There has never been a more important time to think about deliberately managing your career, changing roles, changing companies, or changing industries. My philosophy has always been to make bold moves when change is happening all around me. Many people find change, upheaval, and ambiguity scary, but I find that is when the best opportunities can be uncovered or, even better, created!
To do this, I have five strategies that have always worked for me either to stand out or move on:
Understand That Closed Mouths Don’t Get Fed:
Do not wait for people to notice your accomplishments, promote you, or reward you.
You need to always be building your own business case for what you want, why you deserve it, and above all—what benefits your company will derive from the investment.
This should pivot across your experiences, your competencies, and your quantifiable value or accomplishments. Look smart, be polished, be succinct, and be thoroughly prepared. When I was earlier in my career and had an opportunity to meet with an executive, I would always bring a one-pager that outlined my brand, background, career aspirations in a chart, my competency maps, and my notable project outcomes. I never turned up to a meeting without a plan to ask for sponsorship, feedback, or insights!
Bring Forward Solutions That Are Ready to Go:
If you want to be noticed, you should consistently bring forward new ideas or innovations that are ready to be executed. This means that you can articulate the problem statement, the solution, how you would implement it, and the expected outcomes. You have thought through the dependencies and the impacts, and you can present all of this in a carefully crafted document that your leader can reference. On the one hand, I can count the number of my employees whoever took that time to do this consistently, and they are all VPS now.
Seek Out a Mentor that Will Push You—Not Coddle You:
The topic of mentors gets a lot of discussions when we speak about the glass ceiling. I’m a fan of finding a mentor that will challenge you to think critically about your skills, your future, and where you need to do some work on yourself, your career, or your life strategy.
Often women seek out mentors that make them feel good and just add encouragement. In my experience, those mentors are fun to have coffee with, but they don’t actually drive new behaviors or critical thinking that change your performance or career outlook.
I had a phenomenal informal mentor who I used to engage specifically to vet big concept ideas, and I would actively seek a “devils-advocate” approach. I would bring a particular project and ask, “What can I do better?” “Where are the holes?” “Where are the points of failure?”
and he would always lay it out in the barest, direct terms. I loved it because it made my work so much better, and it trained me to seek out dissenting opinions and embrace the feedback actively!
Stress your competencies to land the next role — versus just your direct experience:
Your direct experience, particularly when you’re younger in your career, can limit the opportunities you seek and may not paint the full picture of your ambitions and skillsets.
Gathering your competencies is step one; step two is learning how to be an effective storyteller tying each experience into a compelling career narrative.
Also, leverage your work on stretch projects to demonstrate capabilities you can weave into your overall storyline. I used this strategy when I leaped from lone contributor to people leader for the first time. I mapped all of my experiences and competencies from various projects, stretch work, team environments, and client partnerships to make my case for my readiness. This strategy also helped lower the perceived risk in a first time people leader by creating a narrative based on my relevant demonstrated experiences.
Sell Your Diverse Background As An Asset:
With industries converging, companies are now looking outside for benchmark and inspiration. Confidently use your outside perspective as an asset -- not a weakness. After working at a leading tech company, I was then able to land the top position at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, pioneer the CX consulting model that has driven CX innovation for over 2,000 companies across luxury, auto, retail, finance, real estate, sports, and entertainment, and become one of the top 25 women to watch in the luxury space.
Above all, I find that very few people are prepared to do the work required to proactively present themselves in a way that shows deep, meaningful value. Every day, people ask to get on my calendar to “connect” or for “advice.” Still, I can count on one hand the number of people in the last five years, who came with a point of view on their career, a document for us to review together that was carefully crafted, or a fully prepared business solution that demonstrated real research, insight, and business acumen. This is such a critical and important time to stand out, so you can craft your next exciting opportunity!