The Power of a Support System

The Power of Support Systems

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Mother Teresa once called loneliness the most terrible poverty. When reflecting on my life so far, I must agree. The company of others in the support system that I have developed has been one of my greatest blessings. Over the years I have cultivated and nourished a strong support group of both colleagues and friends that I often draw to for strength. The belongingness and friendship provided by my support system has carried me through countless challenging times and continues to spur my work with victims of domestic violence today.

When I moved to Washington, D.C. alone as a young women, I quickly realized the necessity of developing a support system. When I arrived in D.C., I set my sights on interning on Capitol Hill, a place that seemed familiar due to my family’s involvement in politics. When interning on the Hill, I met many young professionals with interests and ambitions like mine. I could easily forge new friendships based on these. I turned to these new friendships when I was looking for roommates or hoping to escape the city in a weekend beach rental.

As my friends and I matured, so did the nature of my support system. Given my lack of extended family, friendship was key in raising a young child. When my daughter was born, I had developed an active career in human resources and my husband’s work frequently took him overseas. My friends lovingly helped to fill in caregiver gaps if my daughter or myself fell ill. Being a young mother also brought new friends into my support system. I found myself gravitating towards women in similar positions, those constantly looking for babysitters or who could commiserate if I felt down. It was during this period when I learned how vital those friendships were to my personal success — not just with the practical matters but also by providing the nourishment and human warmth that my mind and soul needed.

I turned to this ever-growing support system when I had the idea to start an employment agency catering to victims of domestic violence. Through volunteer work in shelters, I learned that battered women often return to their abusers because they lack financial resources to support themselves and dependents. I was determined to start finding these women employment. My first partners in finding abused women stable and long-term employment were 40 of my human resources colleagues. Leveraging this part of my support system proved invaluable to getting my organization, Second Chance Employment Services, started. This community continues to serve as the key to the organization’s success today.

As my career progressed, my friends in other social networks have continued to evolve. I enjoy the company of women with older children as well now and have a bevy of exercising buddies that I turn to for motivation and companionship. My partnerships with various associations has also brought new friends into my life.

One of the most important things I have learned from developing a strong, helpful support system is that a successful support system requires a mutual exchange. One cannot simply take and not give back. You must provide help to your friends if you also expect them to help you. Being able to give back to those who have given to you is one of the greatest gifts. This helps others grow and in turn helps us grow. My friends come from a variety of backgrounds, so we help each other in various ways. While I might turn to a friend for some styling advice, I can utilize my expertise in human resources to coach them about a potential career change. Another one of my friends is an active fundraiser like me, and we accompany each other to various fundraising events.

My advice to those seeking to establish their own support systems is simple. First, start off by finding people who share your interests. Studies have shown that sharing interests helps facilitate meaningful friendships.[1] If you enjoy looking at visual art, seek an art appreciation group or join a local art class. Volunteer with a non-profit organization in which you’ve always been interested. Finding people with similar hobbies and passions will truly make you feel like you belong.

These social interactions can have positive repercussions on all parts of our lives. Studies have found that your social relationships can positively affect both your mental and physical health.[2] My friendships have been crucial in my life; I believe that I would not have accomplished as much without the loving support and encouragement I received. My support system has brought light into my life and shows me the importance of love every day.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/8171136/Shared-interests-key-to-friendship.html


The Power of a Support System was originally published in Thrive Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Personal Branding or Reinvention?

After years in the human resources sector, I changed my path to pursue one of my passions in the non-profit world. Successfully making this change, however, can be a challenge.

A report released earlier this month has gained national attention, from both politicians and comedians alike. The recent report, based off of a study conducted by Institute for Women’s Policy Research, claimed that women would not see equal pay until 2048. More recently, USA World and News reported that male nurses are paid an average of $5,000 more a year than women, even though women make up the majority in the field. In the article, US World and News made a point to clarify that this gap may not be the result of gender differences, but rather a result in differences in skill and experience.

It is hard to completely conform to the belief that the gap in pay between men and women is solely a response to differences in skill and experience, but either way it is important for women to address their role in the business world. It is not possible for women to have direct control over their salary in comparison with that of men’s, but they can control what type of jobs they pursue and goals they achieve. The key to this control is branding.

Branding can refer to the use of any market strategy to transform the appearance of a product to make it more distinct and easier to identify, with the goal of ultimately increasing profits for the respective company. But in this context, branding can also be used to refer to the decision to and process of changing the appearance and mindset of oneself in the hopes of achieving such goals.

Why should women rebrand? Women today face significantly greater barriers in the corporate world than men. In addition to the potential gender bias they face, they are also often the caretakers of a family, a huge job that requires a lot of time and energy. Therefore, to overcome these obstacles it is important that women embrace their power to make a name for themselves.

The branding process begins with passion. The first step is realizing what your passion is, and all the skills you have to pursue this passion. It’s important to think about what type of job markets you have been involved in before, paid or unpaid, and how they made you feel. Before starting the non-profit organization Second Chance, I worked various jobs in human resources but I never felt fulfilled. I realized that I felt more inspired and vindicated while volunteering at a domestic violence shelter for abused women. A key part of branding yourself is reevaluating your line of work and asking yourself the important question: Is this what I am truly passionate about?

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Next, it is important to believe in yourself. It sounds cliché, but self-confidence is transparent and crucial when trying to advance in the job market. Create a list of your skills, ones that you whole-heartedly believe that you exhibit well, and embrace them! The most successful people who rebrand are the people who are most believable. If you fail to brand yourself in the way that you want to or the way that you feel like best demonstrates your strengths, employers will brand you for themselves and most likely not in the way you want to.

Finally, take the extra step. Branding yourself may entail reaching out to an old connection, taking an online class, or creating a support group. There are so many tools that women can take advantage of today to help them successfully rebrand themselves. One such example is social media. Take advantage of the connections you have formed through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to spread the word about your new ideas. Social media is one of the best ways to gain public attention because it is easy for everyone to access and you have complete control over how you portray yourself.

Although it’s easy to succumb to societal pressures in today’s competitive job world and only meet the bare minimum of expectations, it’s important to realize how much potential women have despite what experts may say about differences of skill and experience. As the CEO of Market Mentor Caryln Rodz explained in an article cornering women in the work force, “I am not a man, and will probably never be fully understood by men. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not capable of accomplishing the same things. I’ll just likely approach them differently”. If embraced correctly and portrayed accurately, our different approaches can make us just as successful, if not more, than our competitors.


Personal Branding or Reinvention? was originally published in Thrive Global on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.