Pursuing a path with intention
by: Jordan DeTar
February 4, 2019
Hello, and welcome to the Aspire to Her blog! As we aim to empower future female leaders through the incredible career stories of businesswomen, we think the best way to connect with our 20-something readers is through sharing the perspective of their peers, the young women currently working through those post-college years. I’m Jordan, a 2018 Vanderbilt University graduate and current management consultant. While I spend my workdays solving organizational problems related to mergers & acquisitions (M&A) for my clients, I fill my free time researching, reading, and writing about my passion: empowering young women in the business world. Although that elevator pitch might sound like I know exactly who I am and where I’m going, I can assure you that it has taken time for me to be in a place where I can express my “brand” remotely succinctly. I’m also not even close to having it all figured out – but that’s okay. But what I do know is that I pursued a path with intention, and that gives me enough assurance that I’ll figure this thing out regardless of whether I know what’s next.
It’s not a coincidence that Aspire to Her’s #1 value is “embrace the unknown.” As a community dedicated to helping women navigate the first decade of their careers, we don’t stop at encouraging women to welcome the uncertainty of their career trajectory; we outright celebrate that ambiguity. We’re a group of women in our twenties who will very likely be living significantly into our 100s. We have a lot of time to figure out who we are, where we’re going, and what we truly want to do with our lives. But who said a little planning can’t help?
Embrace the unknown
You see, while embracing the unknown is important because we absolutely shouldn’t be expected to predict our future desires today (think about it, most of us didn’t know what we wanted to study in college when we were 7-years-old), there are certain steps we can take at 22 that can help to put us on a path for success at 32, 42, 52, and beyond. Aspire to Her’s #2 value is “plan strategically”, which is where we can really make a difference for not just ourselves, but for women at large.
There’s no denying that business has been a man’s world that we’ve just been living in for hundreds of years. But times are changing. How? Well, it’s quite simple. The number of women in business is rising, and therefore the rules are being rewritten. Women are no longer only pursuing higher education to follow the historically typical female paths of becoming nurses and teachers (which are absolutely noble professions – my own mom has been a teacher for almost 20 years and has undoubtedly had an immense impact on my sister and me, along with hundreds of other students), but we’re now expanding our studies to the male-dominated fields of medicine, law, and business at an incredible rate. And by pursuing these degrees, particularly in business, we are now being exposed to the business career jumpstarts that were reserved for our male peers in the past. You see, it is these trajectories that can launch men and women alike onto a career path that is bound for success. The women many of us admire didn’t enter the business world halfway through their careers, but rather at the beginning. And while they certainly didn’t have it all figured out, they were strategic about where they went first. The considered all the options and the potential in each of them, and coupled with their particular passions, they pursued the paths that have been proven to launch successful business careers.
History repeats itself, and men have repeatedly pursued these trajectories for decades, so we know that they work. But it’s time for some women to take those opportunities, as well. While I’ve chosen the management consulting path, and some of my fellow businesswoman peers have gone other ways in banking, corporate leadership programs, and startups, we’re all aware of the skills, experience, and network that we’re building. The future is absolutely uncertain, but we can fully embrace that ambiguity knowing that we’ve launched our careers intentionally. We did the research and explored the opportunities that will expose us to the business world the most intensely, making us prepared for whatever is to come.
That being said, I don’t at all believe that these career trajectories are the only way to make it in business. My point is more that if you’re looking to break into the traditional world of business, there are steps you can take that will make that process easier and more likely. These paths aren’t necessary, but they’ve been designed with the intention to put young college graduates on a fast track to becoming capable business leaders. Between building people management capabilities, core business knowledge, organizational understanding, and networking skills – all of the qualities that have been proven to be vital in business – these jobs practically guarantee an accelerated learning experience that will leave participants more than well-equipped for a lifelong career in business. We absolutely need more women in these entry-level business roles because the only way to have more women at the top is to have more entering at the bottom. We’ve already got a knock against us because we’re women, so it becomes even more important that we launch our careers forcefully and with direction, so as to not fall any further behind.
For now, I’ll leave you with this advice: Embrace the unknown, but plan strategically. Don’t stress too much about the next chapter, but don’t just settle for any job. Follow your passion, but ensure it’s an impactful opportunity. Most importantly, pursue a path with intention that will lead you up, and not out. And remember, we lift as we climb, so don’t forget to grab another gal’s hand – both for guidance and for support – along the way.
Jordan DeTar is the founder and chief writer of The Feminequity Factor, “a girl's guide to owning her life." Her personal blog focuses on embracing femininity, owning your life, and revolutionizing what it means to be a young, successful woman in today’s world.