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5 Lessons For Achieving Success In The Workforce

Recent projections show women’s employment rates may not recover until 2024—two full years after a full recovery for men. It’s no secret that women of color face the highest unemployment rates.

As the mother of three boys and a divorcee, Dr. Sonja Stribling, Ph.D, knows all too well the mindset of a woman who wants more but has to constantly fight harder than others. A powerful female of color, she overcame her fair share of obstacles on the journey to become a successful business strategist, former TV host, and highly-sought after public speaker. A retired Army Major, Dr. Sonja joined the military at 17 years old and spent 21 years serving three combat tours in a male-dominated field. It was through the military, and her life experiences, that she learned valuable lessons that she now passes on to other women, helping them take control of their personal and professional lives.

There are five lessons Dr. Sonja believes will help women achieve leadership and success in our new ‘normal.’

1. Discover Your Message And Amplify Your Voice

“It’s critical that women realize their full potential and their P.O.W.E.R.: Possibilities, Opportunities, Worth, Wealth, Excellence and Responsibility,” says Dr. Stribling. “What does that mean? It means women recognize the possibilities open to them, they take advantage of opportunities that knock on their door without fear, they recognize their worth and ask for compensation that measures up, they reinvest in themselves to build their wealth, and they prioritize their own wellbeing – recognizing that you can’t fill others’ cups if yours is empty. Women need to approach their objectives with excellence (and as we know women need to work twice as hard to get ahead) and share the responsibility of reaching 10,000 more women through their success to create a positive impact and movement. Your purpose is too big to play small.”

Amplifying your voice may be daunting and scary, but once you’re truly clear about your message, shouting from the rooftop is easy. Take pride in your power, stay true to your message, and share it. Everyone needs to hear what you have to say, but you have to believe that first.

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2. Help Yourself Before Helping Others

‘“Put your oxygen mask on before helping others’ is my favorite saying. Not only is it an important lesson while on an airplane, but it applies directly to life and work,” explains Dr. Stribling. “You have to take care of yourself first before helping others. Ask yourself simple questions to make sure you have your personal boundaries in check. Does this job still make me happy? Am I overcommitting on projects? Do I have too much on my plate?”

You have to be honest with yourself. When we have too much on our plates, we start leaning into quantity over quality, which may decrease productivity on important tasks because there is simply too much going on. You have to help yourself first, and by asking yourself questions, you will soon learn if the workload is too much to handle. Be transparent with yourself and others. Quality over quantity is always the name of the game.

3. Build A Personal Roadmap

“It’s extremely helpful to have your goals laid out so you can visually see the end destination in mind. List out the steps needed to achieve those goals and think to yourself: What roadblocks do you anticipate interfering with putting the pedal to the metal?” asks Dr. Stribling. “How can you navigate through conversations that seem to be only headed in one direction? What tools do you need to keep moving forward? And most importantly, where are you heading? No matter your destination, it’s how you get there that matters.”

Visually drawing and writing out your roadmap to success helps you to see the bigger picture. While mood boards are helpful, listing out intended interruptions in your path and a way to detour around them will help you navigate difficult conversations and obstacles. Success is at your fingertips, and sometimes, we just need a little advice on how to overcome some light traffic.

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4. Use Your Past To Shape Your Future

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“We are who we are because of our past, right? Sometimes the hardest thing to do is be vulnerable and share what makes us who we are. I found this out first-hand after leaving the military,” shares Dr. Stribling. “I was laying on my couch, in a dark place mentally, and all I could think was: I just want more. So I started sharing my personal experience on social media, talking about who I really am. I received hundreds of messages from women telling me they’ve been through similar life experiences, and that by sharing my story, I helped them on their journey to success.”

Everyone’s story needs to be heard. If it wasn’t for being open and candid about her past, Dr. Sonja doesn’t believe she would be in the same position that she is today. “From that experience, I learned that my life’s work is to help empower women, and it all started with a simple Facebook and Instagram post.” Dr. Stribling elaborates, “You never know what doors may be slightly cracked that just need a little push to fully open. There is power in your vulnerability, and from that vulnerability comes opportunity.”

5. Become Your Own CEO

Entrepreneurship is bigger than ever right now. Last year Americans started 4.4 million businesses. One of the biggest challenges in life can be making a life-altering decision, like leaving your job and starting fresh. Yes, it can be scary jumping into the unknown, but you never know what may lay ahead. When the traditional corporate structure couldn’t provide the life balance Dr. Sonja needed, she left to create something that would. Become your own boss. It’s time for you to call the shots, lead how you want to lead, and fulfill your dream of always being the CEO. The sky’s the limit, but you have to believe in it yourself.

Helping women achieve success in the workplace means giving them the power and opportunity to create their own version of what that means to them and to become their own superhero.

MORE FROM FORBESFeeling Like An Underdog? That Might Be Your Best Advantage


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