You probably know her best from her signature event SisterTalk, an incredible gathering of women sharing their deepest fears and exchanging advice and gestures of love and support. A common theme is navigating and surviving the tricky corporate world. Karlyn took some time out to share with us some of the best advice and lessons she's learned along her journey.
What's the best career advice you've ever received?
I can't remember who said it exactly, but it was about seeing my career as a jungle gym instead of as a ladder. Success is not a straight line & sometimes taking a risk within the same department or company might be the best move.
What do you do when you're having a bad day at work?
It depends on what my soul needs the most at that time. I try to find the source of my resistance first. Most of my bad days were a result of clashing with colleagues/personalities. I either let go of the expectation of that particular outcome or try to see the perspective of the other person. If it's a result of someone in a more senior position, I try to discuss solutions with my supervisor or a mentor. We all have bad days and it's so important not to ignore them, as they are very teachable moments for us. I should say that there were days when I did give in to the funk & did nothing constructive about the bad day. It happens.
Have you ever been asked to do something outside of your comfort zone at work? How did you handle it?
Oh yes! Being a new immigrant in Operations & Technology in Canada wasn't easy. You automatically feel isolated because of the ratio of men to women. In most cases the senior leadership did not reflect the population as they were mostly male. When my VP asked me to find a solution to automate a paper based system, I felt like the least qualified person for the job (I am not a programmer but I am a passionate employee with a curious mind and I also love a challenge). I said yes & proceeded to design a $500,000 system using Access Database. I learned everything I could about using Access through online webinars and I bought lunch for colleagues who helped me with the more difficult parts. This experience taught me that people can do anything that they set their minds to.
What's the biggest mistake women make in their careers?
Thinking that we need to be 100 per cent ready for the roles that we apply for. We need to stop waiting to be chosen for the assignments and roles we want. More women need to take a seat at the table, advocate for themselves and for each other.
How do you balance your career and your personal life?
There's no such thing as balance. I believe in work-life integration and bringing your whole self to work. In order to do my best work I need access to my entire suite of skills - this includes tapping into my emotional intelligence and knowing when I need to focus more on the things that matter to me the most - including my mental well-being, family or the project I'm taking on at work. This being said, every woman must design her work-life experience for herself based on her current journey (kids, no kids, young kids, whatever your family and life aspirational goals are).
Who are your career role models or inspirations?
Oprah, Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, Claudette McGowan, Brene Brown, Gary Vanyerchuk, Napoleon Hill, Robin Sharma and Tony Robbins, just to name a few. I've learned quite a bit from these people and many others. They are the inspiration and behind our Success Planner, a tool every ambitious woman should have to create a life she loves. Get your copy here!
What are some of your work habits that you'd like to change or improve?
One of the best rituals/habits that I implemented was crafting a Work-Life Experience Statement - which is a guidepost for the energy, interactions and intentions I set for myself wherever & whenever I work. This has helped me own my energy & the attitude I bring into the workspace. Recently I resigned from my 23+ year career in the financial industry to start my own consulting firm & I haven't updated that Work-Life Experience Statement yet, so that is definitely something I need to work on.
What books are on your career reading list?
These books are linked to the people I listed above for my career role models. I would keep some at my desk when I had a dedicated office space, now that I am on a #WorkFromInspiredSpaces schedule, I listen to them on Audible.
What I know for sure - Oprah
Thrive - Arianna Huffington
Lean IN - Sheryl Sandberg
Rising Strong - Brene Brown
Ask Gary Vee - Gary Vanyerchuk
Think & Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill
The Leader Who Had No Title - Robin Sharma
Note that these books empower you to be great in life and in your career. The most effective leader is one who knows who they are and why they are where they are.
How do you overcome a disagreement with a coworker?
If it can't be resolved between the two parties involved then I suggest going to the HR supervisor. I've had to go to HR for discrimination, once where I was the accused and once where I brought the charges forward. Both experiences taught me a lot. My biggest takeaway is to remember to ALWAYS document everything, something I am glad I did do.
Have you ever had a toxic coworker? How did you deal with him/her?
Yes. We ended up having to go to HR and unfortunately the coworker was so bitter that he created a problem that wasn't there. This was my first time in HR in all my years at the bank - the person reported to me and I was glad that we had HR to deal with it. The person was very destructive and his behaviour needed to be recorded on file.
Karlyn's best advice:
Take a seat at the table. Ask for assignments that stretch you. Ask for what you need from your supervisor to get to the next level you're aspiring to. If they are ineffective, get it outside of your department, get a mentor or coach and do peer-to-peer coaching. Ask for more, be disruptive, advocate for other women and speak up! No one will know how great you are if you don't tell them. It's your life and you only have one - so make it count.