By Karen Love
I’ve reached the director/owner level in my company, and it’s what I set out to do when I joined the industry 19 years ago. My tenure with PKF Texas began 14 years ago. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been rewarding to work in a profession where few women and even fewer non-CPAs advance to director/owner roles.
I’m always grateful for the opportunity to contribute to my company’s growth in new ways. And I believe it’s not only helpful, but necessary, for women to help other women reach their full career and personal potential. I offer a few tips and thoughts to encourage you along the way.
- Keep an open mind about your career path. Be open to paths that open up in front of you. Keep in mind your original plans may not turn out the way you intended. For example, the skills I learned when I started in fashion merchandising became a bridge to my current career, but in ways I never imagined.
- Give voice to your goals. Have set goals in mind, and be honest about them. When I interviewed companies before joining PKF Texas, I clearly stated my goal of becoming an owner within five years. From the outset, I had a plan and a strategy. Knowing what I aspired to, the people around me at PKF Texas helped me make it reality.
- Seek a sponsor, A sponsor within your organization or industry can help smooth your path. A sponsor is more than a mentor. That person is your advocate and voice when you’re not in the room. A sponsor can be male or female and should be in a position to open doors you might not yet have access to.
- Professional development. Take responsibility for your own professional development. Seek out local professional development opportunities to sharpen your skill set. Look for groups with relevance to your job or trends in your field. Be attentive to issues and trends in industries beyond your own. Follow blogs, read what thought leaders are saying and subscribe to online news about different fields.
- Share the credit. Surround yourself with people who offer value. When you’re leading a group, encourage ideas from everyone on the team and be open to good ideas from everyone.
- Act with integrity and dependability. Follow through when you offer to do something. Be known for keeping your promises. Stand firm on the tough decisions. You may not always be liked, but you’ll be respected.
- Volunteer strategically and passionately. Ask people who have reached the level you aspire to, “What skills do I need to get to the next level in my career?” Seek volunteer opportunities to develop those skills. Look for chances to build skills and demonstrate leadership within your company.
- Value female friendships. I’m a business leader, speaker, author, volunteer, advocate, influencer, sponsor, mentor and connector of people. Yet I’m also a wife, stepmom, daughter, daughter-in-law, caregiver, sister and friend. Women friends have helped me through the challenges of all those roles. Make time for them, celebrate one another’s triumphs and be there to lift one another up. It’s OK to distance yourself from people who constantly weigh you down with negativity, pettiness, or too much drama.
- Know that you deserve life/work balance. With a little planning, you can have life/work balance every day. Leave openings in your schedule. When you leave some breathing space, you’ll be more productive and more creative at work.
Karen Love is director, Practice Growth, at PKF Texas.
LEA member firm PKF Texas, Houston