On Oct. 6, the 13th annual PA Conference for Women comes to Philadelphia, attracting over 7000 attendees. Co-founder and CEO of Business Talent Group (BTG) Jody Greenstone Miller will moderate a panel on making career changes called "Pivoting into Career 2.0." Miller took the time to speak with us about tips for navigating your professional life and why she doesn’t like the word “passion.”
What made you want to participate in the PA Conference for women?
Well I’ve always enjoyed talking to women and sharing what I can to help women be successful. This one in particular was of interest because I grew up in Philadelphia and went to Friends Select School for thirteen years, which is right around the corner from where the conference is being held. The geography and the opportunity.
I noticed you’re speaking on a panel about making pivots in your career. Having such a diverse professional life yourself, what tips you have for women looking to make changes?
I think the first thing is you have to be open to the serendipity of life.You can’t actually plan a career like I’ve had. You have to be willing to take risks and try things — opportunities that cross your path that you might not have expected to be your path. I think also you have to have some sense of both what you’re good at, what you like and how that intersects with what’s going on in the world. So when you see those three lineup that’s kind of a moment to say, “That’s something I should try.”
It’s very much like being an artist with your career.
Yes. It’s a combination of inspiration, hard work, and you kick the can of paint over and it looks good. It’s all three. You have to try and look at your career not as a stagnant, lock step progression, but as a lifelong journey where you’re constantly acquiring new skills and finding ways to get new skills. It makes new possibilities open up to you.
How important is it to be passionate about your work?
I don’t like the word passion. I think it puts a lot of pressure on people. It’s great if you really do have a passion and you developed it naturally and nurtured it. I have read many times that Steven Spielberg was making movies when he was 12, but not everybody has that. I think there’s too much focus on, ‘What is your passion? What is your passion?’ What I tell people is just kind of do what naturally interests you and what you’re drawn to. I think the standard of passion is just like the standard of love at first sight. It’s a romantic idea that occasionally happens, but that most people have to take smaller steps and get involved with something they find interesting. I think that’s a more realistic view of what happens to most people and the way you will end up in the right place.
Women in the professional arena have come a long way but what other work needs to be done from your perspective?
I’m a lawyer by training so I’m obviously someone who believes we have to enforce the law. We can’t have discrimination. We can’t have unequal pay for exactly the same work. I also think we’ve come a long way but the focus is just on women or predominantly women and women’s shortfalls or things people don’t like about women that can be counterproductive. We should spend more time thinking about careers and paths to the top that will enable men and women you know to have some choices about how they design and ultimately lead their lives and how that works with whatever professional direction they’re taking. I’m a fan more these days of focusing less on women and more on organizationally and culturally how we create more opportunities for people who don’t want to work 24/7 to rise in their organization.
The PA Conference for Women is Thursday, Oct. 6 at The Pennsylvania Convention Center.