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Blue Ocean Life Nation Interview Series: Dr. Candace Steele Flippin

by Michael Coughlin |

What is your professional background? 

I’m a communications executive, multigenerational workplace scholar, TEDx speaker, and author of Generation Z in the Workplace, Millennials in the Workplace, most recently, Get Your Career in SHAPE.

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin Blue Ocean Life InterviewSince 2016, I ‘ve been an engaged scholar in the Weatherhead School of Management community at Case Western Reserve University. My research there focuses on practical methods to accelerate the leadership development of women, Gen X, Gen Z, and millennials in the workforce. My unique background as a communications executive and management scholar has helped shape my insights and drive my research forward. 

How did you end up with this career?

To put it simply, I followed opportunity. I used to think that careers had to be linear. In my late twenties, I was advised to be open to possibilities. That advice has led me to work in the healthcare, biotech, medical device, financial services, and industrial technology industries and travel to 30 countries.

“Seeking opportunity” was also the driving force that led me to earn my doctorate and pursue my research agenda to help accelerate the professionals and leadership development of Gen Z, millennial, and Gen X women. I’ve always just been open to wherever life wanted to take me next, and here I am! 

How did you begin your remote work journey? 

When the pandemic started, like many others, I was thrust into the remote work landscape for the very first time. It was an adjustment, to say the least. In addition, I lived in a household where my husband was also working from home, so it was an interesting and challenging time to learn how to create the time, space, and flexibility to support each other's work from home routines. 

My husband already worked from home before the pandemic began, so he already established a routine. But, since I was always in the office during those moments, I didn't know that he would turn on jazz music, make his morning coffee, and then move around the house throughout his workday. I, instead, preferred quiet surroundings while I worked. So, we had to learn how to compromise so that we wouldn't get in the way of each other’s work. 

Now, I’m on a flexible schedule and spend half my time in the office and the other half working remotely. 

Where do you see yourself in the next year?

I am unapologetic about using my talents and resources to make the world a better place. 

Hopefully, next year, I will be well on my way to helping millions of women achieve the success they need, want, and deserve. 

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What tips do you have for others who are working remotely?

My biggest tip is for those who want flexibility around their long-term work schedule to be prepared to make their case and have an honest conversation with their bosses and employers. Over the last few years, we've seen that many people fell in love with remote work after the initial adjustment period. And while some are happy to return to the office to regain a separation between work and home and take part in the social part of office life, others would prefer to keep their reclaimed work-life balance. I really understand both sides.

My advice to those who want to be granted permanent remote work is to come prepared for your conversation. Understand the situation from your employer’s perspective, and make sure to proactively address any concerns about your productivity, availability, or other factors that may be driving hesitancy. Make sure to also acknowledge how your status will affect your coworkers and your ability to collaborate as needed.

Then, just make sure to keep an open mind about your own desires long-term. It’s possible that the arrangement that makes you feel most comfortable and productive right now will change in the coming weeks, months, or years. Don’t be afraid to change your mind or request a hybrid approach if you find that you miss the camaraderie of the office or just want to switch up your routine. 

What is your self-care routine, and how do you find time to integrate it into your daily life?

I begin every day with a sense of appreciation and gratitude. I pray every morning. I thank God for my life and blessings and ask him to watch over my family and loved ones. I also pray for peace.

Putting yourself first is important to your overall wellness. Given this, what are your best holistic wellness tips?

I like to think of holistic wellness in terms of the eight pillars of health and wellness outlined in this excellent article: physical, nutrition, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, financial, and environmental. We often think of wellness as just about our exercise habits or our sleep routine, but really, all eight pillars are critical.

For me, I make an intentional effort to focus on the physical, nutrition, spiritual, intellectual, and social pillars on a daily basis. I’ve found that walking and Pilates really support my physical health and that eating healthy foods—and everything in moderation—is the key to supporting my nutrition. The goal is just to remember that there are many facets of wellness that may need your attention to varying degrees on a regular basis. 

What was the toughest challenge you faced during your career?

In my new book, I share I thought I had life all figured out when I was twenty-five years old. I had a fantastic job, enough money to afford the lifestyle I wanted, and a fiancé I couldn’t wait to marry. 

My fiancé and I planned to move from our hometown in Detroit to Washington, DC, to live in the capital. He had already secured a role starting in January, and I planned to follow him in March of that year to launch our power couple journey.

Just a few days before Christmas, at 4:00 a.m., I received a call from my sorority sister. She told me, choking through tears, that my beloved fiancé had died in a car accident and that I needed to get to the hospital right away to meet his family.

As I sat in the waiting room holding back my tears, grief, and devastation, I felt numb. One of my biggest champions, my best friend, was gone. My carefully laid future had evaporated before my eyes—all my life plans that had intertwined with his goals were gone. And I had to swallow yet another devastating pill: our living arrangements and expenses had been planned around a two-income household, which he would be footing the bill for until I secured a job. When he died, so did our plans.

Dwayne often told me that he loved me because I was strong and independent. Yet I felt like a fraud—like I was letting both of us down all those sleepless teary nights as I struggled to work through the pain and get back toward my potential.

How did you get through that period? What advice do you have for people dealing with similar difficulties?

Back then, so many women told me that my life was over—that I should prepare myself for an existence of misery following my devastating loss. This advice was troubling to me. So, I committed to moving forward. 

It took me two years to get to Washington, DC. I had to work through my grief, save money, develop a new career plan, and start over—alone. Though I made it, it was a long, hard road. 

My advice to other women is twofold. First, remember that each and every day is precious. Cultivate your relationships and never take them for granted. I'm happily married today with an incredible family, and I often remind women that things do work out, even if it's not the way we had initially planned. 

Second, having a solid financial foundation will make every moment of your journey easier. When you face setbacks or encounter hardships that are out of your control, your savings (or lack thereof) will play a key role in how easy it is for you to get back on your feet.

Mental health and feeling good are crucial to maximizing performance. How do you prioritize your mental health?

I make time for myself and guard it carefully. Some of my favorite ways to relax and recharge include reading, writing, listening to music, binge-watching TV shows, or going on walks. Whether I’m taking a weekend away by myself or just stepping away for a few hours, having time to put my own needs first is critical.

Also, I’ve always been a strong believer in affirmations. I repeat them to myself often, as I believe they help with self-actualization.

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Before the pandemic hit, you may have worked in an office or corporate setting, but what do you foresee happening now? How do you see companies allowing employees to work post-pandemic?

My hope is that companies enable flexibility whenever and wherever they can. 

The company I currently work for, Acuity, started a program called “Acuity Anywhere” with clear guidelines around which roles will be onsite, which jobs will be flexible, and which jobs will be fully remote. I love this transparency because it empowers job seekers to only apply for the jobs that match their current desires around their workspaces. 

We've also seen that flexibility allows companies to take advantage of a wider talent pool, which has helped many organizations grow and evolve faster than they might have otherwise.

Only time will tell how employers choose to move forward when the pandemic is solidly behind us. Still, I'm an advocate for flexible work models that give employees the option to align with their personal preferences as much as possible. 

If you could have lunch with one person in the world, who would it be and why?

Oprah, without a doubt. So many of us have watched and continue to be inspired by her journey. It would be amazing to have lunch with her and discuss how she views her legacy and what she wishes for women.

Personally, I would want to thank her for living so much of her life “out loud” and motivating me personally and professionally. And, of course, I’d share my goals to help women fast-track their professional development and be open to every bit of advice she had to offer. I'm sure her wisdom and business insight would be priceless. 

If you could inspire a movement, what would it be and why? 

Before the pandemic began, I had an interview with journalist Alexandra Spirer. I shared my desire to implement a "bliss day:" a day that you pick to give yourself complete freedom to realize and enjoy your own desires. That might mean taking a mental health day and spending hours at the spa for some people. For others, it might mean volunteering for their favorite cause and ending the night with a favorite movie. 

The inspiration for #myblissday is this: I believe that most women are always on the move, often fulfilling a mountain of responsibilities that primarily benefit other people—our families, friends, colleagues, and communities. But, unfortunately, it's so common to forget to step back and actually show that same devotion and appreciation for yourself. 

I’m doubling down on my own intention around this idea and committing to my own bliss days this year. And if I could inspire a movement, I’d want as many other women as possible to join me in doing exactly what they want for a day (or longer). 

About Dr. Candace Steele Flippin

Dr. Candace Steele Flippin is a communications executive, workplace scholar, TEDx speaker, and bestselling author. She is on a mission to help millions of women achieve the success they need, want, and deserve. Follow her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/candacesteeleflippin/.

Order Get Your Career in SHAPE on Amazon: 

https://www.amazon.com/Get-Your-Career-SHAPE-Five-Step/dp/1634895010/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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