When I started off with this post, it was about advice for women at work, I was under the impression where women faces more challenges than men – which I think, as of now, it might be too subjective to judge.
As I dwell into this topic, I realized that it wasn’t really about the challenges you faced, it was about how you persevered while facing the challenges.
It was never really about gender, because really, like it or not, everyone will face challenges regardless of who you are, what you are and where you are.
I reached out to my network of directors, heads and managers asking them what advice they would give to their younger selves, the responses was very deliberating and applicable to everyone.
This is why I’ve modified the post slightly to reflect on my thoughts. Mind you, this will be a long post with advices from people that went through tough situations yet persevered, which lead them to where they are now.
This is probably the most frequented discussion I had over the past few months with my friends (where rants never ends). It would normally go like this (which is not healthy, btw):
“Eh I want to change job liao.”
“This supplier always give me shit.”
I originally started this small project as one of the means to encourage women in work, under the context of gender discrimination. But now I think it’s more of a perseverance issue which applies to everyone.
I still recall the days where my wife, at that time, would come back home crying because she was stressed out at work. Fast forward to date, my wife is now tougher, stronger and handles situation better.
There will be times where we feel overwhelmed. It was never really about gender, because really, like it or not, everyone will face challenges regardless of who you are, what you are and where you are.
When I extended my reach to my network based on my initial thoughts on challenges of women in work, I asked them this:
“If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice in the world of business, what would you say? What advice would you give to young women today, especially in a marketing role?”
I have 9 responses, from creative head to directors which offered their valuable advice. Here is what they say:
Be patient, be genuine.
Remember this – you can’t please everyone.
As contradictory as it may sound, marketing is a career that demands high persuasive and interpersonal skills. And that is why I said, you can’t please everyone, and it’s fine not to.
You are selling your own brand, i.e. yourself in every encounter you have at work – with your bosses, peers, stakeholders, or even in the eyes of your competitors. People may not know who you are and how you act, and most of the time they don’t support you, but it’s OK. Give it sometime and they will feel your sincerity, your warmth and passion. In some marketing field like B2B, this may take longer time due to its product complexity and nature of the industry.
Sometimes, women has a little advantage over men when it comes to persuasion, because we are more sensitive to audience’s condition, especially in choosing our tones and choice of words. (Note: definitely not “manja”.)
Nevertheless, it is also due to this character, we women tend to give in easily in tough situations especially when there’s a conflict with male colleagues. Once there was a trainer in my MBA class commented that I lacked assertiveness which reminds me that I should be more confident when it comes to such situation. To all the young ladies out there venturing in marketing field, be bold, sharpen your critical thinking and debate skills, be confident, while maintaining the classy tender approach when you need to cushion things.
Don’t Say No Before Trying Anything
By Amanda Teoh
When I was in my final year, I attended a conference called “Women in Engineering” in France organized by the Institution of Women in Engineering. It discussed about what women as engineers would face in the workforce, including discrimination, pay gap, work life balance – especially the juggle between work, family & kids.
It highlighted that as long as we were aware of what we are entitled for, we will be able to get it.
I learnt that being the “minority” in the male dominated field, women need to voice up if they were not treated fairly. Women is especially needed in fields as such that wouldn’t hurt to have more diversity – and we all (men and women) need to understand that.
One piece of advice to my old self – don’t say no before trying anything. Saying “no that’s not possible” kills all possibility and limits our growth; because the world of business is dynamic, anything is possible.
To young women today, inequality/ discrimination does not only happen to different genders, it happens to different races, appearances, nationalities etc. while we are fighting for our rights, we should have in mind not to be biased ourselves towards others.
Don’t be ignorant and arrogant, be humble
By Karen Tan
If I could go back in time, I would say to my younger self that the viewpoints and ideology I had back then and been practicing on the past 2 decades has allowed and enabled me to do well in self-gratification and fulfilled as a career mum.
My ideology was not to succumb into the herd mentality and stereotyping culture of the business world. I didn’t need to look a certain way nor do I need to follow the norm for the sake of blind faith in others.
Don’t be ignorant and arrogant, be humble to know that you can learn something every day and apply it to the good of what you are doing – business or personal. It becomes so genuine that no one can deny the enthusiasm and passionate interest to a point of not feeling threaten by the so called unknown motives behind each action.
This has helped me remove many barriers between my peers, juniors and superiors including clients and left me more focused on doing my best at what I soon became best at doing. It builds confidence in young people and grow into a wiser stalwart of my craft.
I am not a Steve Jobs fan but I recently came across his famous quote “stay hungry, stay foolish” while working with my son on his school project. That quote, I think, encapsulates the attitude to life anyone – men and women – should have in the competitive world.
KEEP CALM AND STAY POSITIVE
By Anonymous AM
I have a relatively positive outlook on life, believing that everything has its reason, purpose, and has a lesson.
This applies from the good, the bad and the unexplainable. Occasionally, it does always help to remind myself now or the younger me:
- Always think in “I will” instead of “I wish”.
- Don’t let others dampen your passion as it’s passion that will drive you to live your life to the fullest and enjoy what you do.
- Know your truth – don’t worry about what others may think of you, people’s thoughts change on a regular basis. For as long as you have a sense of ownership, responsibility and is able to have a clear conscience at end of day, that’s all you need.
- Inspire yourself – its eye opening when others inspire us, but there may be dry spells in between. When we’re able to subsidize this in a self-sufficient manner, it becomes sustainable and inspiring to others as well.
- Remain humble – with accomplishments, acknowledgements, etc. stay grateful, stay humble, stay sincere.
Learn To Understand People
By Ivy Yap
By managing many youngsters, management trainees, interns or new executives, I find that young female executives appear much smarter and confident than many of us was.
However, there is always one thing that bothered me, especially in youngsters nowadays – their lack of empathy. Most of youngsters lack of the empathy and compassionate towards others emotion, which may or may not be due to their comfortable background as they grew up with less worries.
I would advise youngsters, in their university time, go get a dog job, to be “humiliated” and learn to smile when they can’t. Learn to understand others needs even without speaking to him or her. To understand a reasonable amount of “people” is the essential even at the start in the bottom of corporate pyramid.
PLAN AHEAD. HAVE A CLEAR GOAL.
By Jin, Creative Head
Always have a clear goal of what you want to achieve in life. Be it career or family. Plan ahead and make sure you have enough resources to help care for your children should you choose to work full time.
It is also very important to consider your family’s holistic needs i.e. spiritual, mental and physical. If I could make the decision again, I would probably opt for a career that would allow me to have flexible hours so that I can spend more time nurturing my children while still being able to work somehow.
Work Smart Not Hard
By Angie Heng, Director from KDSF
Work experience is the most important thing. No matter where you work or whether it’s a job you like or not – pick out the learning points. If it is a boss you dislike, think about why you dislike the boss. Then tell yourself never to make the same mistakes like him/ her. But pick the good qualities if he/she has.
When There Is A Will There Is A Way
By Emily Kow, Product Manager from IME
I remember an influential women leader said this before, there is no sex inequality in the career but only differences in knowledge and experience.
I always believe when there is a will there is a way. No matter how tough is the obstacle you must always try your very best, even if we fail, it only tells us that we need more strength to reach there.
Stay focused, be persistent, and be open to accept others are my principle of life. Sometimes you may find things that you are doing now is not what you want, but everything happen with purpose, so be open to accept all kinds of tasks and most importantly put in will and effort to make it perfect.
Look for a Mentor
By HC Foo
Maybe I don’t see them being discouraged because the women around me are very much empowered and successful, which could have various interpretation – be it in their career and in their personal lives.
Maybe the only thing that I observed and think women could do better is to have the business acumen to take on a higher position in an organisation. Women tend to work very hard and prove how loyal we are to the company but being able to operate efficiently is just not enough.
However to be able to think strategically requires a lot of experience and I wish I have mentors at the beginning of my career to help guide me.
Know Your Craft
By Lai Cheng, Director of CapriComm
Here’s some of my advice that I would give to my younger self, or any young women out there:
- Be confident of yourself and your own skills & knowledge but yet humble at the same time.
- Make sure you always have all deals, negotiations and promises made by clients or management documents in black and white
- Be professional always – don’t go dragging yourself down to being petty (nit-pick at small things).
- If you feel that you’ve been wronged or short-changed, speak up and ask for help and advice.
- Make sure you go over all negotiations and things yourself esp if you’re dealing with direct customer, do constant follow-up (client servicing) and do not delay if something goes wrong, attend to it immediately
- Know that your worth is not about how you dress, what car you drive or how much you’re making (or not), it’s about how you conduct yourself.
- You never know the pot of gold around the corner… sometimes it takes a bit more time to reach your destination. You need hard work and plenty of patience because not everything you want can come to you immediately
- Important for women to help other women and not stab each other in the back!
The Patient Will Be Rewarded
These people that I know produce the best craft in their profession and personal lives. Just like everyone else, they went through their own set of challenges, but what sets them apart from others was their determination and bold mindset which pull them through difficult situations.
I know many of us when facing challenges, quitting would be the easier way out. But when you’re on the verge of quitting, think of why you started this project/job.
Remember this – no matter how bad or how good a scenario is, it will change, but whether for the better or worse, is up to you to decide. We need to learn how to live enjoy the moment, while striving in this journey of life.