Wouldn’t it be great if hard work was all it took to have a successful career? Sure, it’s true that dedicated effort is crucial to excelling in one’s chosen profession, but that’s only a starting point, especially for women. To find out more about how women can create a satisfying – both personally and financially – career, I sat down with the sponsor and mentor of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s Women’s Employee Network and the Vice President of Human Resources People Strategies Robin Miller.
I asked Robin to reflect on her professional path and ended up gaining some very practical advice on how women can build and excel in their careers.
First, find a field that you’re passionate about
I entered the field of human resources because I was passionate about human potential. I have always believed that people can achieve great things when they are challenged, supported and in balance. By no means is this a perfect equation, and all areas may not be attainable at the same time. But I have made my own career choices with this in mind.
Learn, grow – and have fun along the way
My first job after college was in Human Resources in New York, and I was eager to learn and grow. I enjoyed my work and was fortunate to be part of a great team. A year later, my husband’s job relocated to North Carolina. I have to be honest, it was a big adjustment! I found my way back into Human Resources but now I was working in the public sector – another opportunity for new experiences. I learned to take it all in and have fun. My most memorable experience was when I was recruiting for firefighters, and I got to run up the tower at the fire training center in Raleigh!
Challenge the status-quo
By the mid 1980s, I was in an HR Manager when my first child was born. This was the first time I had to evaluate my work-life equation. At that point, the workplace wasn’t very flexible for working moms, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t change. I presented a proposal for a job-sharing arrangement and it was accepted. I shared my role with another woman interested in working part-time so she could pursue her graduate degree. We had different reasons for seeking balance, but we both felt supported and challenged by our leader. We were determined to prove the critics wrong, and we did! Our arrangement was a big success.
Pursue non-traditional paths
After the birth of my second child, I decided to pursue a different path. I reached out to a local community college to propose teaching evening classes to adult business students. Although I didn’t have a teaching background, I assured the hiring manager that I could teach classes in my field. I taught classes in the evening and spent daytime hours at home with my children. It was a great experience teaching adult learners. Plus, I was able to spend more time with my family.
Find a job that matches your values
After eight years and the birth of my third child, I was looking for a new challenge. I thought that I might not find this type of flexibility again until I saw a job opening for a recruiter to job share in the HR department at BCBSNC. I jumped at the opportunity and joined the company in 1994. I worked part-time for several years while continuing to grow in my career. I feel fortunate to work for a company that has provided me with the flexibility, support and challenging work to be a better employee, mother and community leader.
The biggest challenge I see for women in the workplace is confidence. We need to believe in ourselves more and go after what we want in our careers and not wait to be tapped for the next role. Also, for women with children, it is the reality that there are days when you feel torn between the two. You can be great at both – it just may not feel like that every day.
Own your journey
As I look back over the years, I realize that I had to own my journey. Obstacles weren’t a reason to stop moving forward. Instead, I saw them as opportunities to propose a different path. I encourage women to create their own success. Follow your passion, see obstacles as opportunities and don’t ever let others limit your potential.