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Tricia Kagerer says there is not one but 13 B-words that define women. Yes, the main b-word we all thought of immediately is amongst them. But the vice-president of risk management for a general contractor puts beliefs, balance, babes, babies, budgets, bankruptcy, bias, bullies, bonds, badasses, bridges and bravery on the list. Some are obvious, others less so. But each must be acknowledged and addressed by women in their career trajectory.

Start with beliefs – specifically, limiting beliefs. What are the notions lurking in your mind that are holding you back? “Limiting beliefs can change the course of your career, your family, and the quality of your life; only you have the power to change them,” she writes in The B Words.

She warns that women tend to latch on to limiting beliefs and absorb them into their soul. In business, two limiting beliefs have held women back for decades – the myth that women are particularly suited for clerical and caregiving jobs, rather than the better-paying, historically male jobs, and the myth that women can’t run businesses because they aren’t good at handling money or being in charge of an endeavour. Challenge those myths, and your inner critic will start telling you you’re wrong.

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She advises you to replace the limiting belief with a new mantra that spurs you forward. She had trouble with public speaking to promote a previous book because she felt her audience knew more than she did, so she would fail. That imposter syndrome hampers many women. She replaced it with a new mantra she repeats over and over: “The audience is my friend and wants me to be successful. They are excited to hear what I have to say and learn about my perspective.”

She says a woman’s worst fear is being financially bankrupt. Historically, society has conditioned women to believe that financial decisions were out of their hands, and she says that can leave them ill-equipped to negotiate salaries and achieve financial independence.

Another myth that women must overcome is balance. It is like a gold standard they are supposed to achieve but miss because life can’t be balanced. Babies are related: There comes a time in almost every woman’s life to explore whether or not to get married, move in with a partner or have children. Each woman will decide for herself, but those decisions can change, delay and influence career choices. You must be thoughtful, choosing a life that is authentic for you.

She defines the “babe” phase of life as the early years in a career – smart, ambitious and inevitably facing being called cutesy names like sweetheart, honey or kiddo. We should be in an era when that doesn’t happen, but it does and requires the courage to quietly but affirmatively – at the right time – indicate your boundaries. Less is more, she advises; be concise and don’t ramble. As for advances disguised as work opportunities, she warns if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your intuition.

She urges you early in your career to work on your voice and word usage, to sound calm, friendly and professional. Get rid of phrases such as “this may be a dumb idea.” Make sure you don’t talk in circles. And this tip, from one of her mentors: On a business trip, every morning, read the front page of a prominent newspaper and the newspaper of the city you are visiting so you can make conversation about current events.

She urges you to address your inner badass – what makes you unique. Form bonds with other women and work with men to build bridges for the future, so more women will be in every space of the workplace, including the boardroom. Be conscious of the B words and how they impact your life.

Quick hits

  • You can turn a new tab in your browser into a handy, repeated reminder of your to-do list. Tech writer Jared Newman recommends the Change New Tab extension for Chrome or New Tab Override for Firefox, entering the URL of your to-do service of choice such as Todoist or Microsoft To-Do. Now every time you call for a new tab, you’ll also see the list.
  • Don’t sit too close or too far from your computer in an online job interview – you want a bit of empty space on the screen above your head and your shoulders and chest visible, says Regina Borsellino, a writer for The Muse. Choose a quiet area and a neutral background, such as a blank wall.
  • Ask your boss, “How can I improve?” suggests blogger Deborah Sweeney.
  • If the only reason you’re not pursuing a dream is because of the length of time it will take to achieve that goal, you should start right now, notes author James Clear.
  • Consider a walking meeting, even if your colleagues are working from home. Everyone can join in from their phones.

Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.

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