How to Empower Yourself at Work and in Life

It takes dedication to your goals, according to our career and leadership expert.

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

As we celebrate the historical accomplishments of women, you might find yourself taking stock of your own accomplishments; a good place to start is by defining what empowerment means to you. We posed this very question to Kimberly Cummings, founder of Manifest Yourself and author of the upcoming book Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning Into a Career You'll Love ($19.95, "Over time, I believe many professionals have watered down the action piece to simply mean motivation or being inspired to act without the actual action occurring," she says. "For me, empowerment is being inspired to take action in support of your goals, inside and outside of the workplace."

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Therefore, empowerment permeates all aspects of your life. "I look at empowerment in the workplace and private life as being one in the same. However, they may look different in practice," clarifies Cummings. "In the workplace, empowerment may look like being properly informed to advocate for yourself in crucial conversations or key projects with stakeholders. In someone's private life, it may look more like having the self-confidence to act in ways that support your personal goals, engage in proper self-care practices like setting boundaries with friends or family, or prioritizing activities that you enjoy." Here, Cummings shares five top tips for clarifying the empowerment that you want and how to get it.

Identify what makes you feel good inside and outside of the workplace.

Cummings says that, oftentimes, we engage in activities or relationships out of obligation and this results in an overload. She suggests making a list of the behaviors that you feel are impacting your life and career the most and determine which behavior you'd like to change. For instance, if you're the person who is always finishing up work assignments 10 minutes before deadline or late arriving to your family functions while forgetting to bring a gift for the host, you may want to think about how you can better manage your time and responsibilities.

Seek out personal and professional opportunities to support your empowerment goals.

As a career and leadership expert, Cummings says that she is a longtime supporter of development opportunities to support herself as well as her clients. "It's one thing to take action on your own, and it's another to take action knowing you have the information and support needed to reach the finish line," says Cummings. "Once you're crystal clear on the behaviors that you'd like to reinforce or change, seek out development opportunities to assist you in taking actions that truly help you move forward." She adds that many times, education and development opportunities can be the missing link to taking actions that generate results.

Go for what you want instead of what you think you can have.

Being empowered is about giving yourself the permission to do what's in your best interest or inspiring others to do the same, advises Cummings. "The example I always give is in reference to salary negotiation: When you are interviewing for a new role and the salary conversations begin, it doesn't matter what the company thinks you should make because of their specific budget," she says. "What matters is your level of experience, expertise as it relates to the role, and the salary range in your current industry and market. You are negotiating based upon your experiences and market trends; not because of what the employer has told you is reasonable." She says to always remember that the number you bring to the table is what you've earned, never just what you think you deserve.

Surround yourself with empowered individuals.

Many leaders believe you are the combination of the five people you spend the most time with. This is not to say that you cannot achieve great things if you are the "most successful person" in your immediate circle, but having access to individuals who are empowered and excited to take action in their life will keep you motivated to do the same, says Cummings. She explains that, many times, it can be difficult to step away from the pack, but when the road less traveled begins to look like the norm, it can look much less daunting.

Give yourself time.

Cummings says that advocating for yourself, changing your behavior patterns, and taking new actions in support of your goals will take a new level of confidence; it works in the same way building muscle does. "If you haven't been to the gym in years, you probably won't be able to pick up a 50-pound dumbbell to do a bicep curl on your first day back in action. You may need to start with 15 pounds and work your way up to 50 pounds over the span of a few months," says Cummings. "The same goes for empowering yourself to take new actions in your life; true change takes time in order to be sustainable."

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