Mentoring young women professionals is a true passion of mine. By sharing ideas, we can empower one another and continue to learn and grow. While career paths and goals may differ from one person to the next, there are certain principles for success that apply consistently. Here are 5 strategies I have developed throughout my career that I believe can help serve as the foundation for success from your first job onwards, regardless of your industry or specific aspirations.
1. Build a strong personal brand.
Personal branding is a way of demonstrating that you have a diversified set of talents and experiences, which can make you more well-rounded and marketable. Even if the particular role you are in is not where you want to end up, learn every skill set you can from the role and continue to educate yourself so that you are prepared when a new opportunity presents itself. Volunteer for the difficult projects and seek to proactively solve problems in your unique way. This will help you differentiate yourself by bolstering your resume and references, and keep you on a positive career trajectory.
2. Set goals, but don’t let them stand in the way of opportunity.
It’s great to target a desired end goal and to create an action plan to get there, but don’t be so set in your career path that you aren’t open to trying something new or willing to take on different opportunities. Goals are important to help focus your attention, but real growth can only come with some measure of randomness and a willingness to adapt. To quote the Roman philosopher Seneca: “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
3. Project confidence.
Get comfortable with self-promotion. Many women find it difficult to talk about the role they play in a project’s or a company’s success because they want to appear humble and like a team-player. But if you’re not promoting yourself and what you bring to the table, how are the leaders in your organization going to know? You are your best advocate.
4. Get a feedback loop and listen to it.
All feedback is a gift. It’s important to identify and address your blind spots and developmental opportunities. Find a well-respected peer who is willing and able to give you honest, constructive feedback rather than telling you what you want to hear. Offer them this kind of feedback in return. Peer-coaching can provide great insight into where you can improve, and set the foundation for a long-lasting and productive professional relationship.
5. Build your network.
Your career will be shaped by many things, and not just the skills that you pick up along the way. People both inside and outside of your organization will play a major role in how successful you are. Although it can be somewhat uncomfortable to introduce yourself to a stranger, diversifying your network can broaden your perspective, improve your skills and further develop your expertise.
Seek out and introduce yourself to the women in leadership roles. Most will be very willing to help the next generation of female leaders learn and avoid the mistakes that they made. And don’t limit yourself to just one mentor. Different leaders will offer different perspectives that will help you overcome the challenges you’ll face during the course of your career.