This post was written after my MBA program hosted its Women in Business event. I helped plan the function, and the keynote speaker was my mentor, Jeanne DaDamio, a woman who had an amazing 33-year career with IBM.
Finding inspiration for a speaking event may not always be the easiest when you don’t have a library of presentations from which you can easily pull. When you aren’t always on the speaking circuit, you have to stop and think about what resonates with audiences today. For the Virginia Tech MBA’s 2nd Annual Women in Business event, the topic had to also resonate with an audience of professional women.
The keynote speaker, Jeanne DaDamio (BA ‘75, MAEd ‘76) asked herself the same question: what resonates with women? While pulling together her speech for the event, she asked other women what might be the most meaningful advice they wish they had known.
After gathering opinions and suggestions from 10 women representing a spectrum of ages and professions (including two stay-at-home mothers), DaDamio had crafted a guide for how women can find their fire. The major key to the guide was that these suggestions were just that: suggestions. It is important to take time to plan what you want the future to look like, but at the same time, life happens. Don’t be surprised if you stray from the plan every now and then.
The key points that resonated with me the most had to do with the balance between the plans you make and the future you would like to have. As women, we may end up getting caught up in the reality of working, caring for families, devoting time to friends, and potentially thinking of ourselves last. In the plan for your life, you may not have put in “laundry every week.” Instead, your plan may have included, “earning a graduate degree,” or “serve on the board of a foundation.” Yet, we all know the laundry has to get done.
Balancing the reality of everyday life and the dreams of your future as noted in your life plan can be difficult. This balance potentially means compromising between choices or perhaps having to sacrifice something altogether. In order to feel as if you aren’t putting all your dreams aside, DaDamio suggests regular “reality checks” of where you are on your plan. Those checks don’t need to be a recurring appointment on your calendar for once a month. Instead make time once a year to check on your progress and see if you are going in your intended direction.
Taking time to think about where you are on your plan also means reflecting on what you have done along the way. While you may not have earned that graduate degree, perhaps you earned another certification for work. Perhaps you started a blog and suddenly have found a passion for writing. What you did along the way may not have been part of the plan, but those activities can help reshape the plan from today forward.
DaDamio conveyed that this is our life and we can pursue our dreams, even if it feels like we may take a detour here and there. We have every right to stop and evaluate what we want from our career, family, relationships, and interests. For me, I may have a Life Plan, but I know things will change. I am fine with that, but I also know I still have dreams. How I get there will be the adventure.