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Achieving Career Success Through Self-reflection and Balance

An interview between Phillip Thompson, Vice President Global Growth, Client Services and Marketing at Kepner-Tregoe and Alice Chou, Global HRBP – Corporate Functions, R&D, and Worldwide Business of a global leading semiconductor company.

Alice Chou is a top, global HR professional who has worked in the finance, healthcare, and technology industries. With 25+ years of global and cross-industry experience, Alice Chou has clear observations and proposed solutions for how organizations can better support women in business. In anticipation of IWD, she recently also reflected on what women can do—personally—to promote their careers.

“In my first job after college,” recounts Chou, “I received excellent performance reviews but when I asked for a promotion, I was told, get in line, they are older, they have graduate degrees, you need to wait.” Although she hadn’t planned on it, Chou pivoted, left her native Taiwan, and went to grad school in the UK.

Overcome obstacles and reduce self-criticism.

Chou is adamant that obstacles need to be turned into opportunities, adding that as women leaders, we have very high bars and can act as our own worst enemies. “We need to accept setbacks as learning opportunities, reduce self-criticism and celebrate ourselves. You know that you’ve tried very hard. It’s OK, accept it, celebrate what you learned and then move on. If I hit a brick wall, I just turn around and find alternative ways to hit my goals.”

“In my HR experience, when a big role opens up, male candidates come to me, while women don’t step forward and are less likely to fight for a bigger role. Too often we won’t raise a hand until we are 100 or 120 percent ready while men are more willing to take the chance, even when they are not ready.”

Throughout my career as HR practitioner, women express too much self-doubt.” Laughing, she adds, “I do it too. We all need to take a chance and overcome our inner fears.

Let your principles guide you.

Chou’s career has been guided by a personal commitment to integrity, which is fundamental to what she calls the Alice Chou brand. “Grow your professional worth,” advises Chou. “Your personal principles and quality of work are your brand.”

“There are offices where everyone will stay in office until the boss leaves. They work, superficially, to show that they work hard in front of their boss,” says Chou. “But your capability as a brand and ability to create value—is not for the boss, but for you.  It is your capability as a brand that creates value.”

She notes that she wanted financial freedom early so she could say what she meant honestly and could speak candidly without worrying about losing a job. “Don’t say something you don’t believe when fighting for a career opportunity. It’s more important to live up to your commitments, seriously value your promises and speak the truth.”

“I’ve always been very careful in managing or building the Alice Chou brand so that everyone would know that as long as this is from Alice, this is quality assured. It is a long-term, visionary and strategic way of working.”

Find balance in life.

Support from mentoring, sponsorships and career networking can be critical to career success. Also critical, notes Chou, is finding the support you need outside of work, finding your work/life balance. “Reflecting on my own career development I found that yes, I’m a pretty driven person but I have a family support network that was there for me. My children were well taken care of by my mother-in-law, my mother and extended family when I needed their support. Having that support makes a huge difference.”

Chou stresses that reflection also is critical to finding that balance. For Chou this means understanding and reflecting on what’s important in your life. “Integrity is kind of the true north for me. I would never as an individual, deviate from there. That’s my balance. I can deprioritize other things, by knowing what really matters to me.”

Chou adds that another aspect of work/life balance is your physical health and well-being. She meditates daily and has done so for 30+ years. She also uses Tai Chi to build resilience and a sense of well-being.

Taking time for reflection helps to bring balance. Chou notes that it’s important to pause and reflect on what you can do better and how you can impact and create value at work and outside of work, for yourself and the people in your life.

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