to be and where I wanted life to take me, I ended up right where I believe I am supposed to be. Each little, and big decision I made led me to where I am today, and the things I thought would make me happy in my 20s are not so important to me today.
Get out of the echo chamber! Don't be deceived by validation from a like-minded circle. Instead, seek diverse opinions and seek to understand them. You'll learn more, do more and be more when you are unshackled from group think.
There are two things I am still working to master that I wish I learned at a much younger age. One is my finances and the other is to ask for help. I would tell my younger self, “Learn how to save, learn how to spend and learn how to invest not only your money but your time, wisely. Find a mentor and never be afraid to ask for help.”
When I was in 6th grade, I wanted to be either the first woman on Mars, a UN interpreter or a Minnesota senator. By the time I graduated, I’d decided to pursue a more realistic career as a teacher. I’d tell my younger self that life is an adventure and that I should: pursue my aspirations whole-heartedly; embrace the challenges along the way and; redefine all failures as invaluable learning experiences. This is the path to being our best selves, finding joy and making the biggest difference in this world.
Do things that are uncomfortable! I was so nervous for my first job interview out of college that I actually cried during it. I think people often equate this with “don’t be afraid to fail.” I think it’s more, “don’t be afraid to learn.” I’d tell my younger self, that the very thing I feel most worried about is my brain’s way of telling me it’s the thing I should tackle first.
What do you want people to associate with you when they think of your name? Is it a certain selling skill (i.e. The closer) or a certain subject matter? Realize what your strengths are, and build a personal brand around it. It will play a tremendous role in your career, whether you are an individual contributor or leading an organization.
By the time I was 13, I had run a successful lemonade stand for multiple summers, organized hugely successful backyard circus fundraisers for the fight against Muscular Dystrophy, sold tons of Girl Scout cookies AND created a craft business selling holiday ornaments at a retailer. I should have had a huge ego and been fearless. Somehow I didn't see and appreciate these accomplishments until much later. My advice to my younger self would be to savor your success, talk it up, be more brave and move forward.
My main lesson learned is to build more trust to get access to your intuition, your inner voice. This is your soul talking to you. But if you don’t trust your intuition, you are disconnected from your soul’s wisdom. So, build trust into your intuition, listen carefully, and make better decisions earlier in your life, in your career, wherever it might take you. There is no right or wrong way, there is only YOUR way.
When I was around age 7, I called George Lucas because I wanted to work with him. I had no doubt I’d be a great partner for him. After that ‘no’, I let my courage to ask drift away. I found it again, but it took a while. The advice I’d give would be: never stop asking and being willing to hear ‘no’ because the ‘yes’ you are seeking is out there!
Dozens of countries around the world celebrate women’s achievements and advocate for greater gender equality on International Women’s Day. I’d like to thank these amazing women for sharing their personal stories. Together we can all help create a more gender equal world.
Jennifer Dignum is Sr. Manager, Content Marketing, at Xactly Corporation, a leading provider of enterprise-class, cloud-based, incentive compensation for employee and sales performance management. Xactly’s products allow organizations to make strategic decisions, increase employee performance, improve margins, and mitigate risks.