Advice From a Young #Ladyboss. // Hannah Chahbazi
Written by Hannah Chahbazi + Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire
Directly following my college graduation, I began working for a small (but mighty) education company that is rather unconventional. We provide literacy training, education-focused apps, and instructional coaching for students as well as teachers. Within my first year, I was offered a management position.
Considering the fact that I had no background in education nor business but rather english literature, this provided an interesting challenge. I screwed up so, so many times, constantly living by the old adage: "learn from your mistakes."
Oh, if I could go back five years and tell myself what the hell to do in the tense, hilarious, awkward, glorious, uncomfortable situations in which I often found myself... I'd be quick to share the following advice:
1. The best solution is usually the simplest one.
In my first year of business, our computer system imploded - two days before Christmas - when I was the only one in the office.
I ran around frantically, hopping from computer to computer, attempting everything I could think of to salvage the situation – which wasn’t much. I did, however, succeed in royally stressing myself out. Eventually, I came to my senses and had a brilliant 'a ha' moment of clarity. I wondered - what if there were somebody nearby who could fix this? And wouldn’t you know it, there was a computer repair and maintenance business just a few miles away. They saved me that day (and have continued to ever since.)
I keep that incident in the back of my mind as a daily reminder not to make things harder than they have to be. We can’t always find solutions on our own, but there is almost always someone nearby who can. Stop, take a deep breath, and think things through rationally.
2. Speak fewer words, and choose them carefully.
Being the expert blabber that I am, this one can be tough. I’ve been told many times throughout my life that— despite being smart—I can come across as surprisingly ditzy. Over the years, I’ve learned that carefully choosing which words to speak (and more importantly which words not to speak) directly correlates with gaining the respect of others. Less is more. And like your parents probably told you when you were old enough to start blabbing – think before you speak. It’s that simple.
3. Fake it.
Being a woman in the workplace – especially in management – can be tricky. For me, uncertainty about how to carry myself, react, and behave in certain situations is a constant.
Some of the greatest advice I ever received was to fake confidence until I felt confident. Now when I’m feeling down, irritated, or near tears during my workdays, I retreat to the restroom, quite literally point my finger at the mirror, and tell myself that I’m awesome. I remind myself that I get to decide how my day goes, and urge myself to make it incredible. It sounds silly, I know. Try it.
4. Banish limiting beliefs.
I got this one from my mama. She started her business in a field in which she had no training, expertise, or schooling. She saw a need, and decided to trust her determination and compassion to see her through.
The Hannah of five years ago would have never believed she would team up with others to create apps, build online trainings, and overhaul websites on a regular basis. She wouldn’t have thought she could stand in front of a room and confidently present information without her voice shaking. But she did, and she does.
Never forget that your limitations are, in large part, just opinions that you’ve chosen to believe as truths.
5. Have a life outside of work.
Don’t be a workaholic who lives at work (and lives and dies for work.) I say this from experience. During my first year on the job, I worked six days a week, burned myself out, and had minimal fun (both in and out of the workplace). Find hobbies that make your heart sing and enjoy them as often as you can. Be protective of your downtime. A balanced lifestyle will do wonders for your work ethic, which will carry over to those around you.
6. Stop apologizing.
Unless you actually did something wrong, don’t apologize.
The next time you start to say you’re sorry, think about why you’re saying it. If there is no good reason, and indeed you are not actually sorry, don’t say it. Rephrase, and repeat.
7. Thank yourself and celebrate your wins.
For me it’s really easy to hop on the work train and let it run away, jumping through dozens of tasks and projects without taking a breath. Sometimes, I have to remind myself to pause and acknowledge that I’ve done some pretty cool things. I write a list of my favorite accomplishments and read them over when I need a boost.
8. Keep your home organized.
Home shouldn’t just be a place for you to sleep and (hopefully) shower. It should be a place that allows you to relax and recharge. When my home is organized and easy to navigate, it carries over into my work.
9. Laugh it off.
When I get tense and stressed, I remind myself that I have the option not to focus on those feelings. Being stuck in traffic can be awful if you decide it is. Or, you can make it awesome by shouting Disney songs at the top of your lungs. Your choice.
10. Own your quirks.
Normal is boring. If you think about it, some of the most successful people in the world are super weird. When I need inspiration in this department, I think of Jennifer Lawrence. She’s outspoken and authentic, and people love her for it.
More importantly, showing up as your true, real self allows you to love you. Self-love brings happiness in all areas of life, including your work.
Hannah is an avid fan of books, wine, bad jokes, and Michigan football from Grand Blanc, MI. As the Operations Director at Evidence-Based Literacy Instruction, she works with an incredible team toward the goal of literacy for all.