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How Women Overcome Professional Fears

How Women Overcome Professional Fears

Barbara Reinhold, Monster Contributing Writer

There’s an old saying that when two people get married, six people climb into bed together — two sets of parents and two lovers. (You can tell how old that saying is; it’s more likely to be 10 or 12 people these days.) At any rate, the point is this: What you learned about relationships probably came from your earliest memories and astute observations as a child and an adolescent. And so, no matter how hard you try, that marital bed is crowded with everybody’s opinions, fears, hopes and assorted agendas.

And you know what? The same thing holds true for your career. A few months ago, I had a session with a young woman who was finishing her MBA. She was petrified about finding a job. "I want to work in finance, and I did fine in my finance courses, " she said. “But I know I can’t do math.”

“Really? I thought you said you did well in finance. Who told you you’re not good in math?”

What's your U.S Women's History IQ?

1. In 1848, the U.S. Women’s Rights Movement issued a statement calling for equality with men. What was it called?

The Declaration of Sentiments
The Declaration of Equality
The Proclamation of Rights

“Well, I was never as good as my brothers when we were growing up. And my father always said girls just weren’t cut out to work with numbers. My mother never learned to balance the checkbook.”

“Amazing,” you think. “That couldn’t happen to me. How wrong-headed of that family.” But you know what? The process of making current decisions based on ridiculous old scripts happens all the time. It’s called “premature cognitive commitments.” And those old scripts are interfering with women’s career decisions every day.

You’re immune? I’m not so sure. Answer these 10 questions as honestly as you can, and share your responses with someone you trust. Better yet, share them with a group of women and listen to the themes that surface around you. Help each other to see the lingering effects of those early experiences. Then you’ll know whether there are any premature cognitive commitments, in the driver’s seat of your career.

1. Which careers did your parents tell you were good for women?

2. How capable are you at dealing with maintenance on your car? How many flat tires have you changed?

3. How cozy are you with computers?

4. How often do you ask for negative and constructive feedback on your performance so you can keep on improving? How did your parents let you know that you needed to improve upon something? How did that make you feel?

5. Who was in charge of making major decisions in your family? Where did the power lie? In your office or workplace, where does the power lie?

6. In your family, how did people let each other know they were displeased? How do you let people at work know what you expect of them and when their performance is problematic?

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