In 2010 I set some goals for myself.
Focus on my professional development. In the last several years I’d allowed my career to flatline. There were explanations for this: I had young children and was afraid taking on greater responsibility at work would compromise my already minimal time with them. My husband started a new business that made him less available to the family so I had to shoulder more of the household responsibilities. The economic downturn made job movement more risky. Heck, I felt damn lucky to just have a job when so many people I knew were losing theirs.
But at some point explanations become excuses. At some point staying in a job that’s not challenging is demotivating. At some point reading the alumni notes in my business school’s monthly magazine stirred up a sense of pride and outrage I wasn’t aware I had.
I decided it was time to step up, take a little more risk, and move my career forward.
Get myself out there. I’m an introvert. And I’m shy. People who know me find this hard to believe, because I thrive on one-on-one conversations and relationships. But group social interactions and networking events are challenging. They’re very difficult for me and they take a lot out of me. I just, frankly, don’t know how to do it. I also know that as with just about anything, the only way to get better is to just do it more.
So in 2010 I chose to do some self-exploration, in the form of online development webcasts, to help me build my confidence and crystalize my career objectives. And I invested time in attending local networking functions.
FountainBlue is a Silicon Valley based organization that facilitates conversations among executives. Their When She Speaks series provides monthly networking events for women in high tech.
Patty Azzarello is a Bay Area executive coach and author of RISE (How to be Really Successful at Work AND Like Your Life). Her monthly webcasts are fantastic…and free.
My company has a corporate membership to WITI (Women in Technology International), which entitles me to attend their webcasts at no cost to me!
Here’s what I learned….
I tend to be risk-averse, hesitant to position myself for a new opportunity if I don’t feel I already know it inside and out, forwards and backwards.
- You don’t have to know about the things they’re asking you to do, you just have to learn how to do them.
- Sometimes you have to do things that scare you.
- Always be aware of what skills are transferable.
- Focus on what you’re good at; only remediate those weaknesses that are going to hold you back.
- Learn to communicate what you’re good at.
“The self-confidence one builds from achieving difficult things is the most beautiful thing of all.” –Madonna
NETWORKING AND FINDING MENTORS
- Connect with people because when opportunities come up people think first of who they know.
- Observe people in your company who are highly successful and figure out what their skills are.
- Women need to place networking at a higher priority and it’s important to network with people different from you. Specifically, as a professional woman don’t network only with women!
- Mentoring is not just about what you can get. What can you give back? You have to be very flexible, e.g. don’t only look to women as mentors.
“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” –Brene Brown
- Being known for being a communicator is one of the best things you can do
- There are different types of power:
- Being an expert
- Having information
- Recognizing others’ accomplishments
- Other people want to work with you
“Real integrity is doing the right thing knowing nobody’s going to know.” –Oprah
- Your personal brand is not static, must be authentic, and cannot be created overnight.
- Develop your simple message. Find a positioning word or phrase to use at networking events (then be sure to introduce yourself to at least 3 people).
- Make yourself visible through volunteering and internal networking – the more people who know you as a capable person, the better off you are.
- The way you do things is an important aspect of your brand; you need to validate substance with style.
- Personal values help your brand, but your brand is what you deliver.
“Sometimes the most important things we do are things we cannot measure.” –Jacqueline Novogratz
TOP CAREER HAZARDS TO AVOID
- Missing the real requirements for top jobs – You need to do more than your job; think game changing
- Not letting go of things – Make sure the work gets done without you doing it personally
- Being invisible – Create relationships with influencers
- Not getting the right experience – Your current job is not going to give you the experience you need for the job you want
- Not getting help – Never suffer alone; ask others for best practices
“There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.” –Beverly Sills
2010 was a great year of learning, now 2011 will be a year of doing!