Business author Carol Seymour had some hard-won advice for students at a Terry Women’s Initiative event.
“When I first started working, there were no females ahead of me. There were no role models. There were no females in my entire division for seven years. I had to look other places to learn wisdom and gain from others’ experiences,” she said. “I’m a firm believer that every leadership lesson has already been tested. You just have to learn from others.”
Seymour, whose book Wisdom Warriors: Journeys Through Leadership and Life was read by students interested in the book club, spoke about her path through corporate America and entrepreneurship and what she learned along the way.
One lesson was discovering where passion and strengths coincide, which guided her into a rewarding career. She suggested an exercise to help students make their own discoveries.
“It’s very easy. Take a piece of paper and fold it down the center. On the top left, write ‘High Value, High Energy’ and on top right write, ‘Low Value, Low Energy’ and then journal for 30 days,” Seymour said. “On the left-hand side, write down the single biggest thing in your day when you were really on your game, when you really felt great and did something well. In the right-hand column, do just the opposite. Write the biggest thing in your day that just sucked the energy out of you. After 30 days, see if there are any patterns. What you’re going to find in that left-hand column, which I call the Gift Zone, is more than your strengths. It’s the intersection of your strengths and your passion. That’s where you should try to concentrate your efforts.”
Seymour also offered fresh takes on issues she said are often brought up in women’s leadership events: perfectionism and work-life balance.
“I’m a recovering perfectionist. We often feel guilty that we can’t do it all. What you need to realize is that if you’re going to be really good at something, you’re going to be bad at something else,” she said. “We also talk a lot about finding balance. But I don’t believe in that term, work-life balance. We have one pie. Sometimes, business gets the slice today, sometimes family gets the slice. As you move into your careers, try not to push pressure on yourself to be all things all the time.”
Instead of trying to find the perfect amount of time to spend at work and with family, Seymour urged students to be sure to take care of themselves as they work.
“This is the definition of self-care: How you treat yourself is how you invite the rest of the world to treat you. So if you’re not good to yourself, you’re telling everyone else that’s OK,” she said. “When you get into the business world, you’re going to make your mark, you’re going to take assignments and work very, very hard. But don’t forget to take some time for yourself, too. You’re no good to anybody else unless you can take care of yourself first.”
The Terry Women's Initiative is committed to student success and provides an array of experiences and resources designed to promote the confidence needed for students to achieve their academic, personal, and professional goals.