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Dealing with career disruptions

MBA StudentsA sense of humor, honoring other women and using creativity in the face of challenges are three keys to success for women in the workplace, according to panelists on the “Dealing with Career Disruptions” session at the 2017 Carolina Women in Business Conference.

Five women convened in front of an audience for this panel, in order to provide future business women with their tips and tricks for dealing with adversity in the workforce.

“Over time, this myth has developed that tells people that they must keep charging in one direction,” says Mary Ellen Gustainis, business manager of formulation additives at BASF. “Over time, you will realize that there are lots of different paths you can take – within your company and work portfolio.”

Although they came from different walks of life and career paths, they experienced some type of change in their career since entering the workforce. Some of their alternative paths were more planned than others, but all of the women agreed that adversities had fostered success in their futures, both personally and professionally.

“Take the challenges and figure out how to creatively integrate them into your career path,” says Kimberly Jeffs, co-owner of NC Center for Resiliency, PLLC. “That is how you will succeed when disruptions happen.”

The panelists agreed that no two disruptions are the same, but that every career change is an opportunity to improve on your past. By encouraging other women to have the strength to experiment with a different field of work, you allow them to progress from the risks that they make.

“You learn just as much from the ideas that don’t work as you learn from those that do,” said Heather Sevin, Americas regional project controller at ExxonMobil. “It’s hard to deal with … it took years of maturity and practice to hear about poor feedback.”

Strength is found when faced with challenges, but resiliency is determined by how well one accepts and moves forward from the disruption. Simple, day-to-day actions can determine the trajectory of a life path.

Jeffs shared a morning routine that helps her be more confident – and it was nothing that the audience expected. Jumping out of her seat on the panel, she showed the audience her “power pose.” She was skeptical the first time she heard of it, but now recognizes an increase in confidence and a larger sense of strength that she has received from repeating the stance every morning. She’s found the mindset so beneficial that her husband and her young daughter join in with her.

“It’s a really great family bonding moment to start off my mornings,” says Jeffs.

Other panelists included Geanine Thompson, associate director at the Emily Krzyzewski Center, and Cathy Combs, director of sustainability at Eastman Chemical Company. Tonya Taylor, principal and executive consultant of the Gift Development Group, moderated the panel.

By Olivia Buffington (BA ’18)