Taking Leaps and Growing With Confidence — From a Contractor to a First-Generation VP

Sponsored by Prudential Financial

Zoya Khan. Photo courtesy of Prudential.

Zoya Khan. Photo courtesy of Prudential.

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April 19, 2024 at 7:41PM UTC

In the past 13 years, Zoya Khan has only changed companies once — leaving a full-time position to join Prudential as a contractor.

What made her take this leap of faith? Well, for one, Khan knew what she wanted and was prepared to make it happen. “I was clear on what I wanted in an organization — stability, growth, an inspiring culture, a transformation-minded leadership team, and a strong core and moral values,” explains Khan, who found all of that in spades at Prudential. But she didn’t just rely on her company to grow! Khan knows that while a company can give you growth opportunities, it’s up to you to own your career and stay curious. 

And at Prudential, Khan truly took charge of her career. “I said ‘yes’ to projects or opportunities that put me out of my comfort zone, I often didn’t stay in my lane, and I aimed to excel in the role I was in,” she tells us. “I bet on myself, and was converted to a full-time employee within three months!” Then four years later, she was promoted to her current role: Vice President, Talent Acquisition.

Reflecting on this growth, Khan shares that as “a young, first-generation, female leader, becoming a Vice President for a Fortune 100 company was never something I imagined would happen for me.” As a result, when she first rose to her role, “I started to doubt myself and imposter syndrome really kicked in,” Khan says. But, when she committed to being her authentic self, Khan says that she felt truly empowered and confident!

Here, Khan reveals more about her leadership role, how she advanced, and her management advice! Read on for inspiration on growing your own career with confidence! 

To begin, tell us a bit about your current role.

In my current role, I am responsible for providing leadership, direction, and support to a team of recruiting professionals. I develop and implement diverse and creative recruiting strategies tailored to the needs of our Global Technology organization. I’m responsible for managing the workflow of the staffing team, volume, resource allocation, and overall performance. I also partner with internal/external diversity teams, staffing vendors, and TA Operations to ensure that we are leveraging and optimizing our recruiting tools and resources

You’ve had really impressive career growth! Can you identify anything you said or did that earmarked you as someone ready for advancement?

I don’t know if it was one specific thing that I did, but if you asked any of my managers if they saw a theme with me, you would hear them call me “scrappy”. I’ve heard in multiple performance reviews that I am someone who “somehow figures it out” and comes up with out-of-the-box ideas. 

The advice that I always give to others is, if you see a problem, don’t ask for the solution — create it! 

I would also say that I partner very well with my businesses; I lead by understanding their needs and working on creating solutions that are backed up with data. I had many business partners champion for me, and I unknowingly built a brand as someone that was scrappy, reliable, and a strong partner.  

What’s something at work that you’re especially good at as well as something you’re trying to improve on?

One strength of mine is emotional intelligence — connecting the dots and using data to tell the story. In terms of improvement, I’m focusing on saying “no” and being less of a people pleaser, which has helped me prioritize my work and be more present.

What’s been your most valuable career mistake?

Waiting to have a tough conversation — regardless of if it’s with your client, manager or team members. I learned that only perpetuates the problem and the anxiety that may come with it. 

Moving on to management. Managing people — especially if you’re new to it — is not easy. How has your manager helped set you up for success?

I was fortunate to have been a manager before joining Prudential, and glad to be one again as it’s a true joy of mine. My manager has helped set me up for success by trusting me to make sound decisions for my team. In my first year as a leader, I took a team of three and grew it out to 10. My judgment on who I hired never came into question because my manager knew my intention was to build a strong and diverse team that was passionate about their body of work. 

My manager has also been there to guide me when I needed support on handling a difficult conversation; she has been a sounding board instead of someone who tells me how to lead my team.  

Finally, what was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?

I’ve been fortunate to have incredible bosses. I have learned so much from each one of them throughout my career. Two qualities I found in all of them that I admired was transparency and support. Being a transparent leader builds trust, and I can confidently say I have trusted my leaders. I have also always felt empowered by my bosses to go out there and make mistakes, thus removing the fear of failure

Want to take charge of your career at Prudential like Khan has? Click the following link!

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