Doreen Coles spent years cultivating her career from the ground up. She worked in various roles within ADP before creating her dream job and becoming Senior Director of Career Growth and Development at the organization.
One key to her success? She’s been her own biggest cheerleader along the way.
“I believe in being your own best advocate,” she said. “Every leader I’ve had along my career journey has known what success means to me — because I told them! I shared what my aspirations were and asked them to partner with me to achieve them. Some were better partners than others, but at least they all knew what I was aiming for.”
Now that she’s achieved that aim, she helps 56,000+ associates develop their careers — and is exactly the type of professional you’d seek for advice. Keep reading for Coles’ wisdom on finding purpose in your career and advocating for yourself along the way.
Tell me about the roles that you’ve held at ADP, as well as your current one. What about this role most excites you?
I am a second-generation ADPer. I came into the organization in 2005, as my mom was retiring from a 33-year career. Spending my first 10 years in front-line leadership in the business and recognizing the need for a sharper focus on career development, I essentially created my own role. I started it from the ground up in June of 2015. Now, in what I consider to be my dream job, I’m responsible for the creation and execution of the career growth and development strategy for ADP enterprise-wide — managing up to 100 volunteer associates and multiple projects at any given time.
I am part of the team leading the charge on ADP’s evolution into a strengths-based organization where each associate is recognized for their unique potential and able to leverage their strengths in their current roles and beyond. And I currently lead the Amplify efforts to continue to shape the strengths culture.
To provide thought leadership around career growth and development externally, I helped create the Career Strategy Council at The Conference Board and am an Executive Committee Member. I was recently invited to speak at The Conference Board’s Career Development Seminar in New York City and WorkHuman in Nashville, Tennessee.
After starting up the Tempe chapter of the International Women’s Inclusion Network as president, focusing on development opportunities for associates and the surrounding community, I am now iWIN’s Co-Vice President of the North American and Philippines chapters and was honored as one of ADP’s Women of Distinction in 2016.
Starting up and creating stuff from scratch… There’s a definite pattern here!
Why is this type of work important to you personally?
I’ve always held my own personal career growth as a priority in my life, so having responsibility for the career strategy for such a large number of people is not something I take lightly. I want every person at our company to have their best career — whatever that means to them personally. In large companies, navigating your career can be overwhelming. It’s really important to me to ensure that our folks have all the tools they need to find their way and shine in the process.
A lot of people believe that developing your career means changing companies, and not infrequently. What has enabled you to advance your career without job hopping?
Both companies I have worked for since graduating from college (many moons ago!) have been large, so I’ve had the opportunity to “job hop” within them instead of moving from company to company. I believe in being your own best advocate. Every leader I’ve had along my career journey has known what success means to me — because I told them! I shared what my aspirations were and asked them to partner with me to achieve them. Some were better partners than others, but at least they all knew what I was aiming for.
The other piece that is so crucial (although I didn’t learn this until more recently in my career) is to figure out what activities and tasks you love and are great at — and find ways to do them more often and as broadly as possible. People can’t help but recognize the brilliance that shines from you when you are working at your best.
Ultimately, what has led you to stay at ADP?
I believe in our values and what the company stands for, and I believe that I am making a difference in the work that I’m doing. Add that to a whole bunch of amazing people and getting to do what I love pretty much every single day, and you’ve got a winning combination!
Who has been the most influential person in your career and why?
Um, is it wrong to say ME here? I mean, really, who has more influence over my career than I do? I decide every day just how much of myself I’m going to give to my work. I share with my leaders what I’m aiming for. I take actions to drive my career growth and development.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
Easy — bringing my name into the conversation. She shared my work and contributions up the chain and gave me the opportunity to do what I loved.
What advice would you give other women who are looking to grow their careers?
Figure out your strengths — the activities you love and are great at — and find ways to do them more often and as broadly as possible. This will allow you to contribute your very best to the organization and shine like the bright star you are!
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