To celebrate International Women’s Day, I attended the #YourStoryYourFuture Women @ Work event last week all about success and women in the workplace, held by TD and University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.  TD partnered withUniversity of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management to release a joint report on how Canadian women perceive the challenges and opportunities in advancing their careers.

The data from the report, titled 10 Lessons: Women @ Work Managing Career, Family & Legacy10 lessons from successful women on balancing money, career, and legacy.came from a year-long research project and essay competition that engaged close to 400 working women from across Canada. From this, 10 key themes emerged on how women can achieve success.

As you might expect, women bring different perspectives to what professional advancement means to them, showing how there’s no one-size-fits-all point of view.

The research for this report began in February of 2015 when TD and the Rotman School launched an essay competition inviting women from coast-to-coast to submit personal essays describing their experience navigating family, career and legacy aspirations.

It was a truly inspiring event to attend and report to read, so I’m excited to share the 10 lessons I learned on how to balance life with career as a modern woman.

1. Communicate your aspirations

Before you can achieve any type of success, you need to define what your aspirations are and come back to them frequently. I try do this every year and have even made an action plan to help me achieve them using the SMART goals strategy.

Besides defining your aspirations, it’s just as important to share them with others. Tell your partner, tell your family and tell your networks. You never know who could end up helping you achieve your dreams, and talking about them out loud will also help make them more real.

2. Get an education

Do you want independence, financial security and more opportunities to reach the top in your field? Then get an education…early. Waiting is not an option. I am so thankful that I never took time off after high school because I know it would have been that much harder to get into the swing of things.

I’m even more thankful for taking the plunge and going back to school to get my professional certificate in Digital Marketing a few years later. Education is never a waste of money, and the sooner you get that education, all the better for your career.

3. Be financially prepared for the unexpected

Make a plan. No one can predict the future, so have a plan A, B and C so you’re prepared when the unexpected happens. That could mean having an ample emergency fund, getting life insurance or disability insurance, or having a long-term financial plan so you know where you want to go in the next few years and how to get there.

4. Develop business acumen

The excuse that you’re not a “business person” is just that — an excuse. No matter what you do for a job, your business is your business. If you want to advance in your career, you need to make smart decisions in terms of your professional and personal life. You need to have the skills and be strategic.

You may surprise yourself how business-savvy your really are (I know I have!).

5. Understand the trade-offs of a career break

This has been something on my mind lately. I know a number of women who have gone on a maternity leave, and it’s not easy taking a year-long break from your career. That’s still something that scares me if I’m honest, and it’s part of the reason I want to wait a few more years before starting a family of my own. The key thing to remember is just because you choose to have a family, it doesn’t mean you have to give up your career entirely.

Sure, it can be difficult to reenter the workforce, especially if you’ve taken several years off to stay at home — but it’s not impossible and it’s something we as women need to overcome. One way to overcome this is to have a reentry plan so you know what steps you need to take to get back to your thriving career.

6. Rethink guilt – focus on the positive

Focusing on the positive is such a huge thing that I know us women sometimes forget to do. That and the guilt factor. When I was at the event, the topic of guilt came up in relation to going back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for a period of time.

You should not feel guilty for having a career and a family. You should feel proud, and remember that children of working moms are more likely to be successful as adults.

7. Be confident – take career & life risks

It’s not always easy to be confident, but it’s critical if you want to progress in your career. You may be a perfectionist (like me) who is always afraid they aren’t good enough. You may be introverted and aren’t naturally comfortable speaking up, especially when extroverts are in the crowd. No matter the reason, confidence is a big component to being successful.

Taking risks is just as vital and could be the difference between you staying where you are or getting to the next level.

8. Find and learn from trusted mentors and mentees

I’ve always had mentors throughout my career, most of them unofficial mentors. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve worked with many strong women who I’ve been able to look up to, learn from and emulate. To give back and to develop my leadership skills, I’ve also mentored others so I can help the next generation of women achieve their aspirations.

Find someone you look up to and reach out to them. And if you work with someone who is just starting out, go the extra mile to help them grow too.

9. Network, network, network!

Build your networks, but also be strategic in how you develop your networks too. You want to make sure the people in your networks motivate you, help you and steer you in the right direction. Your network will be a big part of your career plan, so be careful who you choose to have in your circles.

10. Think about your legacy

Have you thought about your legacy? You may think it’s too early to even think about it depending on what stage in life you’re at, but your legacy is the foundation of your life goals. It’s the answer to your question “What’s the point of all this hard work again?”

Your life and career should be deliberate, and your legacy should be your roadmap to success. So if you don’t already know what you want your legacy to be, now is the time to think about it.

What lesson have you learned in your career? Share in the comments!

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This is a sponsored post by TD, but all the opinions and thoughts are my own.

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