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When executive leadership coach Stephanie Klein, ’91, walked on stage at the inaugural Booth International Women’s Day Conference on March 7, she had a mantra to share with the audience: “Attaching mindfulness to emotional intelligence means exponential power.” She explained that working in a way that allows you plenty of opportunities for reflection and optimizing your emotions can be the best way to get ahead in your career.

The keynote speaker was just one of the alumna participants throughout the day sharing wisdom with current students around building authentic careers, strengthening bravery, advancing workplace equality, and tackling modern-day career challenges. The conference, organized by the Graduate Women in Business student group, and held in Chicago, focused on the need to create impact for a more equal world and on ways that we can all participate in harnessing change. Here are seven takeaways from the event:

Treat Yourself with the Kindness You Reserve for Others

Many times we’re taught that giving and being compassionate toward others is what’s most important—but turning that kindness toward yourself is just as critical throughout your career, said Klein. “The more self-compassion we have, the more we can give to others,” she said.

Lean on a Fact-Based Approach

When Alaina Anderson, ’06, partner at William Blair & Company, was expecting her first child, her colleagues were supportive, but she realized she would be the first female analyst on her team to take a maternity leave. In negotiating her leave, she focused on communicating the details of how her work would be handled in her absence, and how it would shift back to her when she returned, so that everyone was on the same page. “When broaching uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations with superiors, I have found more success in a fact-based approach,” said Anderson, who spoke on a panel titled “Being a Force for Change.”

Learn from the Bad—Not Just the Good

When Christine Deehring, cofounder of pregnancy subscription service Bump Boxes, got a meeting with someone she thought would be a mentor, she was thrilled. Halfway into the meeting, the mentor-to-be walked out. While she was devastated, Deehring learned a lesson that she still uses in building her business. “Good things can come from very bad meetings,” Deehring told the audience during a session titled “Turn Vision into Reality.” “It can force you to change.” In this case, the failed meeting forced her to narrow her approach.

Try a Meditation ‘Micropractice’

Rather than spending an hour on a meditation pillow, it can be effective to create short moments of mindfulness throughout your workday that require just a few minutes. For instance, before and after a meeting, Klein takes a minute-long silence with her fellow participants, “a quiet moment to fully arrive.”

Make Room for Allies

When working in companies where male executives are in the majority, it’s important to allow opportunities for allyship, said Alice Thompson, ’17, COO of meal kit company Home Chef. “Winning the respect and support of male allies can be critical to your career advancement,” she said. That means building strong working relationships with advocates who are willing to stand up for you and your goals throughout your career, she added.

Define Your Goals

Knowing yourself can help you grow your career in a way that feels more authentic, added Lotika Pai, ’08, who went from management consulting to investment banking to nonprofits. This self-awareness can be especially important during challenging times in your career. “Hold on to that sense of self. It will get you through a lot of ups and downs,” said Pai, who is now the managing director at the Women’s Business Development Center in Chicago.

Know the Sacrifice Will Pay Off

For Chelsie Patterson, ’19, cofounder and CEO of Memento, a digital cash-gifting platform, seeing her classmates land promotions at well-respected companies was sometimes difficult when charting her own entrepreneurial path. But ultimately, it’s important to take the leap and believe that the sacrifices you’re making—both financial and emotional—are worth it, she said.

Photo by Anne Ryan