Dreaming Beyond the Job Description

I just got in from one of those stimulating lunches when the conversation lingers and inspires long after you leave.

Favorite friend, Adele Gulfo, a senior executive at Pfizer’s corporate offices in New York, arranged this meeting with her colleague Diem Nguyen, also an achieved Pfizer exec who co-leads their Women’s Leadership Network.

We ate at Osteria Laguna, one of my favorite spots on E. 42nd Street, a place I fondly recall eating at for the first time years ago with Audrey Hepburn’s son, Sean Ferrer, (a business lunch for Deloitte.)

Today’s conversation took many turns from work to fashion, networking, and husbands. I was reminded of how much women have in common, especially when it comes to challenges of being a woman on the job.

Here are some nuggets of gold I took from our rich conversation:

You’re More Than Your Job Description — All three of us like fashion and are far-cries from the button-up blue suit types. The point though, is not about clothes as much as it is about expressing the totality of who you are, beyond the role that pays your bills.

It’s tempting to view things as “this is work” and “this is everything else,” but this perspective can feel limiting and frustrating.

Finding outlets for all your interests both at work and beyond, often creates intersections, like planning a client event at a retail store (if you like fashion), or inviting a designer to speak on her experience as a businesswoman.

One senior woman I worked with loved professional sports so she invited clients to pro basketball games. Another has a child with cerebral palsy so she serves and volunteers.

The point here is be your total self and don’t apologize for interests that extend beyond work.

Think Addition More Than Subtraction — Everyone is busy, but adding one new pursuit or aspiration to the work-mix can really ramp up satisfaction levels. Getting involved in an outside-of-work association or industry group is a great way to expand relationships and broaden opportunities.

Adele is a superstar in this regard, and had us both inspired hearing about the people she’s rubbed shoulders with while planning numerous conferences and events.

Turn Offense Into Opportunity — We’ve all had our moments when it’s easy to be offended by uninformed or ignorant men. Adele shared the “trump card” story of turning potential offense into opportunity, and she did so with grace and a good sense of humor.

The way she handled the moment of offense (and yes she did cry in her hotel room the night it happened) led to greater respect among her peer male co-workers, not to mention a great story inspiring others to follow her lead.

We all left our lunch energized by more than delicious pasta, convinced being a working woman, in spite of the challenges, is a gift we wouldn’t trade!

Diem Nguyen (left) and Adele Gulfo (right), leading ladies in every respect!

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