Develop a Strategic Plan for Your Career, Market Yourself Like Your #1 Product
Analyze what differentiates you from others in your field. Map out a strategy. Write your own personal mission statement, setting goals and milestones. Eunice Azzani, partner & vice-president of Korn/Ferry International executive search firm, says: “Your job is not your career…Jobs are given and jobs are taken away—often by forces you can’t control. But your career belongs to you. You get to decide everything about it.”
Don’t hesitate to spend real time—six months or even a year—figuring out your career trajectory. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make. Take a hard, objective look at yourself: assembling a knowledge and skills inventory allows you to find your particular niche, something you do better than others in your same field. Then learn how to market yourself.
Get the education and training to rise up the ladder in your field. Marion Ballard, who serves on the board of directors of the Washington Women’s Area Foundation, says “ Getting an MBA helped me psychologically to feel on a par with the boys on the board whatever board it was.” Carly Fiorina, recently departed CEO of Hewlett-Packard and the first woman to head a Dow 30 Company, also went through the hoops of obtaining an MBA from the University of Maryland and later returned for an MS from MIT. Although Fiorina was a generalist rising up through the field of sales and marketing, this piece of her education provided a foundation for the field she was in: business technology. Perhaps equally important, one of the goals in sales is to “overcome the customer’s objections.” With her MS, Fiorina removed the final objection any naysayer might have about her rise to power in a technical company. It gave her the “right credentials” to pass through the gates to enter competition for the top slots.
Build a platform or a reputation so you can not be easily ignored. For example, the author used extensive research to establish that Texas had a region similar in climate to parts of France and California, a conclusion that contributed profoundly to the birth of the Texas wine industry. When the author wanted to change legislation to foster the fledgling industry, it was hard to argue with that expertise.
Don’t be daunted by roadblocks. “Never accept ‘no.’ Be persistent. When the door is closed, look for a window. You never know where you will encounter help,” says Camille Ferrara, development associate for the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc.
Don’t be intimidated by challenges and “stretch goals.” As Geraldine Laybourne, chairman and CEO of Oxygen Media, said : “ Never ‘know your place.’ Never ‘shrink to fit.’” Just move with all your energy in the right direction in a field that captures your true talents and persist.
Recognize that you don’t need anyone’s permission. As Diane Rosenfeld, law professor at Harvard University, says: “Women’s leadership means doing what needs to be done without waiting to ask permission.” Just move to the front of the room like the guys do, raise your hand, and say “I’ll do this.”
Develop your own style. Carly Fiorina knew style was critical. When asked by a young girl how to dress, she declared, “expensive and decisively.” Fiorina dressed, looked, talked, and acted like a leader. She developed reputational power by tackling critical issues and getting results, moving boldly and quickly. “Quick is better” was one of her mantras.
Decide to be not just a manager or executive, but a leader. Susan Davis, president and founder of Capital Missions Company (which creates networks for members who want to invest in socially responsible companies, especially women-led businesses) says: “I made up a career that didn’t exist, which was to use for-profit businesses to solve social problems…There’s nothing more exhilarating…than knowing deep in your heart you are making the best difference you can possibly make.” Women need to believe they have a right to live a life that’s the most inspiring to them, a life befitting their values. Until women take that risk, they are not going to have the lives they deserve and that they need, and that we need them to have.
Develop a leadership style that male managers are comfortable with. General Karen Rankin, director of an Air Force Training Command, had to be both as tough-talking as her macho officers and still maintain a feminine image. She had many subtle gradations in her style, from steely to warm, but bottom line, she chose a style that played off her strengths and was a form of coaching.
About the Author: Gretchen Glassock is President/CEO of AdvancingWomen.com, ranked by Google as number 1 on in its category, the first website to help women break through the “glass ceiling”, providing career strategy , tools, resources, products and services to support women's career, business and leadership goals, and work-life balance issues; featuring our targeted job board at careers.advancingwomen.com for employers seeking highly qualified candidates and diversity candidates seeking executive careers.