About a year ago I went through a new hobby on the verge of a semi-obsession. Like anyone else, when you find something new it starts to pre-occupy all of your spare time. It is fun, exhilarating, and helps to make the hours in a day fly by. For me this new hobby was all about business, literally. I became fascinated with the upper echelon in corporate America. How did the CEO’s of some of the biggest companies in the world get to where they are now. For those leaders who are women, how did they standout in a world dominated by men. I read book after book on the subject, attended conferences, and all the while it just pushed me even more within my own career. I had to get to the next level, I wanted to become one of these women I was reading about. It was not long after this I was promoted at work. Now having felt I had achieved a goal I had set out for myself I took a break from the all consuming world of business in my spare time to go back to reading a few lighter reads.
Now a year later and feeling that itch at work to get ahead becoming almost a rash I cant scratch, I decided to pick up a book that has been on my business to read list for quite sometime. I try to buy most books used if I can. As much as I want to become a kindle or tablet reader for the sake of the environment, there is just something I love so much about holding a newly purchased book in my hand. For this reason I try to buy most books used. Plus there is also the extra bonus of it feeding into my love of thrift and the hunt for what you want. I had looked for this book for quite sometime at my favorite used book store in the city with never any luck. Finally a couple of weeks ago I was in luck! I purchased it immediately and headed home on this particularity raining day to snuggle in my bed to start reading it. Upon opening the book I found what I can only imagine was the author Sophia Amoruso’s autograph, dedicated to “Hawks is a #Girlboss!” I knew this book was meant to be mine. Plus another perk of buying used, you never know what surprise you might find.
I have read a lot of memoir’s along with business books over the last couple of years and this was defiantly one of my favorites. More for the story of Sophia’s rise to stardom vs the business advice. Although I do think she gives some very solid points, especially for girls who are just starting out in their career. She writes in a way that you can tell is truly in her voice. Sophia is not afraid to tell it like it is or just be herself, something I truly admire. As a leader, you are made to think you have to be a certain type of leader in order to get a head or be respected. Something I have never quite agreed with. I admire Sophia for being the type of leader she wants to be, not who she feels she needs to be in order to get ahead. She truly proves anyone who is passionate, dedicated, and has that fire inside to succeed can.
I finished the book quickly and have since become fascinated by the author and what she has to say. I have found myself listening to her pod-cast , #girlboss, on my drive’s home from work. Here she interviews various women who within their own fields are dominating. Her conversations are real, not staged, and truly authentic. Sophia may not be for everyone, but for myself she is providing a much needed refresh into what a women leader can be.
Hi Everyone! As promised earlier this week, below are some of the questions people at my office were curious about and wanted to have more clarity on during the panel. Overall I thought it was a great group of questions and that a lot of people could benefit from the answers even outside of my office walls. I did narrow the questions down to a group that would be more applicable to a greater population though. I also do want to note that the answers are just my opinions and thoughts based off of what has worked for me in my career. I am by no means an expert and there are a lot of different opinions and advice people have out there that is good and valid that may differ from my own. However I tried to narrow my answers down to what people overall thought was the most beneficial.
Whats the best way to find a mentor at work?
- Find people you like, respect their work style, and want to learn more from.
- Then just reach out to them and setup a coffee or lunch date
- Come prepared with topics to discuss, questions you have, guide it to be what you need/want it to be
- The Mentee needs to really be the one owning the mentor relationship
- If you find after a few times meeting you are just not clicking there is nothing wrong with ending a mentor-ship. These relationships are meant to help you, so don’t force something
What courses do you recommend for personal development? What books do you recommend?
- I really liked the birkman method class where it walks you through understanding not only your own work personality, but also different personalities around you in the workplace
- The success we achieve can largely depend on how well we understand ourselves and those with whom we interact. Much of our time is spent working with others to accomplish objectives. People skills are one of the most critical we can develop.
- Recently I have been reading books about or from Leaders in our industry. It is interesting to see how leaders at the top of their field have approached work and what has lead to their successes. Below are some of the books I would reccomend reading
- “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook is a great book! It gives a whole new perspective of being a woman in business
- “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” by Brad Stone, it makes you really appreciate when you work for a company with a great culture and also seeing the grit needed to push the limits in terms of innovation
- Currently I am Reading “Thrive” by Arriana Huffington the founder of Huffington Post. This book is all about work life balance, which I am a big believer in. In order for us to really be the best we can be we need to make sure we prioritize ourselves.
Whats the best way to approach the conversation of being considered for promotion?
- I am a big advocate in owning your own career development.
- I always have approached my managers with what my goals are and the things I need to do in order to make them happen.
- Then I work at delivering the goals discussed. At the end of the day you do have to prove yourself
- Always keep the dialogue open and talk about it frequently with your manager. I believe everyone should know where they stand in their current role at work
- Be responsive to constructive feedback and show how you are listening it and trying to learn from it
For those of us who are more “introverted” – we hear so much about how important visibility is to advancing your career. What advice do you have for those people who are more on the introverted or quiet side?
- First I agree, speaking up to get visibility is very important. However if this is not your strong suite I don’t think that means you can’t succeed or move up
- In terms of speaking in public though I can say I personally have always been really shy about speaking up in big publish forums. In almost all of my evaluations this has been an area for me to work on.
- The only thing I have found that works is practice. Start slowly with pushing yourself. First try speaking up in your team meetings where you know everyone and feel comfortable. Once you start to do that and it feels comfortable then start speaking up in larger group meetings until you feel even more comfortable. Keep challenging yourself, the more you do it the easier it gets. I promise!
- If speaking up is not your strong suite find ways to showcase what you are strong at and get more visibility there. Are you really strong at in person one on one conversations? Then make a point to go talk to leaders in the office. Are you strong at crafting great e-mails? Then work at creating great re-caps and presenting information out to your manager.
- It is all about playing up where you are strong and working to improve where you need to get better. Everyone has something to work on
I’ve heard some people say that one of the only ways to move up quickly is to keep jumping companies or jobs every couple of years. What are your thoughts on that?
- I think it all comes down to working hard and liking where you are. I started as a merchandise assistant which is the entry level position in merchandising and have been promoted 4 times over the last 7 years. I believe if you work hard for a company then the company will want to reward you for it, however I also believe if you are not getting what you want out of a job then sometimes moving can help as well. Just remember going to another company does not mean you will move up any faster. When you start somewhere new you have to prove to a new group of people you as a worker. For some people this is easy, for others it may be harder. At the end of the day it all comes down to really liking what you do and feeling like you are contributing to something you believe in.
I’ve had so many different managers over a short period of time due to turnover or re-orgs. It feels like I have to start all over with each manager and that I’m not gaining traction on advancing my career. Any advice on how to handle that sort of situation?
- In my time at my company I have had 9 different managers, that is almost 1-2 a year. I do think having new managers is tough because you do have to re-build a new relationship and prove yourself with them.
- However I think it is important to be honest with your new manager when they come on board.
- Tell them that you are concerned about all of the changes and how it is important for you to stay on track to move up. I have had very honest and frank conversations with new managers on what I what and what I am concerned about.
- With every new manager I have started the relationship off by letting them know what I want from my career and see how they can support or help me with it.
- If you are a strong worker your manager will learn quickly.
At work I was recently asked to be part of a panel discussion series focused on educating and inspiring employees within our company on Career Development. The focus of this panel was to share feedback and advice on how someone goes about shaping their own career within our company. When the committee started choosing who to invite to be on the panel my name came up since I have been successful in my tenure here and have moved up quickly. Thus the invite was given to me and I of course had to accept!
First I cant even put into words how flattered, humbled, excited, and terrified I was to receive the invitation. I now manage a larger team at work and with that job comes giving feedback, suggestions, and sharing my opinions. However it is still hard for me to believe that my thoughts and advice are anything that others would want to hear. This is where I think sometimes we have to step back, reflect, and trust in our own abilities. There is a reason we get to where we are at.
The panel consisted of 5 of us all at Senior to Director levels across various areas within the company. The discussion was scheduled for an hour and luckily enough the woman organizing the event had asked the audience in advance for questions, which gave us some time to think through everything and have good solid answers going into the discussion. The forum was hosted as a Q & A so most of the questions were asked throughout the hour by the audience themselves, but when there was a little quite time the host would ask one of the pre-set questions.
I have never been a fan of speaking in public, especially when it is off the cuff and you do not have everything you want to say typed out, memorized, and prepared for. This was why in part I was so scared to accept the invitation. I have started to learn that the higher up you progress at work the more speaking and contributing your thoughts and ideas is a part of the everyday job. Therefore I have slowly learned to accept it and now I am constantly pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.
Overall the panel discussion went great! The committee who arranged it at work said after it was all said and done they received a ton of positive feedback and that the audience thought it was truly beneficial. I cant even put into words how pro-found the experience was for me not only professionally, but also personally.With that in my next blog post I plan on sharing with everyone some of the questions asked along with what my advice was for them. Again I am by no means an expert, so it is just my humble advice on what has worked for me. So stay tuned!