“So where do you want to be in five years?”
My dad’s question hung over our kitchen table as I stared back at him. It was a great question, but, unfortunately, one that I couldn’t answer.
I love setting goals for myself, so why did that question stump me? Where was I going and how could I get there? I had to find the answer.
I began by researching successful women role models. They had beaten the odds and made it to the top of their professions. Clearly, what they had to say had meaning.
The things these women wrote about in their quest to succeed in a male-oriented business environment resonated with me. In particular, three quotes stood out. I decided to make them the cornerstone of my “success plan.” Here are some thoughts on how you can use them to achieve your career goals, as well.
“As we learn to speak appropriately, we lose something in authenticity.”
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
What we say and how we say it forms the perception of who we are. Use real, action-oriented words, not fluff or jargon. More importantly, stand up for what you believe in. If you disagree with a superior, don’t be afraid to speak up, respectfully voicing your opinion. Back it up with facts and stand your ground when (politely) arguing your point of view.
At a prior employer, I once recommended to a manager that we host an office-wide knowledge-sharing meeting to exchange ideas, challenges, and client successes. It would be a way to learn from peers and, ultimately, improve our clients’ performance. The idea was rejected because my manager felt that it wouldn’t yield positive client results, and that employees wouldn’t embrace it. Ultimately, they felt it was a waste of time. But I didn’t give up.
This particular company had multiple locations, and I met with the manager in each office. Despite widespread skepticism, I got approval for a test run in one location. The employees loved it, the session added value for the employees, and due to the overwhelming response from participants, it was quickly adopted across all offices. It’s now a staple across the company, resulting in a measurable improvement to both employee morale and overall client satisfaction.
If you have a valid idea, speak up, articulate it well, and be persistent.
“I don’t play golf. I don’t go to the men’s room. I didn’t have the ability to network the way men do. But I made myself visible.” Jill Barad, US former CEO of Mattel
To move ahead, you need to be connected. Network regularly and stay visible. Commit to attending at least one key industry event monthly. Stay in touch with your old mentors and managers. And always be kind and helpful to others.
I used to work for a company that offered a leadership program, and I wanted to join. To get accepted, employees had to write an essay and give a presentation. It was additional work on my own time, but I knew it would put me in front of C-level executives across the company. It would enable me to stand out from the other 500 employees in the company, so the effort was well worth it. I wanted the chance to speak directly to these executives, share my ideas, and establish relationships. I was accepted into the program and created valuable contacts that continue to help in my career development to this day.
Don’t sit back. No one is going to come looking for you. If you want to be successful, you have to be visible and accessible.
“Be open to opportunity and take risks. In fact, take the worst, the messiest, the most challenging assignment you can find, and then take control.” Beth Mooney, CEO, KeyCorp
Nothing worthwhile comes without risks. You may not think you’re ready for a challenge, but once you commit, you’re halfway to success. Do your research, work hard and you’ll reach any goal.
I’d been working at a company for awhile. I loved the work, the people, and the organization. However, I realized the future there wasn’t what I wanted. I was presented with a new opportunity that was different than anything I’d ever done. It was a larger role with greater responsibilities. Despite my apprehension, I dove in. I faced new challenges that I viewed as learning opportunities. More importantly, I made changes and saw the results.
With every risk, there are challenges. Fearlessly facing them head-on can be exhilarating. You may fall, but when you get up and continue the fight, the successful conclusion will be that much more satisfying.
These women inspire me every day. When the journey seems too difficult, I read what they have to say, the challenges they faced, and apply their insights to my life.
You can, too.
Elizabeth Cagen, Digital Marketing NOW’s Director of Strategy and Operations, has developed digital strategies and managed marketing campaigns for some of the largest companies in the world, including Staples, Merck, and Brooks Brothers. Prior to her work in digital media, Elizabeth worked on traditional media campaigns for Toyota, AT&T Wireless, and AstraZeneca. Digital Marketing NOW offers strategy, branding, web development, design, SEO, paid search marketing, conversion optimization, display advertising, analytics and more. For more information visit: www.digitalmarketingnow.com