I find it interesting when younger people come up to me and tell me that they hope to get to where I am — I find this odd because I still feel like I am on the road to success.
It does cause me to ponder about my journey to this point however. Many think that career progression is always determined by clearly laid out plans, touchpoints, and an established agenda. For some that may be true, but I would not categorize that as my path.
Everyone gets to her destination in her own way, and here are my professional travel tips.
Bring 98% of yourself to work with you. You may hear from others to bring 100% of yourself, but I believe 2% should only be seen by family. [smile] But what this means is that my beliefs, feelings, demeanor should not stop as you enter the door of your office. When someone asks you your opinion, don’t be concerned about “fitting in,” be concerned about being you.
Live your brand
I know you have been told your whole career to know your brand. I encourage you to LIVE your brand. But as a woman of color, I have felt pressure on how to perform, behave, and interact. Questions I have often asked myself include :
- I like my hair natural, but can I wear it like that?
- If I disagree, will I be seen as angry?
- If I don’t attend the happy hour, will I be seen as disengaged?
Questions like these have swirled in my head my whole career and sometimes seep in to this day. There was a morning I woke up and decided that I could no longer function off of the perceived desires of others. The only person I can be accountable for is me. If I feel that I’m living in a way that allows me to say at work and at home, “I like me,” then the rest should fall into place. I can’t live two lives effectively, so I instead focus on living one genuine life to the best of my ability. #AuthenticallyMe
It’s this consistent authenticity which I believe has helped me garner respect within Walmart. Be it a question about a TV spot, diversity in the workplace or direction of a campaign, my response will always be based on respectful honesty rather than propitiation.
Trust your parachute
Have you ever seen someone jump out of a plane and your reaction is one of envy about their willingness to take a risk? Well sometimes you don’t get the opportunity to voluntarily jump at work. You get pushed and it can be terrifying. However, what should comfort you is that your preparation in your career has created a parachute. And you need to trust your parachute will open.
Often, doors don’t appear before you unless you have set yourself in a position to turn the doorknob. Even when you are in position, it is not uncommon that doubt will enter your mind and worry will creep in as to whether you will be successful. But it is within those moments you need to take a breath and remember your wins, how you got there, and why you were chosen for the opportunity.
This happened to me. I was “voluntold” (or pushed out of the plane) to take a position that I didn’t think I wanted. I was happy with where I was (AKA complacent) and felt hesitant about taking the role. After prayer and great advice from mentors and peers, it became clear that it would be both a great challenge and opportunity. So I put on my big girl pants and made the decision to step over the threshold. That has been the best decision of my career. My parachute was there, I just had to trust it would open.
Whoever said “words can never hurt me” lied. Words can cut to the core. With an incorrect mindset, manager critique can have a negative effect causing you to doubt your work and accomplishments. Perspective adjustment transforms feedback into one of the richest gifts one could receive. Take those words and turn them into your crystal ball, your blueprint. You were just given the secret to getting to the next level. You now know what you must do to get better. Seek out words that make you uneasy, that even make you angry. Don’t waste them, flip them, value them and learn from them. Now in this, you need to also learn what is valuable and what can be tossed, but this thought process shift will be the most profitable investment you will have ever made.
The short game counts
Have you ever woken up and there was a thick fog? So thick that all you could see was about 50 ft in front of you? You can’t see the destination, but you know you can go a couple of feet. There will be times in your career that you feel this way. When this happens, play the short game. See what is missing from your resume and seek positions that can fill those holes. The long game will come into focus after time. At the end of the day, you can’t stop playing the game, you may just have to switch up your strategy.
My journey didn’t consist of a clear path to get to Multicultural Marketing. Instead I maintained a laser focus on skill and capability development with my end goal of being a Marketing leader in a first class organization always in mind. Short term clarity then began to materialize.
- The need for retail experience led me to Walmart.
- It became clear that category experience was a necessity and that led me to leading beauty marketing.
- I needed to add social media to my tool belt so I sought out a position in social marketing which led to the media team.
- Media Team experience was critical in the preparation for my current opportunity.
Strategic short term plays with unwavering focus on where you know the finish line to be helps the fog to dissipate, making next steps along the path clearer.
Own what's yours — but give credit where it's due
Sometimes it’s easy to take something that’s not yours. You know, the idea that a co-worker gave you and you take credit. It’s even easier to pass the blame for a mistake that you made. I pride myself on owning both the good and the bad. Success happens. But the best success is the one that you truly own and deserve. #accountability.
Likewise give credit when credit is due. Seek the input of others and reward them by giving them the credit for the idea or the work behind it. This develops trust and respect with your peers and leadership. People want to work with you because they know you have their best interest and the team’s success in mind. When everyone wins, you do too.
There’s nothing scientific here, but these are the things I’ve realized that have worked for me. I hope that this inspires you on your career journey. Safe travels.