1. Don’t take your passions lightly.
Invest your time in whatever it is that you love. Become an expert. You never know when one of your talents could help you start a business, get a promotion, or help you transition into a new career.
2. Find a mentor.
Find a mentor (a friend, acquaintance, colleague) to bounce ideas off of. Getting advice from someone who has the experience you need can help you make decisions. Ask them the “questions” you wouldn’t ask anyone else.
3. Build your network.
It’s all about who you know. Stay in contact with co-workers when you leave a job or when they leave your company. When you’ve met someone, don’t just say you’ll “keep in touch.” Actually do it. You’ll never know where your connections can take you.
4. Give the 411.
Make others aware of the issues that matter to you. The best place to start is your group of friends, your job, or your community. Start small conversations about issues at lunch or over coffee. If your friends aren’t aware, inform them. Raising awareness about issues starts from the ground level.
5. Become an expert and write about it.
One of the best ways to gain respect is to become an expert about something so that people come to you for advice. Write letters and op-eds to your local newspaper; publish something online, or in your neighborhood. Being an expert gives you power and voice.
6. Follow through with commitments.
Whether on a work project, on the school board, or in a young professional’s organization, always complete what you’ve said you would do. People count on you. When you let them down, you damage your relationship and your reputation.
7. Gain experience without commitment.
You will have a number of different jobs over the course of your life—maybe even several totally separate careers. Don’t be afraid to explore your options in your free time. Work on a political campaign and take a look at politics from the inside out. Volunteer for an organization that interests you. You have more flexibility that you think.
8. Pass the baton.
Being a leader is about creating new paths and guiding the way. But, it’s also about ensuring that the people who come behind you can get their foot in the door. Help a young woman by being her mentor and guiding her in her budding career path.
9. Take matters into your own hands.
Have you noticed that your community parks are not up to par? Do you find yourself wishing for better benefits at your job? Be a problem solver. Commit to improving the world around you. By writing letters, scheduling meetings with higher ups, or rallying a group of concerned friends, you can make a difference.
10. Stay current and connected.
One of the easiest ways to stand out is by knowing what’s going on in the world. Read the paper, check out blogs that interest you, or listen to public radio to stay up on current events. Being knowledgeable about the world shows that you’re in tune with your surroundings and makes you a more interesting person.
11. Take notes.
Keep a journal of all of your experiences and work accomplishments. Jot down a quick description (where? when?) of your activity or commendation along with a few sentences about the circumstances. Think of it as Cliff Notes to your life. This way, you will have a record of your achievements and benchmarks for future reference, and when the time comes, it will be easy for you to retool your resume.
12. Keep your Kudos.
Whenever a friend or family member compliments you in writing or over email, print it out or make a copy and save it in a bright folder. If you ever doubt yourself, refer to the folder. Reading great things your peers and mentors have noticed about you will lift you up, and remind you of all you’ve accomplished.
13. Embrace originality.
Challenge yourself to break the mold everyday by changing things up. Mixing up your routine makes you more unique, forces you to adapt and change things up, and gives you the opportunity to continuously take the lead.
14. Invite a Woman to Run.
Tap a woman leader in your community, or farther afield, to run for, or aspire to, the nation’s top political job or other important posts. Most women don’t think about running until someone asks them. This is an opportunity to tell a woman you respect that you think she’s a leader, or that she has the right stuff to run for an important office such as school board, city council, or congress.