Imagine climbing into the cockpit of a fighter jet waiting on the runway of an aircraft carrier. The jet, full of highly combustible fuel, is then flung into the night by a giant catapult housed below the deck. You move from zero to over 200 miles an hour in under two seconds.
On your return, you must find a tiny moving runway that is floating on the ocean, and land by snagging a wire with a tailhook you can’t see. If you let fear take over, the result could be what one landing signal officer describes as “a knife fight in a phone booth.”
Sounds terrifying, right?
And yet Carey Lohrenz, one of the first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilots in the US Navy, regularly performed this feat during her naval career.
“You can actually taste your own fear as you descend toward the pitching deck, knowing the back end of the ship is bobbing up and down in 30-foot rises and falls,” she writes in her book, Fearless Leadership.
Controlling fear in the cockpit helped keep her alive. Not being afraid drove her to earn her wings — even though a ban on women flying combat aircraft was in place when she started training.
Today, Lohrenz is an author, business consultant, and leadership speaker.
Why do I tell this story?
To illustrate two points: first, that overcoming fear is powerful; and second, that the world of work has changed — and continues to evolve — especially for women.
On not letting fear get in the way of your career: “It starts with having that mindset that you aren’t defined by somebody else’s limitations,” Lohrenz tells Fast Company. “No matter what barriers or obstacles are in front of you, you go for it anyway. Or somebody else is going to be sitting in your dream job, because you were afraid to step up and try.”
When it comes to the changing workplace, in the United States, for example, women have made considerable progress in terms of increased labor force participation.
“As of 2014, nearly six in 10 women aged 16 and older (57.0 percent) worked outside the home, compared with 33.9 percent in 1950 and 43.3 percent in 1970. Women now comprise nearly half of the US labor force at 46.8 percent.”
Women also enjoy access to a broader range of careers. That law that barred women from flying warplanes in combat? It was lifted in 1991.
There is no doubt that more work needs to be done to close the gender gap across many industries, from the military to elected office to tech to asset management. Raising awareness is one step along this path.
To that end, on 8 March — International Women’s Day — communities across the world will reflect on the progress women have made and discuss the challenges that lie ahead. One of the priorities will be how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular, how to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
With this year’s theme in mind — “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030” — here are some career resources to help you as you progress from “post fear” to the podium:
- It’s time to embrace life “post fear.” Lucy Kellaway, columnist and associate editor at the Financial Times, says letting go of fear can be liberating. She told delegates at the CFA Institute Alpha and Gender Diversity: The Competitive Edge conference that “you’re not necessarily going to bust a gut in the manic way that you did when you were very, very afraid.” But on the other hand, “it means that we dare to do things.” Women need to be bold. The hashtag for International Women’s Day is perfect — #BeBoldForChange.
- Polish your resume. If you’re wondering whether your resume is still a key element in marketing yourself now that social media plays such a significant role in how recruiters and potential employers evaluate you, the answer is “Yes!” My colleague, Julia VanDeren, has “Three Tips for Building a High-Impact Resume.”
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Here are some ideas on how to get the best out of your LinkedIn profile.
- Network, network, network! “Networking is like exercise,” Candace Corlett, president of WSL, a retail strategy consulting firm, tells the Wall Street Journal. “You know you must, but do you? And you know if you do, you’ll feel better.” Here are “Two Ways Women Can Network More Effectively, Based on Research.”
- Build your confidence and public speaking skills. Everyone gets nervous, so it’s time to get over that. We need to see more women on the podium. Here are ideas for “How to Calm Your Nerves Before Making a Terrifying Speech” and a link to “11 Public Speaking Tips From the Best TED Talks Speakers.”
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.
Image credit: US Navy