A lot has changed in the world in the last few months. COVID-19 has transformed the way we live our day-to-day lives and lots of women are trying to adjust to the “new normal.” And the death of George Floyd has led to ongoing protests stressing the importance of racial equality and reinforcing the fact that Black Lives Matter.
Although no one really knows what the future holds, many of the women we’ve interviewed for The Passionistas Project have both business and personal advice that seems appropriate as we find ways to move forward.
Empower Your Employees
Jaime-Alexis Fowler is the Founder and Executive Director of Empower Work. The non-profit gives employees a platform where they can discuss their workplace dilemmas with trained peer counselors via text message or online chat. The conversations can take place anywhere — the train during your commute, in the break room at work or from the comfort of your own home. And, as if that weren’t enough, it’s free to use.
Jaime had some great advice on managing people based on her own personal style that will be critical in a system where more people are working from home and self-motivating to a greater extent.
She said, “I’m someone who loves to jump to solutions. A lot of times I’ve realized how often I would jump to like, ‘Well, have you tried blah, blah, blah.’ And I have now very intentionally tried to remove ‘have you’ questions out of my vocabulary — to friends, to my partner, at all.
She explained this shift after “seeing how disempowering that can be to someone because it’s advice wrapped in a question or hidden in a question.
Although Jaime-Alexis admits this isn’t always easy to do, she now presents her thought in a less constrictive way. “Instead of saying, ‘Oh, have you talked to HR?’ I’ll ask something like, ‘What have you considered so far?’ And it creates a more of an openness as opposed to,”You should have talked to HR.’ Even if your intention is, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to get more information.'”
Embrace the Ambiguity
Of course, many people aren’t fortunate enough to still have a job due to the pandemic and are facing a crossroads in their careers. While many hope to return to a job from which they were furloughed, many others are looking for new employers. Still others are contemplating venturing out on their own.
Nicole Merrill is an Upskill Advisor who excels in professional re-invention. She believes now is a good time for many people who were laid off to evaluate the possibility of starting a new business. Her number one tip for those who have found themselves out of work and thinking about making a bold move is simple, “Embrace the ambiguity.”
She explained, “What I see constantly, even from my friends, is they’ll be like, ‘I need to make a change.’ And immediately the people around you be like, ‘Well, what do you want to do? What, what is it?’ So there’s that external pressure. And then there’s your own internal pressure. We’re sitting there going, ‘I don’t know.’ And then you feel like a failure because you can’t figure it out.
“She added, “But the fact is that you haven’t even started. This is a process, the exploratory process for some people. You may have decided two years ago that you wanted to be something and you just never did it. For others, it might take six months. I mean, you’ve got to get clarity on that. What we need to talk more about is that being comfortable in the gray space and being able to say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, what I’m going to be. But I’m working on figuring it out.’ And there’s how you clean that space. You may be crazy in your head being like, ‘I have no idea.’ I’m going to figure it out gives you space. And I think when you start from a period of claiming that space you’ve then given yourself permission to figure it out. Because for most people, it’s not going to be clear right away, especially if you’ve just been laid off.
Think Really Big
For those who do decide to pursue their entrepreneurial dream, Coolhaus ice cream Co-Founder Natasha Case has great advice. “This is a great path for women. Women make great leaders. We have such a fantastic way of building community and thinking. We are so much the ones who are making those decisions as consumers. We should be on the other side of it. Research [your idea] and there’s so much to learn now. Even if it’s a show like ‘Shark Tank,’ or whatever it may be, just get into it read all these blogs. There’s so much information, there’s so much more that is out there now than when I was growing up.”
Natasha also suggested that people not be too cautious. “Think really big. Too many women are like, “Okay, we’re going to think of something that we know we can accomplish and get it done.’ And there’s nothing wrong with that. But we need more of the big, big thinking as women.”
And for those who have already started a business but are navigating new challenges during these difficult times, Founder of Simply Stylist Sarah Boyd advises, “Keep going. The day you want to give up is the day you’ll get over the hump and start succeeding. So keep powering through. You’re gonna face a million obstacles. That’s kind of the fun of it. But just don’t quit because it’s right around the corner.”
Sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington have been inspired by the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp campaign and decided to use their skills as celebrity interviewers to work to tell a different kind of story. Where many podcasters reserve their airtime for the elite, Amy and Nancy are talking to amazing women who don’t often get a platform to share their stories and who are making a huge difference by choosing unique paths. From the founder of a successful ice cream company to a volcano scientist running for office to an artist who makes sculptures using melted down nuclear weapons, Amy and Nancy shine a light on the positive stories of women on The Passionistas Project.