4 Lessons I’m Putting Into Practice A Month After Next Generation of Women

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One month ago, I had the pleasure of spending the day with 300 women at Engage! Cleveland’s Next Generation of Women conference, held this year at the Cleveland Metropark’s Zoo Stillwater Place. As I anticipated, the event was full of encouraging and thoughtful conversations from five inspiring Cleveland women. My specific focus for the day was to learn ways to maintain a work/life balance and not feel guilty about needing to ask for help or say no to things at times. I had just taken on a new role at my organization that would increase my workload, and I knew I wanted some advice on how to make sure I was making time for myself and balancing my new role with everything else I had going on.

I love my job. Our organization is dedicated to increasing postsecondary access for students across Northeast Ohio, and I go into the office every day feeling committed and excited about our work. But, as with any job, I still feel burnt out at times - especially when taking on more responsibility and having to balance work and home life. So here are the four main lessons I’ve been implementing during the month after Next Generation of Women to combat this feeling and get back to enjoying life as a young professional to the fullest. After all, as Jan recited from Oprah, you can only offer the best of yourself when your glass is full.


Give yourself a break from technology.

My schedule can get hectic, especially with my husband traveling for nine months out of the year, and I had found myself feeling more overwhelmed than normal in recent weeks. With technology and the ability to always be connected, I felt like I left work, went home, walked the dog, cooked dinner, cleaned up the house, did laundry and did yard work. Then, I would sit down on the couch and answer emails I had missed while doing everything else during the evening. This repetitive cycle started to make me feel like I had no time for myself! Jan’s advice about disconnecting from technology took awhile for me to adopt, but I recently decided to turn off email notifications on my phone. As Jan said, “what big, important thing was going to happen that could not wait until the next morning?” I know that, in order to stay sane and continue to love my job, I needed to do something that would allow me space from it and not let it become my life. Just by turning off my notifications, I have felt less stressed in the evenings and more able to separate my work life and my home life.

Hire out work around the house you dislike.

Jan also offered advice about home responsibilities, saying that everyone should figure out what they love doing around their house and not feel bad about hiring someone to do the jobs they hate. This also hit home for me, as I have always felt like I need to do everything around the house myself. I never mind doing yard work, but there are jobs inside our house - like painting trim - I know need to get done but that I despise. So, when it comes time to paint that trim, I have already decided I will be hiring someone to do it! I don’t want to make myself crazy stressing out over a job I hate doing when I can have a professional take care of it.

Be selective about what you say ‘yes’ to.

I’ve also taken the advice - pursue what you love - to heart since Next Generation of Women, and am actively working to make sure I am not overcommitting myself to activities or organizations which I’m not incredibly passionate about. I am typically the type of person who says “yes” to everything - whether I’m excited about it or not. But, recently, I’ve found myself being committed to activities or events that I don’t love - or worse, that I even start to dread. Hearing from professional women about the importance of finding and pursuing what you love really hammered home to me the need to evaluate my commitments and make sure I’m not sacrificing time that could be spent doing something I love by doing something I was dreading. Life is too short for that!

Acknowledge that one size doesn’t fit all.

Although it wasn’t explicitly said, the other huge takeaway I have from Next Generation of Women is that there is no one right way to be a young professional woman; work/life balance, civic engagement, finances, leadership, and networking are going to look different for everyone. Spending the day with 300 diverse, passionate women highlighted the fact that each woman is going to take something different out of the day, and put different pieces of advice into practice.


The conversations with each speaker hit exactly on what I hoping to hear and gave me ideas that I am already putting into play. Perhaps the biggest impression was made by Jan Murphy, who opened the day and spoke on the topic of “Caring for Your Whole Self.” She shared stories about everything from job promotions to education, health benefits offered by employers to ways to avoid burnout. As I thought about balancing my new role with my current responsibilities, Jan’s advice really hit home.

Congratulations to Engage! Cleveland for hosting an event that catered to the variety of women in attendance, and truly left everybody with something that resonated with them. I cannot wait for next year’s Next Generation of Women!

Interested in learning more about Next Generation of Women? Click here for a description of the event. To get a look at what happened during this year’s event, watch our recap video and view the photo gallery.

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Laurel Wilder is the Director of Marketing and Communications at College Now Greater Cleveland, the nation’s oldest college access organization. Along with serving on Engage! Cleveland’s Leadership Council, Laurel is also the events and programming chair for the Cuyahoga County Young Democrats, sits on the Auxilary Board of Ballet in the City, and has signed up to be a College Now mentor. She is a graduate of Allegheny College, where she earned her B.A. in English.