You, like many women, may find yourself trapped in job that you don’t particularly enjoy or connect with on any level. Maybe you followed the footsteps of your parents into a prestigious career that doesn’t align with your personal interests. Or perhaps you took a role because it sounded like a “logical” choice. Whatever the case, it’s common to feel like you’ve reached a crossroads and aren’t quite sure about your next move, or to sense that life is passing you by.
Fran Hauser, best-selling author of The Myth of the Nice Girl, is on a mission to get you unstuck. Her new workbook, Embrace the Work, Love Your Career, is for women who want to fall back in love with their work and design a career action plan grounded in confidence and clarity. In this interview, Hauser shares wisdom from her new book and her of years of experience in senior leadership at Time Inc.’s People, InStyle and Entertainment Weekly as well as AOL and Coca-Cola Enterprises.
Melody Wilding: What inspired you to write this book? Is there a personal story behind it?
Fran Hauser: The idea came to me last year when I noticed that so many of my friends and colleagues were struggling. They were questioning their purpose, their career path, and, on a more tactical level, their day-to-day work. They weren’t alone—many of us are going through an existential crisis right now and are questioning our life choices.
I wanted to do something to help. I recalled an epiphany I had at a speaking event for my first book, The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate. During the question-and-answer session, I was asked about handling self-doubt, and when I shared my favorite confidence-boosting tool, the audience members were nodding their heads and taking notes. It made me realize that when you’re feeling lost or stuck, you need a combination of big-picture advice and practical tips, techniques, and tools that help you take action. Action is key—over the course of my career, I’ve learned that even the smallest steps will move you in the right direction.
So with this book, Embrace the Work, Love Your Career, I wanted to provide a framework to everyone, and women in particular, to reflect, explore, and ultimately, take action so that they can create a career that they love. Everyone needs an accountability partner to help keep them focused and on track and that pushes them to answer the soul-searching questions that most of us haven’t taken the time to think about. This book is a personal career action plan, packed with fun checklists, tools, and creative exercises, that helps activate your vision for a career you love.
Wilding: You start the book by encouraging readers to step back and take a high-level overview of their professional lives. Why is this important and what are some tactics or questions readers can use to go about it?
Hauser: We all talk about work a lot, but we don’t often take the time to truly reflect on what makes us happy and what doesn’t. Yes, you may complain about demanding clients or unreasonable expectations, and, on the flip side, bask in the glory of a complimentary email or the joy of working with brilliant coworkers, but it’s too easy to lose focus on the big picture when you’re mired in the everyday details of your job. Your career is so much more than your job, so it’s essential to pick up your head from your desk and start to envision your ideal path.
What would make you love your career? That’s the million dollar question and one that’s not that easy to answer right away. After talking with hundreds of women and doing some deep work myself, I’ve discovered that people who say they love their careers tend to do work that they enjoy, are good at, makes an impact, and makes them feel valued while doing it.
To get closer to your big answer, ask yourself these questions about your most recent job:
- What brings you energy and what drains you?
- What comes easy to you or where do you naturally shine?
- What tasks do you always choose to do last or dread?
- Which projects or tasks make you most proud?
- When do you feel most appreciated?
Wilding: You argue women should have really big goals (RBGs). How are RBGs different from regular goals? Why do we need them?
Hauser: There’s a difference between everyday career goals and Really Big Goals (RBGs, as I call them). RBGs are the ones that are going to have the biggest impact on your career because they’re grounded in purpose, impact, and specificity. They are the stepping stones of your action plan to loving your career.
For me, when I’ve set RBGs in the following four areas, I have seen an outsized impact on my career:
- Value creation: things that create true value for my company or organization
- Connections: growing and cultivating relationships
- Skills: leveling up on ones that offer new opportunities
- Brand: being intentional about what you want to be known for
As an example of this, if I hadn’t prioritized relationships I wouldn’t have been able to pivot from media to startup investing. The relationships I developed with founders and investors while I was a media executive opened up the doors (and gave me the confidence) I needed to successfully transition to an entirely new chapter of my career.
Wilding: We can’t implement our career plans if we don’t create space. How do you suggest women make more time for their own goals and development?
Hauser: It’s vital to create time in your day for the things that matter or bring you joy. The key to feeling more in control of your time is recognizing that you have the power to choose–or at a minimum influence–where you are going to spend it. I’ve learned there are three ways to create time: take stuff off your list, keep stuff off your list, and change the way you work.
- Take stuff off your list. To-do lists and calendars are overloaded and filled with unnecessary projects or tasks, and committees or meetings that you attend just because you always have. Carefully audit your schedule and ask yourself, Does this support one of my RBGs, bring me joy, or create more value and impact? If the answer is no, add it to your to-don’t list.
- Learn to say no to keep stuff off your list. Once you start purging your to-do list and calendar, don’t make the mistake of re-filling it with new requests. Learn to say no….kindly.
Change the way you work. Now, to lighten your load, think about how you are spending most of your time. Is it excessive networking, redoing a project yourself, or fixating on making your presentation perfect? Reflect on potential time killers in your life and how you can balance them out to make them time builders. For example, can you delegate more, or get feedback on a first draft?
Wilding: Setbacks can really hurt our confidence. How have you handled failure in your career?
Hauser: I’m human and can definitely beat myself up when something doesn’t go as planned. I try to get through this process as quickly as possible by acknowledging that I can’t change what happened and shifting into learning mode. A setback can become a launchpad when you look at it as an opportunity for growth and development.
To apply this mindset in your own life, you can start by reflecting on your work experiences over the past year or so. Make a two column list. On one side, write down things that didn’t quite go as planned. Maybe you missed a big deadline, or didn’t nail a presentation. In the other column, write down a learning takeaway from that experience (i.e., try a better calendar system or take a public speaking master class). Reframing failure as success-in-training leads to a more confident, positive mindset.
Wilding: You talk about the fact that we go farther with support. Who should be on our “Dream Team?”
Hauser: In my day job as a startup investor, I work with founders. Each founder has a set of advisors. Founders usually compensate their advisors by giving them equity in their company. There is a mutually beneficial relationship here; not just equity exchanged for time, but also a sharing of access to people, ideas, and business partnerships. I’ve personally benefited from younger people that I’ve mentored in a multitude of ways.
Your Dream Team is like your own personal board of advisors. These are people who can counsel you when you have an important career decision, provide introductions, and can help boost your confidence when you’re feeling as if you don’t belong. This shouldn’t be an echo chamber, but rather an opportunity to learn from people who can offer new perspectives. I believe it’s beneficial to have an internal champion (a sponsor at your company), a confidant who keeps you in check, a mentor or a coach, a supportive peer, and a leader who you admire.
Wilding: Anything else you want readers to know?
Hauser: Mindfulness plays a huge role in creating a career you love. We’re so often in autopilot mode, and don’t give ourselves the space and the grace to step back, reflect, and be intentional about what’s working for you in your career and what isn’t.
Mindfulness matters, and I’ve integrated new practices into my day that allow me to be more clear and intentional with my time and thoughts. I try really hard to not rush from task to task and build a buffer between meetings and my to-dos so I can reflect on what happened. I ground myself with a morning ritual. And I make time to connect. Work can feel very transactional at times, and what energizes me and makes me love my work is when I’m doing it alongside others with whom I have a strong bond.
Mindfulness can feel like a buzzword, but being mindful makes things easier. When you’re thoughtful about your actions, you triple your impact and output.
Source: Melody Wilding, LMSW
Photo Source: Fran Hauser