Cara Croke asks successful Irish women to cut through the waffle surrounding work.
It’s no secret that becoming a successful gal doesn’t just happen overnight – it takes years of hard work, dedication and, most importantly, a serious amount of passion for the career you’ve chosen and the skill you’ve decided you’re going to be the absolute best at.
In saying this, being successful in the career aspect of your life doesn’t mean you’ve to sacrifice all the other things you enjoy that make living so wonderful, like spending time with your friends, going out on a Saturday night or actually taking that long weekend to give yourself some much needed TLC.
It’s something commonly portrayed in popular culture – that if you have a great career, every other aspect of your life takes a back seat for a period of time. Take The Devil Wears Prada, for example. Andy’s personal life is falling to pieces around her, but she’s reminded that “that’s what happens when you start doing well at work, darling”.
We’re here to say that actually, you can have it all, if you put your mind to it. You can have the amazing job, keep solid relationships, get your 6-8 hours kip a night and still like yourself at the end of it all. There are lots of myths about what it takes to be a successful career woman, most of them there to make us feel bad about not working hard enough or putting ourselves first, so we’re here to trash them.
We’re often told that to get to the top, you’ve to step on a few toes along the way. Startup investor, long-time media executive and author Fran Hauser couldn’t disagree with this idea more, so much so that she wrote a book about it: The Myth of The Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate.
“There’s a myth that if you’re nice at work, you’re going to be perceived as weak, as a pushover, and you’re not going to get that corner office,” Fran says. “When reflecting on my own career, I realise that that’s just not true. Throughout my career I’ve brought qualities like kindness, compassion and empathy to work and they’ve really served me well.”
If you’re in a competitive industry, it can often feel like the only way to get ahead is by climbing over your peers and colleagues, but Fran thinks we can still get to where we want to be without hurting anyone else.
I believe that we can be ambitious and do it in a way in which we’re supporting other people and not doing it at the expense of others. I think we’re doing ourselves and society a disservice by thinking that’s the way to be successful. When you step on other people’s toes, it’s fine in the short term but bites you in the long run. To be successful in business, it’s all about relationships.
Trudy Hayes, creator of beauty and hair app Raven, is also a firm believer in giving a hand to people wherever you can on the way up. “I’ve helped people along the way and it has come back to me two fold,” she says. “This is how you build a great network. Even people and companies you may feel don’t align with yours at that moment in time can be a great asset later on. Be kind, be grateful and help out whenever possible.”
When we’re deciding what route we want to go down career wise, something we’re always told is to do something that we love, but even a job we love can be exhausting sometimes and takes lots (and lots) of work, even if you adore it. At the end of the day, work is work, right? Nadia El Ferdaoussi agrees. She’s a travel writer who absolutely loves her job, meaning she actually finds it difficult to take time off.
“When you find a job you care about you’ll work on it non-stop,” she says. “And if you work for yourself? Well days off are few and far between. But the difference is you won’t mind, because you’re doing something you love – that’s not to say you won’t be tired or complain about admin though, trust me.”
Our very own Editor-in-Chief Vicki Notaro also isn’t on board with this one. “This is utter bullshit! I adore my job, but I work my bum off at it. I never dread coming to work so I guess that’s a bonus, but it’s not all easy by any means and the responsibility can be overwhelming. Still, if I had my time over I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”
Hard work is undoubtedly the key to doing well, but does working 14 hour days come along with the territory of success? Ariana Dunne, Business and Life Consultant and STELLAR’s new dating columnist, thinks that too many of these long working days will be detrimental to you and your business in the long run.
This is the exact opposite of how to be successful. I know because I spent a whole year doing exactly that and have two words for you – burn out. Life is not meant to be eat, sleep, work, repeat. It is simply not sustainable to work that hard and fast without suffering serious consequences to both your physical and mental wellbeing.
“Your business needs its sleep just as much as you do or it will fall fast and fail to keep up with the unrealistic expectation it has set itself. Success equals balance.”
In saying this, Fran Hauser thinks how many hours you’re able to put in will ultimately fall down to what stage you’re at in your life currently. “When I was just starting out in my career I wasn’t in a relationship, I didn’t have a family and I really did love my job.
I didn’t mind working the 14 hour days because I enjoyed it, and I do believe it helped set me up for success. But now, I have two kids and I want to make sure my professional and personal life stay balanced and that there’s more flexibility there. I think it really depends on where you are in your life and career.
It’s a common belief that you can’t have a career you love and be family oriented at the same time, however the successful ladies we chatted to don’t believe this one bit. Beauty Entrepreneur Katie Jane Goldin is the joint CEO of LanaiBLO, Gold Fever, InStyler, GreatHairInspiration.com and most importantly, a mother.
“Running your own business and being a mother is just about being able to balance that lifestyle,” she explains. “I didn’t have the luxury of taking maternity leave, but I’m lucky I have support with minding the kids and can sometimes work from home. No matter what, as a mother, when you’re in work you’ll feel guilty about not being home with the kids and when you’re home you’ll feel like you should be in work. You just have to adjust.”
Fran admits that she still struggles with multi-tasking between her career and kids, but her best advice is to focus on one thing at a time and be present in every situation. “The one thing I would say is that for me, balance is about being mindful and present in every situation. I would rather have 20 minutes in the morning with my kids where I’m really there with them without my phone, and then when I’m working I want to be really focused on my work. Balancing is about showing up fully – even for a short amount of time – and giving it my all, whether it’s with work or family.”
It’s easy to think that if you’re successful in business, it’s nearly impossible to find
time to take a holiday, because who’s going to look after that empire while you’re gone? Vicki Notaro, however, thinks finding time for a break is essential when you’re a busy career woman.
“Holidays are a luxury successful people deserve. Nobody is going to reward you for not taking annual leave. It’s more difficult when you work for yourself, but not impossible – I managed to take some amazing trips when I was freelance.”
Nowadays as editor of the STELLAR brand I just have to plan really carefully, work harder in advance, delegate and trust the team. Sacrificing your own happiness to make someone else or even yourself money can leave you feeling empty and burnt out, so take the time off when you want to. Everything isn’t going to disintegrate overnight, and if it did, it means you were doing it wrong.
Andrea Horan, co-owner of nail salon Tropical Popical says that it all depends on what “success” means to you. “If not taking holidays is what success looks like, count me out. Success relates back to what we each think is the meaning of life. For me, that equates to adventure, discovery, new experiences, new relationships. All of that comes from a holiday, therefore a holiday is the most successful thing you can do and one of the reasons I work in the first place.”
A lot of people use busyness as a way to portray success, but Nadia El Ferdaoussi says it’s your time management and productivity that actually matters. “Time management is important. People try to wear being busy as a badge of honour, they plaster it all over Insta so people know how successful they are. In reality, having a good work life balance is what’s really important (to me anyway).”
Andrea Horan agrees that it’s important to not misconstrue busyness and productivity.
Being busy is of the utmost importance to what? Your own self importance? Unless you’re trying to escape or hide from something, being busy shouldn’t be worn as a badge of honour. Being busy can be misconstrued for being productive and it’s worth remembering they are definitely not one and the same.
Trudy Hayes also thinks that people can use busyness as a “status symbol” and sometimes saying no to things can ultimately be more productive. “I have learnt to say no a lot more and be proactive instead of reactive. Being busy is not as important as being productive is.”
We think Andrea has it spot on – success can only be measured by what it looks like to you, and that’s different for every woman. Success could mean having the career of your dreams, getting married and having kids and buying your first home by the time you’re 30. Andrea thinks we’ve been conditioned to believe that there’s one type of success and to have it all, we have to be it all, when that’s definitely not the case.
Take career mantras as myths, or at least not gospel. They don’t apply to everyone, most of them are platitudes and Instagram quotes don’t run the world.