Power Moves, How Women Can Pivot, Reboot, and Build a Career of Purpose by Lauren McGoodwin
Career Contessa founder Lauren McGoodwin combines an inspirational call-to-action for working women with an intimate chat packed with career advice. She provides templates, tables and a new vocabulary you can use to identify your goals. Well-organized and methodical, McGoodwin leads you through the maze of corporate hiring and career planning. Her insights and suggestions add up to a powerful plan for changing how you think about your career. Whether you hold an entry-level job or are heading for the executive suite, you can apply McGoodwin’s “Power Moves” to jumpstart or rekindle your belief in your career and your abilities.
- Learn to distinguish reality from media fantasies about work to create your own professional path.
- Put “Power Moves” to work for your career.
- Take care of yourself.
- Networking still works and can help you achieve your goals.
- Become your own career coach, and forget about your dream job.
- Don’t shy away from money – embrace it.
- Negotiate for the job and salary you want.
Power Moves Book Summary
Learn to distinguish reality from media fantasies about work to create your own professional path.
Many of the expectations millennial women have for their careers come from TV, movies and online media. The work-life scenarios these sources portray are seductive, but unreal.
“Power Moves are…decisions you make to en sure you’re living authentically and staying true to yourself – not some idea of what you should be.”
Lauren McGoodwin graduated from college during the recession in 2009, did all the so-called right things, and still ended up in a dead-end job. McGoodwin realized she needed to look internally to define the career she wanted. This led her to create “Power Moves,” which helped her become a recruiter at Hulu and eventually an entrepreneur when she decided to launch her business, Career Contessa, to support women and their careers.
Put Power Moves to work for your career.
When you make decisions that move you toward the career you want, you are making power moves. Use these actions repeatedly in your life, not just as a one-time attempt to change.
Even subtle power moves can positively affect how you feel about yourself and your life. Your moves could include asking for a raise or promotion, mentoring, volunteering or investing. Smaller actions, such as cultivating your network, changing how you search for a job or taking a class, are also power moves. Integrate these true-to-yourself actions into your life daily by sticking to a budget or speaking up in a meeting.
The power moves strategy puts you in control of your career. To define what actions to take, build up your career awareness, which encompasses your attitude, career track record and lessons learned.
“There’s an undeniably strong relationship between awareness and better decisions.”
Your awareness will grow in time, but you can cultivate and increase it by caring for yourself, and your relationships, career and money. Learning new skills and building more experience as you define your power moves will change your viewpoint and your ability to act.
Take care of yourself.
Regularly practicing self-care lifts your attitude, reduces depression and allows you to focus on what you really want. Your thoughts affect how you feel physically and emotionally. If you wake up worrying about a problem or imagining one, you’re generating negative emotions, which can impede your ability to move forward. To break that spiral, ask yourself deliberately what you want to focus on, how you want to act today and what it would be like to act that way. Doing this kind of mental planning can help you let go of the past and focus on the future.
What you eat and how much you sleep are important components of self-care. Food powers the brain, so eat well and avoid fad diets. Lack of sleep exacerbates stress, which can cause serious health issues. Prioritize good sleep habits, and create a bedtime routine.
Almost 40% of people in the United States rank themselves as very stressed out at their jobs. Studies show that number is probably higher for women. Instead of reacting to every stimuli at work, define chunks of time for working on a particular task or issue, prioritize the time for the work you’ll need to do and learn how to use this approach to end a period of stress. Discerning what work is truly a high priority will reduce the tension you feel – and probably emanate to others.
An important aspect of self-care is learning to manage your inner critic and your anxiety and shame. The first step is to be aware when your inner critic engages. You may want to name it and understand that it is trying to help. Countering its negativity with a positive validation you can repeat to yourself will help you feel safer and more present.
Learn to regard your mental health as you do your physical health. Seeing a therapist or joining a support group can help you deal with difficult issues. Being content, instead of pushing to be happy all the time, can provide balance in your everyday life.
“We are so obsessed with happiness in our culture that it’s actually making us really unhappy.”
Shame can cause you to act in regrettable ways. Brené Brown says shame thrives on “silence, secrecy and judgment.” To remove shame’s power, talk to someone you trust about the situation that concerns you, learn from whatever you did that worries you and accept it as part of your progress.
Networking still works and can help you achieve your goals.
Your personal and working relationships are crucial to being able to make sound power moves. Even if work makes you feel overwhelmed, take time to nurture important relationships. Other than a satisfying career, relationships top the list for creating well-being. Even more than money, optimistic friends or colleagues have a positive impact on the amount of satisfaction you feel about your life.
Create a small Circle of Champions, a cluster of people you respect who share your values. The members of this group may change as you redefine your life and career goals. Optimism is contagious, so cull negative people from your core circle. Make time for this group, and be present for its members in ways you’d like them to be present for you.
“There’s nothing wrong with being intentional and proactive about how and with whom you spend your time.”
Networking can help you on your way. Developing a network is not like having an ATM: You need to give as much as you take. Don’t turn to your network only when you need an introduction or a job. Create relationships based on mutual interests and respect.
Seek networking events that align with your goals. Know why you’re attending an event and what you want to achieve there. After you meet someone, follow up within 24 hours. Send an email referring to your conversation. Build the relationship by sending emails a couple of times a year or by connecting on LinkedIn.
If you’ve identified people you’d like to meet – but haven’t met – email them. Clearly state the reason you’d like to meet. If you attended the same school or have an acquaintance in common, mention it. Ask for a 20-minute phone conversation, and detail what you’d like to ask. Include specific times when you’d be available to talk. Make your subject line meaningful by including the name of that mutual friend or specifying what you’re requesting. Give people two weeks to respond. You may send a follow-up email, which includes your original note, but if you don’t get a response, let it go.
While cultivating work-based relationships matters, so does maintaining personal ones. To make significant power moves, you need the support of your friends and family. Set aside one day a week when you won’t access work email or messaging apps to be present with your kids, family or friends.
Become your own career coach, and forget about your dream job.
You are in charge of your career, so learn how to manage it. Women often tell stories about how they worked to achieve their dream job only to learn it wasn’t what they really wanted. This happens because people evolve and their passions change. The job you wanted in your 20s is not necessarily what you want in your 40s.
“Our dreams are never about just one destination – the best careers are circuitous, meandering and a little bit wild.”
Define your perfect career goal realistically by deciding what you want in a job and what would be nice but not necessary. Determine what you absolutely need in terms of salary, insurance, commuting time or retirement savings. See these as non-negotiable. Put all your career requirements into a table. For example, you might identify the need to have a commute that’s shorter than 30 minutes.
Delve realistically into which companies you’d like to join. Research them to narrow down the list based on how they fit your criteria. For the best candidates, dig further and find what division or job you’d like.
Sometimes you may think you dislike your job, when it’s actually your work environment you don’t like. Before pivoting your career in a new direction, determine if your concerns are with the job or the organization. If you could move up the ladder at your current company, would you want to?
Author Lauren McGoodwin started Career Contessa to help counter the lack of career resources for women. Its website has a corporate background worksheet you can use to organize your research, target companies and explain why you’re a good fit. When managing your career, define your strengths. Think of where you’ve been successful or earned positive feedback. Identify which tasks energize you.
“By taking…your career into your own hands, you’re empowering yourself…and honing the ability to thrive.”
Start reaching out to contacts in your network or hire a career coach to help you define the job you want. Seeking a new job takes time and effort. Be clear about why you want a specific job at a specific company. Regularly update your online information.
Set goals that fit the SMART criteria: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Review your progress weekly. Be aware of your performance metrics at your current job. If your company doesn’t have them, create your own and get feedback from your boss. If you are thinking about quitting your job, tamp down your fears and examine the situation realistically. Issues could include an unhealthy work environment, insufficient salary, no scope for promotion or not wanting to ascend at that company. If you decide to leave your job, be clear about why.
Don’t shy away from money – embrace it.
Most people measure their career success by the amount of money they make. That’s common, but don’t let salary define your value. Evidence indicates that women have more issues with money than men. The reality that women can have well-paid careers and financial control of their lives is a relatively new social phenomenon. Women in the United States couldn’t even have credit cards in their own name until 1974!
“Ignoring your money will not make anything better; it will only exacerbate the problem.”
Many women feel some fear of money and lack of knowledge about managing their financial life. Identify and work through your money fears. For your own peace of mind, learn how to manage your finances. Create a budget that reflects your expenses, income and savings on a monthly and yearly basis. Defining your budget empowers you. Being honest with yourself about how much you spend may seem scary, but fully understanding your financial situation enables responsible financial decisions.
Negotiate for the job and salary you want.
Although few companies reveal their salary scales, turn to other mechanisms to learn the market value of your work. Research companies and jobs on sites like Glassdoor or InHerSight. McGoodwin’s Career Contessa website includes The Salary Project, an information resource where people can input their salary information anonymously.
Professionals recommend talking to five or so people who do your job at other firms in your industry to get information about the salary you should expect. To overcome awkwardness, mention the salary range your research indicates and ask for feedback. If you can’t get a good comparison, total your core monthly expenses – rent, utilities, insurance, groceries – and double it. Add 20% to that amount and multiply the total by 12 to get your ideal annual salary. That 20% gives you room to negotiate.
“Asking for a raise is the ultimate in self-advocacy.”
Negotiating well requires preparing well. To get ready to request a raise, collect memoes and emails from your clients or your boss acknowledging your excellent work. Seek facts that show how your work supported the company’s goals. This could include new clients, contracts or sales you generated. Never inflate your numbers or take credit where you shouldn’t.
Schedule an appointment, and explain to your boss how you will continue to benefit the company. Have a number in mind that is 10% to 15% higher than what you want so you make room for the company’s counteroffer. Record your pitch and practice it.
Negotiating for a new job is a bit different. Contrary to traditional ideas, you should set out an initial, realistic salary amount, which will then become the basis for further negotiations. Tie your salary flexibility to other aspects of compensation. For example, if you’re new to the workforce, a company that provides training will increase your future value.
About the Author
Lauren McGoodwin founded Career Contessa, a site to help women with their careers, in 2013.