You Can’t Pour From An Empty Cup: Insights from ACCP member Patricia Contreras

Patricia Contreras
Vice President Public Affairs
Rockwell Automation

Time flies when you are having fun and getting into good trouble, but it’s hard to believe I’ve been blessed to learn, grow, and shape philanthropic giving programs for 20 years. When asked about my career, philanthropy, and achieving success as a woman of color, my advice boils down to two simple truths: you have to rest, and you have to learn.

Lifelong Learner

Sure, setting high standards for oneself is considered a good thing, but perfectionism has a dark side.  I always thought I had to have all the answers, never giving myself permission to say, “Let me get back to you,” and never giving myself the time to search for a response. Sound familiar? What I’ve learned is that there is nothing more dangerous than not finding a way to manage that pressure. If you share these tendencies, you’ve got to find outlets to put down your guard and be vulnerable, and that starts with embracing your inner lifelong learner. Once I figured this out, I was able to unlock the tools at my fingertips to achieve more, the healthy way. The first step for me was utilizing our ACCP corporate membership and attending my first event, The Forum. That immersive experience gave me the content and tools I didn’t even know I needed (kind of like that first magical curbside pickup at Target a few months ago).

Learning can be through others – It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know

We’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true. When done with authenticity and positive intent, networking is like rocket fuel for your career. I’m an introvert, even more so during quarantine. So when thrown in a room with a bunch of strangers, I get anxious. You will usually find me by the nearest exit versus working the room collecting business cards. Yet I eventually found my own way of making people connections and embraced it.

I treasure big ideas, meaningful conversations, and the great minds you reach out to when you get stuck. As a woman of color, I want to elevate and support members of my community, those who are often unseen. So, figure out your networking style and get out there. Like any relationship, keep those professional friendships nurtured and check in on each other, especially during this time of isolation. You never know when you are going to need them.

Rest– it’s okay to regroup and re-energize

As a mom of two young children with a newly expanded role, I will tell you this is THE WORK. Rest. Take that much-needed time to build up precious energy and don’t apologize for it. For me, that means being alone and still. As much as I love my family and my career, I need that time. And I need to be okay with saying I need time. This has been one of the harder lessons for me to learn: when I didn’t listen to my body, I suffered, work suffered, and my loved ones suffered. It’s okay to pause and find ways to rest and recharge. Know that I will be focusing my energy on perfecting rest.

My suggestion is that you honor the ancient wisdom of flight attendants and get your own oxygen mask working before tending to others in your care. Show yourself the same level of compassion you are showing to others – you and those around you will be the better for it.

If you’re new to CSR and want to learn more about the field – as Patricia did – we encourage you to also plan to attend #Forum2020 this September and October. For more information and to register, visit our website.

Patricia Contreras

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