I recently listened to HBR’s podcast on Women at Work whilst travelling to a Women on Boards event run by emh group and this led me to reflect on a few of the lessons I have learnt so far in raising my profile and progressing my career:
- Volunteer for everything – offer to help out with project groups, staff conferences, IT system champion, bake sales, anything! This will help you build your internal network and reputation/brand. You should also pick up some useful skills and experience that you can apply elsewhere. You might not be able to see how volunteering for a certain opportunity might help you at the start, but give it a go and I’m sure by the end of it, there’ll be loads of positives.
- Speak up – don’t be afraid to make suggestions in meetings. When I was a fresh-faced graduate, I didn’t always share an idea I had because I thought someone else was bound to have already thought of it but dismissed it. Turns out that wasn’t the case, and more than once, someone else later suggested the same idea I had kept to myself. Even if it seems obvious to you, chances are it hasn’t been thought of yet. and the worst that can happen is it won’t get taken forward. And you can suggest the same idea more than once to different people, sometimes it can take a while for an idea to land.
- Be your own cheerleader – its quite uncomfortable for us conservative Brits, but no one else is going to sing your praises so you’ve got to make sure you shout about your successes. Raise it in your 1:1, share it on your intranet, put it on social media, if you’ve done something great that you’re proud of, no matter how big or small, make sure others are taking note.
- Don’t wait to be invited – if you’ve got a great idea for how something could be done differently or want to get involved in a certain project or want to find out more about another team, don’t sit and hope that someone will figure this out and offer you the opportunity you are waiting for, get out there and make the opportunity happen. And if you come across an obstacle for any reason, keep trying, go around it / over it / under it, if it’s something you’re passionate about, you’ll find a way.
- Know the right question to ask – frustratingly I have often found that unless you know the right question to ask, you won’t get the answer you are looking for. This means developing an understanding of other areas of your organisation, what they do, why and how so that you are in a better position to seek their advice and assistance with problems you’re facing in your own area. Seeing the bigger picture and where you fit into it is an important part of progressing in your role.
- Be prepared – if you’ve ever done a leadership course, you might have been asked to prepare a 5 year career plan, and like me you might have struggled with this and wondered what the point was! The world is moving so quickly now that I think it’s hard to know what career options there might be in 5 years, so I prefer to make sure I’m best placed to take up any opportunity that comes my way (or even to create my own opportunity). Doing all of the above is a big part of doing this. The other important task is to know what direction you want to go in, what gets you out of bed in the morning, what’s the difference you are looking to make, what’s the legacy you want to leave? If you can answer these questions, you should be able to narrow down the direction you want your career to go in.