If You Want Something, Be Ready!
Zain, a Saudi Arabian woman completing her PhD in the U.S., feels a strong need to perform excellently in every area of her life and to stay at the top of her department. Both back home in Saudi Arabia and here in the U.S., her life circumstances have made progress difficult for her. Divorced, 40-something, and a second-language learner in a competitive academic setting, she could find many excuses to sit back in life.
But Zain (not actual name) shares a understanding that undeterred women have. She knows that when there’s no question about her ability to perform a job or task, her gender, age, and accent won’t matter. That’s why, although she had a stable, well-paying job back home, she chose to develop English fluency and pursue her field’s highest degree in the U.S.
One of the ways women improve their professional opportunities is by maximizing their skill sets. Successful women develop their skills to the level that their performance speaks louder than their social identity, and though this requires constant learning and development, their skill set helps them build a strong reputation. Their confidence in themselves wins others’ trust and confidence in them.
Jessie Kalisa Umutoni, who left a senior management position in Rwanda to start her own business venture in school chalk, applied this exact principle. While building her new career, she spent all her time in factories learning about every factor of the producing and manufacturing business. So, when she got ready to launch, she had already built up her competence in every detail of the work. Her expertise helped her business succeed. You can read more about Jessie in Chapter 4 of UNDETERRED: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies.
TAKE ACTION TO DEVELOP YOUR COMPETENCIES
Besides building confidence and reputation, building your skills and knowledge prepares you to take advantage of opportunities. To develop your professional competencies, attend training sessions, take night classes, and/or listen into podcasts or webinars you are interested in. Find experts you can learn from. Leverage your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses by volunteering for challenging assignments at school or work, and by getting the insights from your mentor.
No matter what stage of your career you are in, we advise women to develop learning plans. Your learning plan is a way for you to identify the experiences, reading, trainings, or feedback that will help you leverage your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. Our fields are always developing. So, if we want to be leaders, we have to keep developing too!
There’s a sample learning plan in UNDETERRED to guide you.
I’m reminded by the advice given by Vania Neves, a senior information technology (IT) manager at a multinational company in Brazil; her mother regularly told her, “If you want something, be ready!” and this has influenced her career.