4 Concrete Strategies to Take Control of Your Career Right Now

Raise your hand if this scenario sounds familiar: When you weren't in the office, you spent 90 percent of your summer riding your bike, chilling in front of the AC, and perfecting your go-to stove-less meal. Meanwhile, though, you were mentally compiling a list of career goals...to get to in September, of course.

And the time is upon us. To help you hop back into work mode—and actually nail those dream milestones—we asked two female trailblazers for actionable tips you can incorporate, like, right this minute. Consider it your sneak peek, because they'll both be at our September Well+Good TALK offering a deep-dive into what it takes to succeed in today's career landscape (hint: you’ll want to RSVP).

Until then, we have the 411 from Andréa Mallard, chief marketing officer of Athleta, and Dee Poku-Spalding, a social entrepreneur and CEO of the Women Inspiration and Enterprise (WIE) network—including the lessons every woman should know early on in her work life.

Scroll down for the seriously life-changing lessons that will propel your career and happiness forward.

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1. Determine your non-negotiables

Here’s what you should constantly ask yourself: What does success mean to me? Over the years, your goal posts—just like your current love for acro yoga or bulletproof coffee—might inevitably change.

Examining your up-to-date definition of success is an essential skill to set boundaries for how you spend your time. If your goal is to jet set on a random Tuesday, then you know to skip a desk job.

“My definition has changed radically over the years,” Mallard says. “When I was younger, it was about what I wanted to have. Now it’s about who I want to be.”

Nowadays, the Athleta exec is deeply guided by how she wants to spend her time. “There will always be an opportunity to earn more money, but you can never recover lost time," she says. "A job, a culture, or a boss that makes me miserable is not worth any salary because it will cost me too much of the only thing I can never earn back."

2. Don't ignore the importance of relationships

Poku-Spalding, who empowers women to climb the corporate ladder with educational tools and mega networking events, believes one of the most important things you can do for your career is getting to know your coworkersand bosses.

“There’s a point in your career when it becomes less about what you know, [and more about] who knows you and who’s noticed you,” Poku-Spalding says. “Hard work is important but if your superiors aren’t aware or if you don’t have strong relationships within your industry, it can become very hard to progress.”

While you’re at it, you can invite women you look up to (AKA potential mentors) out for an informational matcha date, or simply head to a local networking event. "There’s so much that can’t be learned from books and classes," says Poku-Spalding. "The invisible rules of business can trip women up."

3. Invest in your own self care

For Mallard, exercise is her stress antidote. Anticipating a long to-do list, Mallard bikes to work and arrives feeling sharp and ready to tackle meetings. To combat tension at the end of the day, she runs home. “By the time I arrive back to my house, the stress has largely left my body and I can be fully present for my three children.”

Other self-care standbys she counts on to boost energy? Her plant-based diet and 30 minutes of cardio each day. When she doesn't bike to work, she catches a live cycling class on her Peloton bike.

Poku-Spalding is on the same page about prioritizing movement in order to operate at a higher level. “I walk everywhere," she says. "It's a good time to think, regroup, and resolve."

Athleta workwear

4. Get real about what’s stressing you out

It’s hard not to feel tense 24/7 when you're balancing long commutes, work meetings, and out-of-office obligations. But, here’s the thing, the sooner you realize have power over what’s stressing you out, the easier it is to unload the burden.

Take it from Mallard who had an aha! moment from watching nearly 500 documentaries on the stars and space that changed, well, everything.

The realization that her daily stressors (rush-hour traffic or difficult presentation) are minuscule compared to the enormity of the universe led to one of the most impactful changes she has ever made. That would be: “Deciding—literally deciding—that I was not going to get too emotionally attached to any particular business outcome.”

And that wisdom had a big effect. “Once I did that, I realized that most of my stress was ridiculous even on a city scale. Or a neighborhood scale,” she says. “Years later, whenever I find myself feeling physical stress, the first thing I imagine is myself floating in outer space, looking down on the magic and beauty of the planet, and I gain some instant perspective.”

In partnership with Athleta

Photos: Athleta

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