This past March, several women within Goodwill of North Georgia leadership were asked to write a letter of encouragement in honor of Women’s History Month. As we look to celebrate Mothers this coming Sunday, we are revisiting an open letter from Goodwill of North Georgia Vice President of Marketing, Elaine Armstrong who shares some salient advice that her mother gave her at a young age that we can all learn from as we navigate the workplace.

As a child, one of the most important lessons (and there were many) my mom taught me was to use my voice. I think the combination of me being short in stature and her realizing that, as an African American woman, I’d be living in a world where things just weren’t equal was why she wanted me to learn at an early age how to speak up, advocate for myself and ensure I was not overlooked. You have something to say, and you have an opinion. Whether it’s short and simple or eloquent and verbose, what you say (or don’t say) matters. You count, and that goes way beyond the ballot box.

Oh, and while you’re doing all that talking, be sure to listen. Arguably, one of the most important communications skills is the ability to listen well. You won’t always like what you hear, and the good news is that’s okay. The key is to recognize that someone else is doing exactly what I just advised you to do – speaking up. Give them the R-E-S-P-E-C-T (thank you Aretha) we all deserve.

After you’ve opened your ears, don’t forget to open your eyes, and realize you’re only seeing things from your own perspective. Each of us views the world and our work from a unique vantage point that’s shaped and skewed by our individual experiences. It’s the reason that while in 1920 all women were guaranteed the vote, we don’t all support the same things, causes or people.

While you’re embracing all that diversity, beware the tendency to fall into the comparison trap. Your perspective is yours, but that doesn’t mean it’s any better or worse than anyone else’s. It’s just different.

Moving forward, celebrate today and every day by using your voice and listening well, understanding yours is a unique perspective and recognizing that it deserves its place alongside so many others.

– Elaine Armstrong, Vice President of Marketing, Goodwill of North Georgia

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