Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ten Ways College Women Can "Lean In"

Tonight, I had the great privilege of speaking at the launch event of American University's new Lean In group! I shared with the students ten ways I felt they could "Lean In" as college students.  Regardless of your age, we can all reflect on how we can incorporate these ideas into our personal and professional goals.

1. Read the book Lean In

If you haven't read the book yet, you definitely should.  If you've read it, consider reading it again, or joining or starting a Lean In Circle.  You can also stay continually updated on the book's topics by signing up for the newsletters of organizations such as UChic, Levo League, Daily Muse, Bossed Up, or Learn Vest.  

2. Develop a self-care practice

I wish I started healthier habits earlier on in my life!  Figure out your personal definition of what wellness means to you, and create regular practices to live that definition.  Do you drink enough water? Do you eat healthy or know how to cook?  Do you exercise regularly?  How do you take care of your spiritual health?  Do you always use safe-sex practices? You can start to explore all this by visiting your campus wellness center.  Additionally, your campus probably offers free therapy sessions, so take advantage of this opportunity!  Read this for more ideas on self-care.

3. Go out into your city

Get off campus and visit your local community.  Do informational interviews with professionals working near your school.  Volunteer with a local organization.  For students in major cities, do a part-time internship during the semester.

4. Do an internship

You absolutely must do at least one internship during your college career! Ideally, you would do one per year.  I know this is difficult since many internships are unpaid.  However, in today's job market, a college degree, even with a 4.0 GPA, is not enough.  You need professional experiences to get hired after graduation.

5. Visit your career center

Please visit your career center at least once a semester.  Even if you feel you have maximized the center's resources, I guarantee you can always learn more.  Meet with an advisor.  Go to a career fair or recruiting event.  Your tuition is paying for this resource so definitely utilize it!

6. Run for student government

Approximately 42% of the women who currently serve in Congress got their start in student government.  I ran for student government and lost, but you can read here about how it changed my life forever.  I really want you to run for student government, but take this to mean I suggest you gain leadership experience.  Working as a Resident Assistant was one of my most transformational experiences (read my RA story here).  Start a club, or become an officer of a club.  Get promoted in your student job.  In addition to internships, future employers will want to see leadership experience.

7. Find a mentor

Mentoring is up, down, and all around!  A mentor is not just someone older than you. Connect with your peers.  If you are interested in a student group, talk to one of the officers.  Go to a professor's office hours just to discuss career paths.  Ask your internship supervisor to introduce you to a colleague.  Be proactive in finding mentors in your life.

8. FAIL!!!

Yes, I am actively encouraging you to fail.  In college, I sold feminist t-shirts online, but eventually the business failed.  I learned a lot from the experience.  Put yourself out there and take risks.  Even if you hate your internship, you will get a better sense of what you would love doing. 

9. Master self-validation

Become a self-confident person and fully responsible for your own fulfillment and happiness.  Don't be jealous and compare yourself to others, but celebrate other's accomplishments.  Don't depend on Facebook or Snapchat to feel good about yourself.  Don't depend on your partner to make you feel pretty.  Don't depend on your parents to tell you they are proud of you for overcoming challenges.  A way to start cultivating this attitude is to ask yourself daily, "What am I proud of from today?"  Consider answering this question everyday in a journal for a week.  

10. Give back

Sheryl Sandberg emphasizes how women need to support each other in order to make society better for everyone.  Be a mentor to a fellow student the year below you, or to a high school girl.  Donate to or volunteer with an organization.  Pray for others.  Practice gratitude.

BONUS POINTS (Unofficial #11)
Study Abroad
I wish I had studied abroad, so I really encourage you to do that.  If you can't, think of ways you can really stretch your comfort zone.  Learn a new language.  However you define it, somehow immerse yourself in a foreign or totally new environment.

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