By Lauren Riegelnegg, Development Director, PA Women Work
As we approach the end of the year, many of us are on the fast lane straight to 2022. In our jobs, we are working hard to close out year-end projects before we take much-needed time off for the holidays. And in our personal lives, it’s a race to finish our shopping, wrap our gifts, run our children from one activity to the next, prepare to host family and friends for the holidays, and finish the dozens of other items on our to-do lists.
But this holiday season, I invite you to take a pause. Through all the chaos, take a moment to consider those in our community who are less fortunate than us and what their holidays might look like.
Thanks to a generous anonymous donation and our community-supported Compassion Fund, Pennsylvania Women Work was able to provide holiday gifts for some of our clients and their children. Volunteers joined us in our office earlier this week to prepare these gifts for delivery, and it was a joy to be able to do something for local women and families who needed a little extra support this time of year.
There is still time for you to do good in 2021 and join in the season of giving. I have compiled a list below of some easy ways you can give back this December:
I hope over the next couple weeks, you can not only get in the holiday spirit, but give yourself time to get in the spirit of giving, as well. If you have additional suggestions on how to give back this time of year, leave your comments below!
By Sharon Menchyk, Attorney, Tucker Arensberg, P.C.
We often hear that networking is important for career advancement, but why it is important and how to network effectively is sometimes not so clear. As a young lawyer I was told to network, but I was lost as to what that entailed. Years later, I’ve learned that it is not only important for those marketing goods or services, but for anyone who wants to advance their career regardless of their industry. I’ve also learned that networking is nothing more than making new acquaintances and strengthening the relationships you have already made in your career.
COVID-19 has changed how we connect with people. Virtual networking is often the only chance we have to meet new people and make connections. With some planning and preparation, virtual networking can be a successful tool in furthering your career goals.
The first step in networking, virtual or otherwise, is choosing the right path and developing a plan to meet your goals. In developing that plan, you should consider the following:
1) Long-term career goals – where would you like to ultimately be in five or ten years?
2) Goals at your current position – what do I need to do to get promoted or increase my compensation?
3) Personal considerations – how much time do I have to network and how much money do I have to spend on networking, either of my own or from my employer?
While virtual networking may be the current best choice, as circumstances change, your plan should include a mix of traditional, nontraditional and virtual opportunities. Traditional networking events, such as industry meetings, dinners or conferences, can be valuable and should be incorporated into any plan. Nontraditional networking opportunities include events we attend every day and can fit into almost anyone’s schedule, such as family gatherings, children’s school or sporting events and volunteering with a community organization.
The third type, and likely the most important given the current safety concerns surrounding COVID-19, are virtual networking opportunities. Virtual networking can and should include events planned by organizations that will lead to connections that support your goals as well as events you plan yourself, such as a happy hour with past classmates or an afternoon coffee with former colleagues to strengthen the connections you already formed. Despite the ease in locating and attending virtual events, this format can offer its own challenges – but if you prepare properly, you can have a great experience.
In attending virtual events, you should consider the following:
1) Prepare for the event: Learn the names and companies of the organizers, presenters and attendees; review the agenda or itinerary for the event; and research the topic of the event’s discussion. Most importantly, and this goes for both virtual and traditional networking, have your elevator pitch ready, i.e. a sixty second speech about who you are and what you do. This preparation will allow you to carry on an informed conversation and create credibility with fellow attendees.
2) Check your technology: Determine what platform is necessary for the event and ensure that any downloads or updates for any applications are completed prior to the day of the event. Make sure your device is charged and you have good cell or data service. Get familiar with the application before the event. Technical issues arise often but taking these steps will ensure that you look prepared and are not fumbling with your computer or phone.
3) Look the part: Dress as if you were attending an event in person and make sure your background is appropriate for the event. Wearing a complete outfit is recommended, especially if you might have to stand up unexpectedly – you don’t want everyone to see your old gym shorts! Also, make sure you are located in a quiet, private space to avoid interruptions.
4) Follow-up is key: Keep a notepad or tablet available to write down names and/or contact information of the event organizers and any key attendees. Asking for the spelling of names and for email addresses is not rude when done so at the proper moment – making connections is the point of these events. Follow up shortly after the event, even if it’s simply to say you enjoyed meeting the person virtually.
5) Stay focused: Keep the conversation and your comments focused on the topic of the event or career related topics. Be a good listener and ask others about themselves which will make you and your new connection more comfortable. Virtual events sometimes lose the personal connection we have at live events. People come from a variety of backgrounds, and a virtual event is not the time or place to introduce topics that might be considered controversial. Focus on your goal to meet people and advance your career.
Finally, remember, networking should not be stressful and can lead to great success if you take the time to plan, follow these tips, and set yourself up for success.
By Victoria McIntyre, Governance, Risk and Compliance Consultant with Layer 8 Security, and a PA Women Work volunteer
You apply for a job and have an interview scheduled for your desired position. In today’s world, many interviews are still happening virtually, and it’s my guess many first interviews will remain that way beyond the pandemic. Video conferencing software, such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts, has made interviewing more convenient and cost-effective for applicants and recruiters alike.
While this form of interviewing can be new and intimidating, here are five tips to reduce stress and make a great first impression for your prospective employer.
Practice makes perfect
Research the company you are interviewing with and reread the job listing of your application. Before the interview, research the most common questions employers ask, such as:
● Why are you interested in this role?
● What do you know about our company?
● What do you consider to be your biggest professional achievement?
● What is a challenge you faced at work? How did you overcome this challenge?
● What are you looking for in a new position?
● Why are you leaving your current role?
Practice your responses to the questions but avoid committing your responses to memory. Your responses should sound genuine instead of robotic or rehearsed. Ask a friend or family member to have a rehearsal interview and provide feedback on ways you can improve your responses.
Prepare to discuss any experiences you have listed on your resume. If you are having trouble remembering things you want to mention in the interview, use post-it notes that can stick to the side of your computer. Make quick bulleted lists you can refer to if you want to articulate an answer in a certain way or remember an important detail from your resume.
Finally, most interviews will end with employers asking if you have any questions for them. Make sure to prepare a few, such as:
● What does a typical day in this role look like?
● How would you describe the ideal candidate for this position?
● What are 3-5 words that come to mind to describe company culture?
● Are opportunities for professional growth and development available?
● What are the next steps of the hiring process?
Remember to ask the questions that help you find out if the job fits you. For example, if your work environment is important to you, ask about the company culture. Writing down the questions you have can be helpful, so you have options if some of your questions are mentioned earlier in the interview. You never want to answer that you don’t have any questions for them.
Test your technology
Your interview begins. The image looks fuzzy. Your audio begins to cut in and out. You attempt to struggle with the lighting in the room in hopes you will be more visible. All the while, this could make employers question if you are the right fit for this job.
Check your computer ahead of time. Consider purchasing a webcam if the audio and camera are bad quality. Double check your WiFi before the start of the interview, and don’t wait until the last minute to set up your computer for the interview. Make sure that you have the video conferencing software downloaded and up-to-date before the interview begins. Set up earlier than necessary to have one less stressor for your interview.
Although you may test your technology well in advance of an interview, you or your interviewer may still face technical difficulties during an interview. If you encounter technical difficulties such as a poor network connection, try turning off your camera first to see if this resolves the issue. If you continue to have issues, call into the interview if you have been provided with a dial-in option. Keep your phone handy in case the interviewer calls you back to continue the interview by phone. Stay calm as you proceed with your interview - technical difficulties are out of your control and should not affect the outcome of your interview.
Set the scene
Consider your background before your interview. Try to find a blank wall in your home so you will be the focus of your call. If you do not have a blank wall, choose the most professional setting in your house as the background, like an office or living room. Many popular video conferencing tools now have virtual backgrounds or the option to blur your background.
Check your lighting. Natural light is always best if you can utilize windows in your home. Light in front of you will help you avoid looking washed out during your interview.
Remove all distractions before the interview. Silence anything that can make unnecessary noise during your interviews, like your TV or phone. If possible, close windows to avoid outside noises, such as traffic.
Dress the part
For virtual meetings, wear your best business attire, as you would for an in-person interview. Professional clothing will not only help you look the part, but you will feel the part and boost your self-esteem. Consider a nice blouse, button-down shirt or blazer. Avoid overpowering patterns, flashy accessories, or any tight or uncomfortable fabrics.
Send an email to whoever you interviewed with within 24 hours of meeting. Start by thanking them for taking the time to talk with you. Then mention something you bonded over in the interview to personalize the email and stay at the top of the interviewer’s mind. This is also your opportunity to answer a question you wish you responded to differently or elaborate on a point you want to emphasize. Be clear and concise to make a lasting impression.
If you keep these five tips in mind, I am confident you will “wow” any employer…even if you are miles away on a video screen.
Mindfully Navigating the Unknown
By Angela Angiolieri, MSCP, Counselor
The last year has been challenging (understatement, right?). My little part of the world included a loss of a job that I enjoyed, along with it my financial stability. Also, with many others, I dealt with the loss of family members and the loss of my social life. Collectively, we all have experienced some level of grief and significant change in our lives throughout the last year.
At Pennsylvania Women Work, we recently introduced a virtual six-week mindfulness series to help our clients cope with the many anxiety-ridden situations we are all experiencing. Research has shown these practices can help with a variety of issues, including trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression.
During each session, we explore different ways participants can incorporate mindfulness into their lives. We practice mindfulness activities, and we guide our clients in their mindfulness journey by offering a variety of methods and resources.
I believe in the power of this practice and would like to share how you can incorporate some of these ideas into your day. Once you start, you will experience how this practice can help you manage strong emotions and significant life changes.
What is mindfulness?
All of our experiences are different, but the emotions and feelings that arise in response to our experiences are likely similar. You may feel anxious, angry, depressed, detached – or all of these. Prioritizing your self-care is essential – especially during difficult times. A mindfulness practice is just one self-care suggestion.
Jon Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as, “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” By focusing on the breath, noticing where it is most prominent in your body (nostrils, chest, or stomach) and following it with a sense of curiosity, it allows your mind to slow down and connect to the sensations within. It is then that we can really notice our thoughts.
Mindfulness is one type of meditation practice, there are many others to discover. The roots of meditation vary in all cultures from East to West. I encourage you to explore the vastly different worldviews and decide for yourself which fits you best. Sebene Selassie says, “meditation practice is about learning to see our whole selves compassionately.” We are all connected, and cultivating mindfulness increases our collective well-being and compassion for others.
Stop. Breathe. Repeat.
Often, we move so quickly, at such a frantic pace, that we are unaware of our thoughts. Instead, slow down, try to stay in the moment and when you inevitably become distracted by your to-do list, or your inner critic, just note it, don’t judge, let go and gently, compassionately bring yourself back to the present.
We all have thousands of thoughts per day that go unnoticed because we are not living in the present moment. We are either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. This is normal, but with practice, our ability to stay in the moment increases.
It’s simple, but not easy.
They call it a practice for a reason. Some days it seems effortless to prioritize self-care, and other days the struggle is real, and we allow other things to distract us. If you feel that sitting and focusing on the breath is not comfortable for you, then try incorporating mindfulness through movement, art or writing. Cultivate new habits by being mindful in everyday routine activities, like brushing your teeth, cooking, cleaning, eating, etc.
The benefits are real
There are many physical health benefits, such as lowered blood pressure, reduced chronic pain, and improved sleep. Mental health benefits include reduced rumination, less emotional reactivity, increased relationship satisfaction, and a boost to your focus and memory.
That said, mindfulness is not a cure-all. I encourage you to take charge of your physical and mental health by enlisting the help of a doctor or therapist if you are struggling with the activities of daily living.
You know what you need best, take good care of yourself.
When experiencing a high level of grief, loss and change, it becomes even more important to create a habit of caring for yourself. Mindfulness doesn’t require you to buy anything or use special equipment, you only need the desire to practice.
In my own life over the last year, my job loss and other struggles were eased by my mindfulness practices. I hope you can find the same solace. If you are struggling, consider reaching out to a counselor or joining one of our upcoming Mindfulness classes.
Black Women in the Workplace
By Mia Ellis, Inclusion and Diversity Lead, AEO
“Usually, when people talk about the strength of black women, they ignore the reality that to be strong in the face of oppression is not the same as overcoming oppression. That endurance is not to be confused with transformation.” –bell hooks
Why are black women's workplace experiences often negative and the fruits of their labor much less than their peers?
A common explanation is that despite being highly educated, black women are more likely than other groups to work in low paying occupations such as the service industry, social services, healthcare and education. Studies show that even when they do work in higher-paying fields, they earn less than their peers.
In addition to disparities in pay for black women, they also frequently face hostile work environments and discriminatory practices for being outspoken or assertive. Black women have historically been portrayed in the media negatively – as angry and overly aggressive. This stigma has subjected black women to many assumptions that translate negatively in the workplace; they are not hard workers, they need to be pushed to perform well, they should be satisfied with any job rather than deserving of the best job. As a result, black
women often face unfair expectations and bias, often finding themselves confronting flawed narratives about their work ethic, potential and value. This can lead to faulty decisions about career and salary potential.
To best support black women in the workplace, leaders and mentors must understand the differences and challenges they face. Instead of forcing them to fit into existing corporate culture, they should instead allow them to add to it.
Here are some key factors to address and keep in mind.
1. Gender Diversity
When female workplace issues are discussed, the focus is primarily on white women's experiences. Companies often believe that they have taken significant steps to respond to women’s challenges in the workplace. However, there is little to no conversation about specific efforts to address how biases play out
for women of different races and ethnicities. This leads to a misleading and incomplete picture of the disparities between the earnings, advancement opportunities, and unemployment rates of black women and other female minority groups.
2. Psychological Safety
Black women often feel they need to hide their true selves at work. For leaders to encourage them to let their guards down and become truly engaged, they need to build trust. Black women want to be accepted and valued for who they are. They should be comfortable enough to question specific treatment,
microaggressions and stereotypes without fear of retaliation. Leaders need to praise their achievements, become a champion for their work and defend them when issues arise, including the correction of preconceived notions their peers may have toward them.
Due to the unique experiences that black women face, traditional corporate mentoring programs rarely benefit them. In these programs, they are typically mentored by executive leaders who have entirely different identities and backgrounds. These leaders are experienced in sharing insight with people who share similar backgrounds. However, they rarely take the time to truly understand the unique challenges and barriers that black women experience in the workplace and in their personal lives. Due to the lack of black women in leadership positions, reciprocal mentoring should be promoted as it allows for mentors to share their industry knowledge, and it empowers black women to have their mentors learn from them about their personal life experiences.
Leaders within organizations must intentionally put as much emphasis on racial diversity as they do on gender. They should ensure that women of all ethnicities are included in strategies around succession planning, promotions, and selecting members of the board. As with mentoring, they will have to shift from a “one size fits all approach” and realize that black women have different needs. Interventions that help white women succeed in a corporate setting may be counter-productive for black women and if meaningful change is to happen, this must be kept in mind.
Mia is a mentor in the 3 Cups of Coffee mentoring program. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact Taneshya Williams at email@example.com. We are actively recruiting diverse mentors.