The Goal Setting Process with Whitney Meers 

Leadarise New York was thrilled to welcome Whitney Meers as a guest speaker this week at the Global Action to Prevent War office located in the United Nations. Last month, Whitney Meers was featured as one of our “Young Women to Watch,” you can learn more about her here. The interactive discussion focused on Whitney’s experience switching careers and how setting goals can help us all advance.

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Whitney began by asking how many participants wanted a change in their lives—whether it was finding a new job, making a career switch or developing a new skill. “How much time do you spend on career development?” she asked, and for many of us, the answer was quite little.  “I challenge you to make time to focus on this and to treat it like an actual meeting.”

She told participants to open their calendars and make a date with themselves, “Make no plans for Tuesday night, and instead of watching that movie you’ve been really wanting to see, take some time and focus on your career development. Think of it like going to the gym,” she explained. “Although you might not want to, you know every time you go, you feel better, and the more you keep up with it, the better you feel.”

Next, she asked participants how they defined professional development. “The answer is unique to each one of us,” but the excuse that you’re “strapped for time” does not work! “If this is an important goal, you have to make time to accomplish it.”

This brought participants to part two of the exercise, which she focused on, “What will help you achieve your goal?” Participants began calling out suggestions, which Whitney wrote on post-it notes. They ranged from gaining proficiency in a skill set, attending classes, networking, meeting with mentors, updating your resume, compiling work samples, having work objectives, taking on more responsibility at work and many more.

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While these were all great ideas, it was overwhelming! Whitney explained that with so many options, we often don’t bother with any. We had to prioritize. She suggested that during the time we set aside for career development, to write out the different steps we could take to achieve our goals. Then, prioritize and decide which methods to pursue first. Most importantly, make the commitment to follow through.

Thank you Whitney for the wonderful evening and for inspiring us to make change happen!

By Sarah Reinheimer

London Workshop: How to Build a Strong CV

On Tuesday evening in London (17 June 2014), we were delighted to welcome a group of you to our workshop: How to Build a Strong CV.

Hosted by recruitment expert Helen Artlett- Coe of City recruitment firm Crimson, the two-hour session aimed to equip attendees with the knowledge needed to sell their skills effectively on their CV. Our group was mixed with students, recent graduates and professionals with 15+ years of experience from a variety of career backgrounds.

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Participants in London

Group exercises were followed by lively discussion. Did you know that following the Age Discrimination Act, most applicants are now leaving their date of birth off of their CV? Or that there is a new fashion in recruitment to add ‘Other skills and interests’ or ‘hobbies’ due to post-recession competitiveness?

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Participants discuss the key to a great CV

Commenting on the event, Helen said:

“Applying for a new opportunity is so competitive in today’s market, you need to stand out – and for the right reasons! Your CV is the first impression you will make on any potential employer, so it’s important you get it right.

 “How to construct a stand out CV is a subjective topic; one could ask three different sources for guidance and receive three different opinions. In this session we endeavoured to amalgamate a range of advice and 14 years’ worth of recruitment industry experience to build a CV that was current, relevant and concise.”

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Make your CV stand out from the crowd!

Here are a few of our key takeaways from the workshop:

  • The most common mistakes on CVs are spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Proof read your CV, do it again, and then ask someone else to do the same.
  • Think about the aesthetics – is your CV easy on the eye? Make sure your text isn’t too small and you haven’t crammed in too much.
  • Make sure your dates line up and unless you were doing two jobs at the same time, make sure they don’t cross over.
  • Have you taken time out of work due to redundancy or travel? Be honest and explain any gaps.
  • Make sure you know your CV inside out- you need to know every single bullet point and be able to talk about it all at ease in an interview.
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Refreshments after an evening of hard work!

A special thanks to Helen Artlett- Coe and Lucinda Hammond from Crimson and to Nicola Martin from Leadarise London!

Changing Course: From Law to Digital Media

Whitney Meers

Meet this month’s Young Woman to Watch, Whitney Meers from New York City. Whitney is a writer and freelancer, helping companies and individuals tell their stories through digital media. She’s also a digital marketing career coach with General Assembly.

Like many young professionals today, Whitney’s career path changed course when she realized what she studied in university wasn’t the career she wanted to pursue. Read her open, honest and funny blog post about how she gathered the courage to make a satisfying switch. 

Join us in #NYC on 6/30 for a networking event with Whitney: http://bit.ly/1q4aISB 

  1. What brought you to New York and what is your current role?

I came to New York to go to law school. Some people have very long and satisfying careers in in the legal profession, but law school was an expensive way to find out I’m not one of those people! But the great thing is that law school took me to New York, and it was here that I discovered a love for storytelling in all forms. I worked in a law office while writing at night and working on film sets in my spare time. I was eventually hired to do some work with DailyCandy, which is owned by NBC Universal, where I developed the foundations I needed to become a strong marketer. I built those skills even more by enrolling in the digital marketing program at General Assembly, which felt like an expensive investment at the time but has paid off tremendously! The move into a strategy focus is more recent – basically, it’s taking those same storytelling skills, pairing them with the analytic skills you learn in law school, and aiming to help generate real results for your clients.

  1. How much courage did it take to transition from law to digital media?

At the suggestion of one of my instructors, I went to a career counselor. The counselor said I seemed to light up when I talked about creative projects, where I seemed bored and distracted talking about the law. She suggested I spend a week pretending I wasn’t going to be  lawyer after school, just to see how I felt. It was like a huge weight was magically lifted. It definitely took courage to change my course, but it’s also a matter of perspective – I’m definitely much happier in the role I’ve chosen. And, it’s a huge relief to never have to look at another legal document again!

Since most of my work is freelance, there’s never any real security – but the better you get, the more you develop the confidence to work only on projects that can actually help you grow. And, ultimately, if you’re not growing, then what’s the point of any of this? Even when things seem risky, working with collaborators you trust and respect really helps ease the fear of failure. So ultimately, it takes a lot of courage on a daily basis, but without that fear of failure you can never really know success.

  1. What challenges do you face as a freelancer? What are your triumphs?

As a freelancer, there are definitely times I have to spend weeks chasing down payments! There’s also the challenge of learning when to say “no” – to a client request, a time-consuming project or anything else that doesn’t seem to add value toward my life goals. In terms of triumphs, I tend to be very achievement-oriented, so when a new project launches or a concept shows real results, it’s always a great feeling. The constant learning and the numerous teaching opportunities also drive me on a day-to-day basis.

  1. How do you set your schedule and ensure work/life balance?

In a lot of ways, they’re one in the same to me. I exercise in the mornings, allow myself to take breaks when I need them and make time for my friends, all of whom are wonderfully weird people in really neat industries doing awesome things. On nice days, I’ll work outside or take a long walk to clear my mind. If things get too stressful, I’ll remember relief is usually a few deep breaths and a chai latte away.

When things at the workplace are really tough, communication is key. These days, most employers realize that an overworked employee is less useful than a relaxed, focused one. When I’m struggling, I aim to be transparent – what are the roadblocks? Why are they causing problems? And, most importantly, how can others help me get the job done?

  1. Who/what inspires you?

I’m always inspired to see people doing interesting and creative things, particularly women, who don’t always get the accolades they so rightfully deserve. Even just remembering to be aware in the moment is a way to reflect and find inspiration in unexpected ways.

On busy days, even little bouts of creativity throughout the day can help keep me going, like seeing an interesting Google doodle or checking out a funny video. If I’m ever feeling low, I know that there’s nothing a YouTube video of an adorable dancing hamster can’t cure.

  1. What would be the most important work lessons you’d like to share with other young women?

Don’t be afraid to take risks, and use failures as learning opportunities. And, support others doing great things. A little bit of healthy competition is good, but at the end of the day, there’s enough room for all of us to succeed. And, be nice to everyone… we live in a world where it’s entirely possible for your clueless intern to become a tech millionaire overnight.

Also, don’t be afraid to speak up. You’d be surprised how many things I’ve gotten simply by being confident enough to ask for them.

  1. Would you do anything differently?

I’d focus more on my relationships with others, since these solid relationships are the cornerstone of most of my work prospects. People always want to work with someone they know or who comes highly recommended. I’d also spend less time stressing and more time living. I’d probably also drink a lot less Red Bull – it’s so important to get a full eight hours of sleep at night! And if I’m being totally honest, I’d also splurge a bit more on fancy cheeses and fine wines – sometimes you just have to treat yourself!

8. What will the next 5 years look like?

In five years I’d like to have written a book, a funny-yet-informative business book based on stories from my own crazy life. I’d also like to own my own business – I have a solid education-based startup idea, but I’m keeping it a secret until I get my millions in funding! As long as I’m still teaching and still learning every day, I know I’ll be happy.

 

Entrepreneurs Get-Up-And-Go

When you’ve seen three American policy and innovation hubs in one week, it’s hard to know where to start untangling the web of information that makes American entrepreneurial culture so successful. 

My first impression from Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Raleigh is that culture plays a key role in providing the right environment for growing small and medium sized businesses and start ups. The experts call this fostering an “innovation ecosytem” although most disagree on what the ecosystem actually is. Is it a combination of government funding, business acumen and get-up-and-go resolve? Is it education? Or is it all of these things?

Downtown Baltimore

Regardless of how you define the ecosystem, or whether or not you find the word meaningless jargon – a combination of entrepreneurial attitude, readily available and competitive business services, a willingness to embrace risk and a conscious effort to seek out and foster startup talent is keeping the U.S.A one step ahead in responding to epochal changes to the global labour market.

An evening with Running Start

Patriotism, the pursuit of happiness and a sense of civic duty still hold strong in the U.S., missing a lot of the cynicism we’re used to in Europe, even if Americans will be the first to tell you their country isn’t perfect. I’ve been inspired by the strength of civil society here, the warm welcome WWII veterans got returning home from the recent D-Day celebrations and the genuine excitement people convey when listening to new business ideas.

WWII veterans welcomed in Raleigh

Ultimately, Americans get up and go – spending more time doing than pondering. In business, that’s the kind of energy that leads to innovation and prosperity in a country where twice as many women as men are starting new business ventures.

Laura at the State Department

Article by Laura Hemmati

Excuse me while I contribute to the economy

I once visited a hotel in Holland with a pool with a wave-machine. Push a button and waves would start rolling towards you, thus helping you build upper body strength. Start your own business in Belgium, combine it with motherhood and you get a perfect reenactment of that experience.

Being an entrepreneur is already a swim-or-drown-exercise, but a few tips along the way can really help calm the weather.

Leadarise Young Woman to Watch Anne-Sofie van den Born Rehfeld

Leadarise Young Woman to Watch Anne-Sofie van den Born Rehfeld

R.E.S.P.E.C.T

You are all prepared with your business plan and your financial scheme, ready to go through the statutes of your new company. Then your accountant turns to your lawyer and tells him: ‘Look I brought you a cute client’…while you are standing right there. Yes, that happened.

Let’s agree that it is not acceptable for business partners, clients or service providers to comment on your looks or your attire in business dealings. Or to cut you off while you explain your business plan, so they can explain it back to you in an ‘improved’ version. Be aware of your limits and prepare a quick comeback (in French) in order to shut it down as quickly as possible. Don’t just smile while you die inside. If you just accept it and let it roll off you, even nice guys tend to think it is okay.

Arrested Development

Guilt, emotional blackmail, extra work and daily assignments – no I am not talking about the children, but about the school system. ‘Please bring an entire outfit in green and a homemade sock doll tomorrow morning’ or; ‘join us to paint and clean and entire school for a weekend’. I need my children to be in day care so they can learn social skills and so I can work. However, the reality is that dealing with the child care system is an extra part-time job. I dropped my jaw, when I got the invitation for a Mother’s Day party at the school at 13.30 on a Friday. I sincerely doubt that fathers will be asked to take a half to a whole day off when Father’s Day comes around.

What to do about the eternal conundrum of the work-life-parenthood balance? All I can say is that I refuse to feel guilty for working, creating and contributing to the economy. But there is a need to address the way men and women speak to each other in business situations and there is a need for schools to view parenting roles in an enlightened way. If we continue to address these needs then maybe, just maybe, our daughters will experience mere ripples instead of a wave machine on the highest setting when they decide to open their own businesses.

Anne-Sofie van den Born Rehfeld is the founder of The Library Group and a mother of two girls. The Library is a boutique business centre, which feels like a private home. It offers coworking, private offices and meeting spaces. The second Library is due to open later in 2014. http://www.thelibrarygroup.be

 

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This month’s Young Woman to Watch is the dynamic Kritika Ashok. Currently focussed on building ArtNouv – a company that promotes affordable art and allows people to order customised handmade oil on canvas paintings – Kritika also heads the e-commerce department for one of the leading independent opticians in Ireland, Mairead O’Leary Opticians. Originally from India, Kritika has lived in Ireland for many years and worked in not for profit organisations, government departments, SMEs and multi-national corporations before starting and developing several online businesses. She describes herself as “extremely partial” to the startup world.
How did you end up in Dublin doing what you’re doing?
Life is full of chance and even more so, hidden opportunities. I was considering going to Australia for a year after college, as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Did I want to continue in the company I had with my mother? Did I want to take up a job? Did I want to travel? I was confused, so when a charity called AIESEC in Ireland offered me a year-long role, I took it. Now, many years on, I am still here in Ireland by what I would say is pure chance and coincidence. Post-AIESEC, I took on two corporate roles and somehow along the way, the path diverged…I started a company with a former business partner which went from strength to strength before I went out on my own and now, yes, I manage and own ArtNouv. Definitely not what I would have thought I would be doing back when I was in college!
How much courage did it take to set up your current business/project(s)?
None and a lot. Yes, I know that is a contradictory response. I say none because of the timing involved: it happened because I had just finished up with another startup a few months before, and I had just closed down another one. I was having (thankfully now-resolved) visa issues getting the corporate role I wanted so a startup made sense. I say a lot also because of the timing. I had considered leaving the startup world behind but somehow, I fell in love with the idea and the concept of what we did then, what we do now and what we envision we will be in the years to come. Looking back now I didn’t realise this internal conflict. I just went with the flow. I had then the same conviction in our business idea and model that I still have now and that is what carried me through.
What were the biggest obstacles/triumphs?
Speaking about my current venture rather than previous ones, in our case, there were three directors in three different countries and three different time zones – meetings were a pain to arrange and then some! It was very tough, very tricky to make the smallest of decisions in such an environment, especially where none of us were doing this full-time. Each new order, each new artist signed up, each new contract signed with a reseller – these were all mini triumphs. In terms of big triumphs, I think the biggest one for me personally is having bought my partners out recently. And of course, being recognised by Leadarise as a Young Woman to Watch!
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How do you ensure work/life balance?
Haha, great presumption there! I don’t, to be honest. However, I make sure meet someone socially every day to ensure I don’t become a complete hermit, and that I slot some non-work related fun in everyday.
Who is your inspiration? No one person. I am in awe of my mother for the lady that she is and for having given me the safety net I need to do everything I want. I am also inspired by an Indian politician called Indira Gandhi for being as formidable and strong as she was in the times that she was the Prime Minister. In terms of business, I love Steve Jobs’ philosophy of focusing on the design, the aesthetics and giving the customer something they didn’t even know they wanted. It’s especially relevant for a business like ArtNouv. Depending on what frame of mind I am in, my inspiration changes daily. More often than not I find inspiration from the people around me than from the better known names out there.
What would be the most important work lessons you’d like to pass on to other young women?
Be forceful, know what you want, ask for help, have faith and don’t look for the right time. And oh yes – do not, absolutely do not, be a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist is not going to get you anywhere.
Would you do anything differently?
Loads! Maybe I shouldn’t have been bitten by the bug to do travel writing and fashion photography for 15 months like I did, maybe I wouldn’t have quit certain roles when I did, maybe I would have quit certain roles sooner than I did, maybe I would have stayed longer in others. But definitely I would have had more conviction in myself, belief in my skills, faith in my abilities and stuck to my ground.
What will the next 5 years look like?
Considering none of my plans have ever worked out so far exactly as intended I truly cannot say, but they will be exciting, they will be fulfilling and they will undoubtedly be challenging. I suspect I will still be reminding you all how wonderful a gift it is to give someone a customised handmade oil on canvas painting!

The Art of Risk

When the astronauts call Earth from space, we answer

When we checked in with Andrea Boyd a few weeks ago, one of our talented Young Women to Watch 2013, we didn’t expect her to say she’d be the new voice of Europe to the International Space Station. Needless to say we’re very proud. There’s no way of knowing where this young woman could end up next, but we’ll be watching and cheering and clapping, if not tweeting with her astronaut friends in space.

Taking a break between all the serious work and tests to chill in the ISS Columbus Module

Taking a break between all the serious work and tests to chill in the ISS Columbus Module

What’s happened since your Leadarise blog interview last year?

I’ve moved to Germany and now work at the European Astronaut Centre! My new role is called EUROCOM at the European Space Agency, our European equivalent of CAPCOM at NASA. When the astronauts call Earth from space we answer. There’s not just the famous Houston, there’s also Huntsville, Moscow, Munich and Tsukuba. We’re “Munich”.

So you’ll soon be the voice of Europe in space! Out of this world! How did you get there?

This opportunity came up late last year. I decided to try, placed an application, sat various interview levels and after a nerve wracking few weeks – which included turning down another very enticing New York job contract – I was holding in my hands a guaranteed offer. I took a risk in waiting for the outcome and thankfully it was positive news.

Failure was not an option, so I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough.

How’s it going so far?

Given I’m experienced in International Space Station (ISS) flight operations, my programme has been fast-tracked and condensed from the usual year or so it usually takes to be certified, down to about 9 weeks. So it’s felt like an exam week that never ends for the past two months. Failure was not an option, so I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough.  However, the astronauts do this, and more, for 4+ years. That always gives me perspective! I remember the day Alex (German astronaut) left for his flights Germany-Russia-Kazakhstan-Space, I was immersed in work and feeling the pressure, he cheerfully passes by my office to say goodbye with his suitcase all packed and says “Talk to you on the loops!”.  That made me smile and take an attitude check. Alex launches to the International Space Station on 28th May and from then onwards we will have a continued European presence in space aboard the ISS.

Samantha (Italy) launches in September, Andy (Denmark) early next year, Tim (UK) in Nov 2015 and Thomas (France) in 2016. I am so proud of Europe and the European Space Agency and am in awe of the privilege to work here.

How do you feel about the job?

Loving the job – ridiculous responsibilities like being one of two mandatory technical reviewers together with a fantastic astronaut from our department for all the upcoming experiments from Europe. On the ISS we use English and Russian, socially at the Astronaut Centre we speak mostly English, French, Italian and German. Language switching all the time is epic and I’m sitting in a department of only a few people as a young person amongst so many experts!

Everyone here is completely extraordinary. I am in awe of my colleagues.

We guess that makes you a young expert!

Everyone here is completely extraordinary. I am in awe of my colleagues and sometimes when I attend meetings, I question how I have a right to sit there with such amazing people. I didn’t really have any idea of what I was getting into and frequently I’m afraid of saying something stupid. I am very aware of my need to improve my engineering skills, my professional development and my language acquisition, but European Space Agency is perfect for all those things. I have mega impostor syndrome, but, at the same time, I’ve always been taking on roles that I thought were beyond my capability – that’s how you become a better engineer. Swimming at the deep end is a way of life.

Sounds daunting, but you’re clearly the best person for the job! Will we hear you in space soon?

My final exam is in May, so I will be certified ready for Alex’s launch to the ISS at the end of the month. You’ll hear me starting in June during my first week in the big flight control room near Munich. The voice of Europe to space now has an Australian accent! There’s been internet on board the space station since 2011 and the next three astronauts will be tweeting live from space! Follow them at @Astro_Alex @astro_reid @Msuraev and catch updates from me at @AstroAndgie7

Andrea Boyd, the new voice of Europe to the International Space Station in June

Andrea Boyd, the new voice of Europe to the International Space Station in June

@AstroAndgie7 we salute you and your Australian accent! If Leadarise makes it as far as space…or Munich, we’ll know who to call!

Article by: Laura Hemmati