Be a Boss: Ten Strategies from a Pro (Part 1)
Strategy #1 is to Own Your Career. It is the most important thing that you can do as soon as you start working. As women, we have a history of putting our heads down and working hard in hopes that someone, hopefully, a boss, will take note of the contributions that we are making. Maybe you did this in college. We tend to go on with this false narrative, assuming that we’ll be promoted and given additional responsibilities and raises commiserate with a new role because of external forces, instead of taking the lead with our own future. Most of us start out without a clear career goal or a plan to get there. Ladies…wake up. The only person managing your career and with the power to unlock your potential for success…is you!
Your first order of business in owning your career is to create a vision for the career you desire, and then to consider the necessary steps towards the goals and strategies to make it happen. We do this for the businesses where we work; why not apply the same enthusiasm and determination to doing this for ourselves? People who have a career vision and take the time to write out their goals and strategies are proven to be more successful than those who are waiting and hoping for something to happen. That would be like going on a trip without a destination or a map! It’s time to consider your own role in pursuing your dream career and the path that you can lay out in front of yourself with intentionality in order to make it a reality.
Strategy #2 is to create (and manage!) your Personal Brand. What does that mean? Your brand is who you are day in and day out, the authentic you. It is the perception of others that describes their experience of having a relationship with you. It is based on their impression of your actions, experience, and achievements within your company, industry, and community. It is what people think and say about you when you are not present. One small interaction can change a person’s perception of you, for the better or worse. Your personal brand is sacred. Manage and promote it with care and purpose. Everything from being nice to people in your company at junior levels, to double-checking emails for spelling and grammar creates an impression of you.
Your brand is evaluated every day. Your staff and the colleagues that you associate with are a reflection of you. Make sure that they are smart, driven and their beliefs and actions align with your values. Don’t underestimate the influence of your social media in shaping your brand either. Treat all social media as a public domain, from every picture you post on your Instagram to every company you follow on LinkedIn. It all says something about your brand.
In the early days of my career, I was preparing for a meeting at a new client’s office. I was a little nervous. I parked my car, walked into their offices, and entered the elevator with a casually dressed guy. I thought he was some type of utility guy, maybe a carpenter. I’m from Georgia, and my nature is to be friendly with everyone. In those days, people dressed up for work a little more than today. He acknowledged that I seemed a little anxious. I told him that this was my first meeting with a new client, and I wanted to do a great job. I had heard that they were smart, I needed to be on my A-game, and I’d been diligently preparing for them. He wished me luck as I got off the elevator. It turns out that I had a chance encounter with their CEO. He’d taken the day off, but he needed to retrieve something from his office. He called the team I was meeting with and told them about our conversation in the elevator. He shared what I said and how I was impressed with their reputation and appreciated them. From that day forward, I received the royal treatment from the client. I developed a great working relationship with them. The brand that they associated with me was that I was friendly, professionally prepared, and looking for the best in people, which set me up for success with their company. The lesson I learned from this experience was to never underestimate the opportunities we have to establish our standards of excellence, our character, and our personal drive.
Strategy #3 is to be a Life-long Learner. Read industry articles, update your technical skills, and stay knowledgeable about changes happening in your field– all of these habits are part of learning and consistently growing in our professional lives. We live in a dynamic world that is rapidly changing. Today, more than ever, we have access to seemingly endless resources and lessons that will continue to sharpen our professional edge, and give us the tools to stand out in our respective fields. Throughout our lives, we need to remain life-long learners, evolve with the times, and improve our knowledge.
I am always enrolled in a class, reading, downloading new apps, and staying on top of the news. I mean that on the personal side, too. Having interesting hobbies that you are passionate about makes you happy and a good conversationalist. I love wine, staying healthy, and travel…and I can talk with anyone about each of these topics.
I worked with a guy who genuinely embraced this concept – he loved learning about technology and our industry changes. He always bought the newest media gadgets. He was the first in our company to subscribe to Netflix. He became the thought leader for our company on streaming content and an advisor to our CEO and senior team about industry technology. No surprise, the CEO created a business development role for him and promoted him because he saw the value he delivered to the company. This coworker demonstrated to me how aligning your passion with your profession and staying curious is a huge asset to your career, and, most importantly, that the dedication pays off. Being a thought leader is a badge of expertise, and I can’t emphasize enough how worthwhile it is to challenge yourself to be a scholar of your field and to stay ahead of the curve.
Strategy #4 is to Toot your Own Horn. I’ve encountered many accomplished women who didn’t feel comfortable promoting their work throughout my career, and I’ve even been one of them. Owning your accomplishments and putting yourself forward to take credit for your contributions is a requirement for success…even though we may find it uncomfortable. Here are a few suggestions to help you get comfortable in promoting your work:
- Pay attention to others who get credit. Notice what successful people in your company are doing to get recognized for their achievements.
- Focus on your accomplishments and not on yourself, and be honest and accurate.
Share your efforts in a way that sounds humble and not like you are bragging. The key to communicating this well is to focus on the success of the results instead of yourself. For example, “Sally, I’d like to share with you where I am on the sales goals. I had a couple of tough clients to close, but I worked closely with our marketing team, and I’m now at 108%.” Notice that I conveyed it wasn’t easy, the marketing team helped, and I focused on the result, not me.