by Dr. Larine Y. Cowan, PhD
Pray Often and Put Christ First
The Bible teaches us in numerous scriptures the importance of putting and keeping Christ first in our daily lives. Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” So, for Christian women, putting Christ first must be the number one principle when striving for success in one’s career and in life generally.
For any career choice, one must get prepared. Do your research. Find out what skills are needed in order to be successful in your chosen field. There are those in ministry who subscribe to the thinking that all they are required to do is pray and the Good Lord will supply their every need. They don’t have to prepare when asked to speak or participate in strategy meetings or when counseling parishioners. They say the Lord will tell them what to say and what to do. It’s true, the Lord can do everything that they’re saying, and some people may be blessed in that way. However, some of us must do our part and study the Bible so that we are knowledgeable and better able to faithfully follow Jesus, and teach others how to live a Christian life. So, preparation is just as critical for women clergy as it is for women in other professions.
Once you have completed your research on what is required to be successful in a particular area, then be willing to put in the work to learn your business from the ground up.
Get a good education. Depending on your area of interest, you may need a college degree, an advanced degree, professional school or other types of specialized training.
Also, identify someone who is already successful in your profession and learn as much about that person’s strategies and principles that they applied in order to achieve their success.
Develop Self Confidence
Very early in my life, I can’t recall exactly when, but I purchased a small book that was based on Proverbs 23:7. That little book taught me that whoever and whatever I thought of myself would determine how I presented myself to the world. That Christian principle has been most powerful in my development. It has guided and directed me in my professional and personal life for many years! And it continues to do so, even today! Women in the clergy, like women in other careers, can benefit from this principle. Because unfortunately, women in ministry face many of the same challenges that other women experience in the workplace. Issues like under representation, unequal pay, and fewer promotional opportunities are common problems. Therefore, women must develop a strong sense of self confidence in order to achieve their goals.
Be a good listener. Really listen when others are speaking. Frequently, when someone else is speaking, we’re thinking about our response. I’ve learned that when you focus on what others are saying, you can actually gain important information from them. You also validate that person and the give and take process is deeper, richer and more meaningful. Listening is an essential art for success.
When I speak of inclusion, I’m thinking about two factors. First, be open and when appropriate, involve others in the discussion and the decision-making process. It is important to brain storm and exchange ideas and strategies.
Second, when possible, seek to work with a diverse team of people from various backgrounds, such as people from different racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, social, and gender backgrounds and people with various physical abilities. Significant research has shown that diversity and inclusion in these areas greatly contribute to our knowledge base and overall success in the workplace and in society overall.
Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God…” Although this verse can be used to remind us to put Christ first in our lives; it can also remind us to maintain our integrity as Christians. When we remember that we are ambassadors for Christ, and whatever we do or say, is in the name of Jesus, then we strive harder to make good decisions based on integrity and fairness. When people know that you’re honest and trustworthy, you gain a level of respect that can be more valuable than money, which many feel is the ultimate measure of success.
Set aside time to help others. Whether they are members of your team or you’re volunteering as a mentor, make time to give back, even as you’re on your journey to success. Although women have made significant strides in just the last ten to twenty years, with the election of the first woman Vice President, a record number of women in congress, elected as governors, mayors, and women rising to leadership positions in the military, education, business, industry and in our religious institutions, women still face many challenges, thus mentoring is essential to helping our fellow sisters achieve their goals in life.
Subscribe to Continuous Learning
Because of technology, daily, there is literally so much new information that one must commit to constantly learning in order to just stay abreast of what is happening in the world. We must constantly learn to gain and maintain expertise in a particular area. In order to be successful and to keep that success, one must continue to sharpen their skills, expand knowledge and be willing to re-examine policies, procedures, values, and assumptions and to learn and implement new methods, practices and policies when needed.
Continuous learners seek out others who spend their time learning new skills and thinking critically about society in general. In other words, continuous personal development is key to becoming and maintaining success.
Health and Wellness
In order to give one’s best, one must be in good health! One must be well! Most highly successful people take care of their physical and mental health. Of course, I would add one must also take care of their spiritual health as well. Most women are overwhelmed with responsibilities both at home and in the workplace, so they seldom take time for themselves. Successful women develop a good support team at home and especially in the workplace. Successful women ensure the success of their team members by improving their qualifications through training and exposure. Then they are able to comfortably delegate important responsibilities to others and share the challenges in the workplace. At home, women with families, learn to involve all family members in performing chores so that they are not overly burdened.
To achieve good spiritual and mental health, I subscribe to Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God and God will make straight your path.” For good physical health, eat clean foods, exercise and take care of yourself.
“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own to do list!” -Michelle Obama, Former First Lady.
Balance Work and Personal Life with Family and Friends
Having “balance” is key to success! When successful women spend too much time on their careers, often their family life suffers and may result in failure. So, it’s critical for successful women to learn to use balance early on in their careers.
In addition to the many demands on the job, working women must also balance challenges from their immediate family, spouse and children, as well as providing care for aging parents.
Work life balance is critical to maintaining productivity, healthy stress levels, and good mental and physical health. The challenge of work life balance is learning to keep one’s priorities straight. Make sure you have someone in your life who can hold you accountable to balancing work and life well.
The Bible reminds us that, “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalm 127:2, NLT).
Dr. Larine Cowan has more than 35 years experience in Human Resources and Community Engagement with the City of Champaign, IL and the University of Illinois. She also taught as an adjunct professor for women’s leadership development.