“Early in my career, I was always waiting to be noticed.”

June 25, 20153 minute read

— A member of the Emerging Leaders panel during discussion of challenges they’ve faced in advancing their careers. Senior leaders and emerging leaders exchanged observations during two special sessions at the 2015 AWESOME Symposium.

The panelist identified this as a “self-created” barrier she has learned to remedy. Prior to this session, emerging leaders interacted with senior leaders in a collaborative conversation about developing a career plan, building skills, and taking on challenges.

Words of Wisdom from Senior Leaders:

“I’m somebody who has natural curiosity about everything and so I would ask,
‘Could I try that job?’ And surprisingly — or maybe not surprisingly — most of the time they said yes.”

You should have a plan and you should talk about your plan. You should talk to your supervisors and others about something that you might want to do, an experience that you might want to try, because they can’t read your mind. The more you talk about that, the more likely it is for it to actually come to pass.

The most challenging experiences I’ve had have really been what shaped my leadership style, and that leadership style is really what has defined my career. So Iembrace it, that’s who I am. I don’t try to be a different person.

In your 30 or 40-year career you’re going to take a job that you don’t think you’re quite ready for and you have to figure out how you take that on and how you work with your team of people to deliver the best result for the organization.

You need to develop your own brand and you need to be an advocate for yourself.

Think about the experiences and skills that you’ll need for future leadership roles, because it’s broader than you probably realize. So take laterals, not just verticals, when you’re thinking about your career path because you’ve got a lot of years ahead. Think about those tangential experiences that are different than if you just went up vertically because you’ll be a better person and a better contributor and you’ll absolutely be ready, willing and able to take on whatever comes next.

If your interest is to stay within your own company or you’re interested in migrating across companies, think about the folks you need to be in front of two, three moves down the road. How are you going to start building some way to work with them or get in front of them? We all feel comfortable hiring people that we know or promoting people that we’ve seen in action, so make sure you get exposure, whether through internal initiatives or special projects or some other means.

Words of Wisdom from Emerging Leaders:

I think some women put up our own barriers. Early in my career, I was always waiting to be noticed. I worked very, very hard, long hours. I was very, very results oriented. I was very clear on my goals so I worked very hard, but I never spoke up. I never told anybody what I want to do. I was just there waiting for someone to notice me.

Once you start moving into the director’s job or if you want to go to a VP job, you need to start speaking up and talking about what your career interests are so people can help you to point you to the right direction.

Sometimes you cannot think about titles. Sometimes it’s more important to take on challenges, to learn a different sector, to work in a different environment, to build new networks.

One challenge I see is being willing to really seize the opportunity while not being totally sure that maybe you have the knowledge or the experience to excel in that specific position.

The male leadership of my company, their wives had all stayed at home. They hadn’t really seen someone do that and re-emerge and stay fully engaged.

If the work isn’t getting done and the objectives not being met, we need to talk. But it shouldn’t be assumed we can’t perform well with some flexibility.

Read more Insights from two panels