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Things We Wish Someone Had Told Us at 25

Katherine Mooring

As the chief architect for the Arts & Science Council’s capacity building, professional, and leadership development offerings, I spend a lot of time thinking about the skills and expertise our next generation of arts and cultural leaders will need to be successful, particularly in an environment where change and complexity are the rule, not the exception.

As emerging leaders, we participate in leadership development seminars, attend conferences, enroll in graduate degree programs…you name it…in pursuit of formal training to enhance our professional growth and marketability.

Sometimes, however, we can find just as much value in learning from our peers and listening to those who have paved a path ahead of our own. Hearing authentic, often humbling, human experiences truly resonate and teach us that as much as we try to shepherd our career paths in thoughtful, logical, and strategic ways, sometimes reality (or insanity) takes hold.

When that happens, having a strong informal support network can be the difference between rising to the challenge or allowing the craziness to overwhelm us.

To reinforce the importance of this approach, last spring, ASC’s Emerging Leader’s program hosted a special panel discussion for emerging women leaders in Charlotte’s cultural community.

“For Women by Women: No Really…Things We Wish Someone Had Told Us at 25” was an empowering event led by executive leaders from several major cultural institutions. Each woman shared success stories and stories of failure, and most importantly gave encouraging advice on how each of us—male or female, at whatever career stage—can think big and get out of our own way.

We had a full house in the theatre where the event took place, and thanks to the candor of the conversation, both panelists and attendees left energized, engaged, and inspired that the road ahead, while uncertain, was indeed manageable.

To paraphrase Lennon and McCartney, there’s comfort in knowing that we can all get by with a little help from our friends.

Here are a few favorite pieces of wisdom from the afternoon:

  • Careers only look linear and logical in retrospect; in real time, they usually look like an F5 tornado on a tilt-a-whirl, as painted by Salvador Dali.
  • Few things transform and improve your life like self awareness, but few things are as upsetting in the early stages.
  • We can all help shift the nonprofit culture from sacrificial to professional.
  • Find a healthy balance between confidence (ego) and vulnerability and lead from there.
  • If you’re in the room, you have a right to an opinion.
  • Take the high road.
  • Be adaptable, responsible, and resourceful.
  • OWTFGFIA. (Email me or Google it if you’d like to know what that means.)
  • Overdressed always trumps underdressed.
  • Listen to your gut.
  • You are the curator of your own career, so bring judgment, intelligence, and knowledge to it.

Do you have any others to add to the list?

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