That mocha frappe could have been a mutual fund
8 smart tips for making money and getting ahead in your career, from incredibly successful women
When joining the workforce during a global pandemic, every day on the job brings a new set of complications, many of them unique to the experience — or lack, thereof — of a person who has never worked in an actual office before. Like a cotton candy funnel rolling around the edge of the drum, these complications look like nothing at first, then not too much, turning into an insane cloud before you’ve even blinked, and voila, the modern working woman in you is breathing into a paper bag trying to get a handle on her spiralling anxiety.
Being a new addition to the job force myself, I have been on the lookout for advice from my fellow working women who can help me adapt to the changing workplace environment. But as Sheryl Sandberg says, searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming — elusive and never-ending.
Since I don’t have Sandberg on speed-dial, I turned industry leaders, entrepreneurs and CEOs from different fields into virtual mentors. With an exhaustive list of things to do, these seasoned businesswomen share their best advice that’s sure to stand the test of time — much like your mother’s Tupperware dabbas.
The best career advice for modern working women
Swap your mocha frappe for mutual funds
While women are making significant strides as business leaders and entrepreneurs, the highly documented wage gap in India makes it harder for them to bring in the same money as their male counterparts. Enter investments, the unsung heroes of money-managing.
Erica Groussman has investing in her genes. The millionaire CEO of protein bar company TruWomen was only 16 when her parents got her thinking about her financial future by contributing to an investment fund in her name.
Her advice on investing? Start now. And don’t be afraid to dabble. She suggests, “Instead of getting your coffee every day, start by putting away that money. That can add up. Then, start taking the money you have saved and invest it in something.” So, if you’re yet to dive into the stock market, consider this your nudge to get going.
Prioritise, focus, repeat
Much like a professional juggler at the circus, working moms are multitaskers, often found juggling an important work presentation with their kids’ unit tests, all while guzzling coffee like Hummers. But in real life, you can opt to ignore a ball so you can save your energy for other balls. Translation: you must prioritise your tasks.
Take a page from the book of CEO mom Namita Thapar, the executive director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals. Start your day by making a to-do list — in order of priority —planning tasks according to your most productive hours. If you’re a morning person whose energy starts to wane by 3 pm, begin the day with brainstorming sessions and high-intensity tasks, saving emails and the like for your dull hours. Use the Pomodoro Technique, a favourite of Twinkle Khanna, to power through labour-intense projects without getting distracted.
View this post on Instagram
Systematically crossing things off your list will not only keep you on track, but also give you a feeling of catharsis, like that morning cup of chai.
Success is a function of how big you think
Dr Aarti Gupta, the Chief Investment Officer at DBR Ventures, is also a mother to a 9-year-old daughter. Calling out Indians for being risk-averse, her advice for working women chasing exponential growth in their career is to think big. “Whether it is a school project or a job or your own start-up, success is a function of how big you can think,” she says.
By thinking big, we don’t mean you should have unrealistic expectations of yourself, setting yourself up for disappointment by having ambiguous goals. Instead, deconstruct your big dreams: set smaller goals that are actually attainable. Didn’t we do that as students too? Sure, you could write your master’s dissertation thesis — that you’d been given a year to complete — overnight but there’s a good chance it won’t be as impactful as those theses that had been written painstakingly over the year — with countless nights spent researching at the library or on the field.
Situations and circumstances are always changing. It’s possible that your purpose and what you’re attempting to accomplish via your work may have been hampered by the pandemic. But Gupta advises women in the workplace to analyse the situation, pivot, and adapt. “If you take 30 steps linearly, you may reach 30m away, at most. But, if you take 30 steps exponentially, you can go around the Earth 26 times,” she adds.
Face the difficult questions head-on
Founder of Baby Chakra, CEO mom Naiyya Saggi recalls the first angel investor meeting for her company, when she was asked what she would do if she got pregnant. “I was appalled that all my credentials had been ignored and I’d been asked this. At that point, I walked out. I was so stunned. But now, I’ve started addressing these questions,” she says.
It requires an entire shift in your mindset to do so, according to Saggi, who says we need to address where these questions stem from. If you feel it’s because of a discriminatory attitude, you should find out if the workplace has a culture that promotes such prejudices. Alternatively, if you believe the issue is about your devotion to the work, you could reassure them by describing a circumstance from one of your previous jobs that demonstrates your commitment.
Transforming from a warrior into a diplomat is not an overnight task, but what you can do is learn to pick your battles like Hena Mehta and Dipika Jaikishan, the founders of Basis, a platform that champions financial independence for women.
“In certain situations, when our need is higher than the other person’s, we try and wade through the situation peacefully,” they say.
You will love this
Ask for help when you need it
Finding a work-life balance is as elusive as finding a unicorn. According to Meika Hollender, co-founder and co-CEO of Sustain, a company that produces sustainable sexual health products, becoming an entrepreneur makes it that much harder.
“I’m grateful to my husband and partner who supported me during all those hard moments. I give him a lot of credit and didn’t see how much he was giving during that time because I had such a tunnel vision on the business,” she said in a Forbes interview.
Ghazal Alagh, the co-founder of Indian beauty brand Mamaearth, agrees. “It’s not uncommon to lose focus while you try to strike a balance between your business and home, but what ultimately matters is your ability to bounce back and stay focused on achieving your goal,” she says.
Delegate your tasks to others — even if it’s your own husband. Sharing the parenting load with your partner does not make you a bad mother. Shift to a shared mindset rather than thinking of yourself as the household CEO. Asking for help when you need it is what will keep you from tearing your hair out in trying times.
Thapar’s best strategy for delegating at work is to hire people smarter than you and empower them. If you need to take a step back, don’t feel guilty about it.
It’s easy to let impostor syndrome plague you when you’re delegating at both the mom and work fronts, but channelling Queen Bey — the mother of three who is also planning to take a long break after having worked tirelessly for years — is the best way to put the kibosh on self-doubt.
Write down your ideas
Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder and CEO of Bumble, is the new hotshot on the business block with her company being one of only three female-founded entities to go public in the past year.
Her advice on achieving success is simple. Start with the smallest of steps, like “writing your idea down on a piece of paper and putting it on your bathroom mirror and staring at it for two weeks”.
This is something I picked up because of journaling from a young age. Writing down my thoughts on the back of my hand — in case I didn’t have paper nearby — would get curious stares from my friends in school. But after looking at them the whole day, I found it easier to build on the ideas later at night, in my journal.
Writing may seem trivial when we’re carrying around supercomputers in our palms but it helps clear the clutter from your mind and focus on what you need to — business ideas or the random musings of a 12-year-old.
Watch your cash flow like a hawk
For Sujata and Taniya, the co-founders of a home-grown sari label Suta, ‘go frugal’ is the mantra. “Watch your cash flow like a hawk. Keep your costs low, especially in the beginning,” they told The Times of India in an interview.
To do that, you need to have a system in place to manage your money. And the more money you make, the better your system needs to be.
Almost any small company owner will tell you that cash flow management is their Everest. With a good financial plan in place, you can save yourself a tonne of time. The goal is to build wealth to secure your future and the future of your children.
Establishing a regular practice of business savings is one of the most important things working women can do to smooth over unavoidable bumps and plan for the future. You don’t want to pass down debt, which is why it’s best to start saving sooner rather than later.
Think of failures as learning opportunities
Rashi Mittal, the CEO and co-founder of WOOP (Women Of Opinion), is a word-of-mouth advertising junkie. Having been a specialist at Procter & Gamble for five years, she knows what she’s talking about.
“Getting over this fear of making mistakes is the most liberating process. It allows you to think of failures as learning opportunities and actually be happy that they happened,” she says.
Failure carries negative connotations in our society. It’s all hearts and flowers to say that failure paves the path to success. The hard truth is that failure can bog you down, flattening all your dreams like a bulldozer from hell. But what if I tell you that’s okay?
Many studies say that you shouldn’t try to slough off feeling bad after a failure. What helps me when I’m feeling particularly dejected is reading about famous people — from Bill Gates to Zoya Akhtar — who’ve failed many times before they became big-ticket names, and imbibing the lessons they learnt along the way.
As Mittal points out, ending a project that isn’t going well may feel like a setback at first, but it’s all part of the learning curve to finding success as modern working women.