Early on, Michele lacked direction. She was ready to graduate high school with no plan of continuing her education, but her mother intervened. Patricia, (Michele’s mom), pointed out a larger picture for her daughter. She said, “You know you’re a smart young woman, you’ve got a great personality—you really like people—you’ve got to get serious here.” And Michele did, realizing that her potential was larger than she had imagined.
With her mom’s guidance, Michele went onto college and then to law school. After graduation she worked in private practice, but found that the work load didn’t mesh with the needs of her growing family. “I realized that there was no way I could balance and manage a heavy case load, the long hours, and raising my first child. So I left that firm and I went to a smaller one that offered greater flexibility.”
This gutsy lady is not afraid to take risks. Her career has been diverse—she’s taken positions in state government and in corporate America. When asked how she was able to face her fears and take on new assignments, she responds, “I felt that if something didn’t work out, I knew that my family was there to support me. I truly believe that in life, you are where you’re supposed to be at any given moment.”
Today Michele pays it forward. She’s concerned that too many women “don’t stop to ask for what they want.” She knows this all too well because when she started out she saw men getting the assignments she wanted because they just asked. She had to learn to do this too. Even today she admits, “I have to tell myself, ‘Michele. You need to make this ask.’ And it’s not going to feel comfortable.”
As to what she would tell her younger self, given what she knows now, Michele says: “Be flexible, because the best made plans are made to be broken. When I graduated from law school I had a plan, and that plan unraveled in good ways. When the young women I mentor come up to me with fabulous plans, I say, ‘That sounds awesome, but be open because plans do get broken.’” Even if her own plans get knocked off course, this authentic leader comes back stronger.
More from Michele…
What’s a quick tip for dealing with an aggressive person?
I laugh, I laugh, I laugh, and I kill them with kindness.
Who are the wisest people you know?
My teenage sons–they mentor me in ways I could never have imagined.
Adapted from Helene’s radio show, Dare to Live Fully, episode: How To Assert Yourself and Be Heard