Your dream, whether it’s to become an executive at a major Fortune 500 company or it’s to start your own business, is absolutely possible. The secret lies in what I frequently tell the next generation of women: “Don’t shrink yourself.”
Even though I don’t have a formal four-year college degree, I pursued my dream and started my own successful skin-care company. It took hard work, dedication, passion and vision, but I did it. And you can, too. The challenge is to never diminish what you do or limit your potential.
I nearly cost myself a golden career opportunity when I had been hired by the British fashion designer Mary Quant to be part of her professional makeup artist team and launch her product line in department stores. I was offered the chance to not just demonstrate the product, but to use a small stage platform and speak on a microphone as I worked.
The London department store was packed, I was 19 years old and I was intimidated. I refused to stand up on the stage—I wanted to crouch behind the counter and speak as a disembodied voice into the crowd. My manager told me to get up and speak or hand the microphone to another makeup artist. I mustered my confidence, trusted my training, stood up and spoke. That opportunity led to my opening more than 40 training centers around the world and becoming a public speaker and advocate for women’s entrepreneurship. I have never shied away from an opportunity since then, and in fact, I look for them.
Of course, the thought of embracing opportunities and talking yourself up can sound easier said than done. So here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. Learn when to say yes to open yourself up to new opportunities
Sometimes, our to-do lists can seem so overwhelming that the thought of attending a networking event, meeting new people or traveling to new places can seem like time poorly spent. But the truth is that, if you don’t get out there to meet new people and learn new things, you’re effectively limiting your own opportunities and your power to connect to next steps.
About 15 years ago, I traveled to Japan to meet with our distributor. During that same trip, I decided to take a few days to visit parts of the country. Between leading Dermalogica’s continued global expansion and having two young daughters to raise, it was certainly a busy time for the brand and for me personally. And part of me was reluctant to even go on this trip with everything else I had on my to-do list to accomplish back home. But something inside me compelled me to go anyway.
During this trip to Japan, I learned from the local women that rice powder can help exfoliate the skin. It was so revolutionary, and it inspired a kernel of an idea to immediately pop inside my head. When I returned to the U.S., I shared my findings and my idea with our team at Dermalogica. A few months later, our Daily Microfoliant, based on rice powder, was born. It quickly became our number-one best-seller worldwide. Had I not said “yes” in accepting this trip to Japan, I would never have had the idea to create a product that was so unique and still a cult favorite today.
2. …And when to say no
While it’s important to say “yes”, it’s also equally important to manage expectations with your team in order to build your professional credibility and integrity.
Women may shy away from pushing themselves forward to take on more responsibility—why? The truth is that we can’t do everything at the same time. There are only a certain amount of hours during the day, so it’s important to understand our own limits and what we are capable of accomplishing. Remember, saying “no” more often leaves us enough time to say “yes” to the things that truly matter.
Make a list of all the items and projects that need your attention, and prioritize them in order of importance. Which tasks can you delegate, and which can only you see through to completion? The next time someone gives you a task, really think about how and when you will accomplish it before you say “yes”. And don’t feel afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. This will avoid the hamster wheel syndrome, where you are constantly playing catch-up with reactive requests and never able to pursue the proactive opportunities you’ve been dreaming to do.
My mantra? Do the things that only you can do, and delegate or coach someone else to do the rest.
3. Reframe your worries
When you’re faced with a new opportunity, it’s easy to feel afraid. But fear isn’t all that different from excitement, so reframe your thinking. Tell yourself, “I’m not scared, I’m excited.” Think of what the opportunity could mean to you and how much you want it. Refuse to allow your inner small voice to dissuade you. I used to go job seeking in salons and would steel myself by repeating, “You know how to wax a bikini line in seven minutes—that’s amazing!” (It’s also a highly sought-after skill!)
4. Own your accomplishments
Don’t look at a list of job requirements and dwell on the one requirement that you don’t have. Think creatively. Let’s say the list of requirements includes management experience. You may not have had a direct report, but if you are the eldest of three siblings or the mother of two children, you are already managing a team, hitting targeted timelines and meeting deadlines every day. List all the accomplishments you have, and don’t be afraid to play up how they illustrate your competency. Never shrink your own potential. Write your own script, and write it big.
Jane Wurwand is the founder of Dermalogica, The International Dermal Institute and FITE.
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