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When I talk to young women starting their careers, they often ask me, “If you could go back in time, what would you tell the 22-year-old version of yourself?” The truth is, I couldn’t have said anything that would have prepared me for the twists and turns that have made my career. But there are a number of things I wish I had in my toolbox (or at least soon) that would make some of the constraints a little less challenging to maneuver.
The path to leadership comes with a steep learning curve; Without support, it can feel like you’re trying to translate a language you’ve never heard of. To get more women in leadership, those of us who have learned the language need to spread the wealth, sharing the mistakes we’ve made, wishing we weren’t, the opportunities we went after We are glad we did and lessons were passed from the leaders before us who took us to the top. Here are five lessons I learned:
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1. Fear is a compass
The opportunities that scare us are often the ones most likely to change our career path. If we want to get ahead and find work that excites us, we have to be willing to take calculated risks – find that career path we haven’t stopped thinking about, move to a city where We’ve always dreamed of being, and ask for the promotion we know we deserve.
For example, the Global Head of Health and Life Sciences at Domino’s left the company he worked for nearly 20 years to join our startup. It was a huge risk to her career and that of her family. Still, it was a move he was asked to make (and one he made after careful thought and consideration). She took the leap, giving up the stability she had known for two decades and now feels she has achieved the job she had dreamed of since she first started working.
Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your outlook on your career and take risks – fear is just one direction pointing us in the direction we should go next.
2. Be a Jill-of-All-Trades
Many people can find success by specializing in one niche, but it is not necessarily the only way to success. Moving from one role to another can be just as valuable to your career as walking vertically down the same track. Don’t be afraid of a new opportunity just because it doesn’t suit your current track; Taking yourself out of your comfort zone and learning a new area of expertise will only help your career, not hurt. By gaining knowledge in a broad range of disciplines, you will be able to effectively engage and communicate with a wide range of people and support projects across disciplines spanning the entire company. We need experts who can fix minor glitches in our computer systems, but we also need jill-of-all-trades who bring the team together and drive everyone toward the company mission Connect the points.
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3. Find a Consultant
If you ask any woman in leadership what has been the most influential element of their career, they will probably say, “My mentor.” A mentor can help you fast-track your career; They guide you through the pitfalls they may stumble upon and challenge you to look for new opportunities.
That said, we can’t sit back and expect the perfect master to fall from the sky – we must seek them strategically. It may feel intimidating to reach out to the people you aspire to and ask them for guidance, but that is the only way we will find a quality consultant. Message an executive on LinkedIn whose work you’ve long admired, or reach out to the notoriously difficult-to-please manager at your company – no matter who you ask to be your mentor, no matter what Keeps that you don’t wait. Finding a mentor in your chosen field, and finding them early, will be vital to your career advancement.
4. Be Ready to Improve
Trying as we might, we can’t plan for everything. As an undergrad, my plan was set: graduate, go to medical school, and become a doctor. However, due to unforeseen personal circumstances, I had to embark on a new path and chart. What felt devastating at the time is now a moment in my life that I look back on with gratitude.
Many of us think that we should follow the script assigned to us, but life is far from a well-organized script with a beginning, middle and end. External factors inevitably force us to improvise – to pivot quickly, to scrap scripts, and to start anew. When this happens, don’t panic with the thought that your life is over. It might not be exactly what you thought it would be, but it could be even better. There is no straight road to success. We can prepare with just a Plan A, B and C and learn to roll with the punches when it turns out we have to prepare a Plan D.
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5. Leave the Door Open
Finally, when you find success, don’t close the door behind you. There are many women and men helping me get to where I am today; I now honor him by carrying on his legacy of guidance, mentorship and support.
Whether it’s fellow women, people of color or people in the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important that we extend our support to those who need it most to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace. None of us have had success alone – remember who supported your climb, and pursue it. A rising tide lifts all the boats.