Category Archives: Career

Get Out of That Rut

Lisa was one of the hardest-working people on her team. She would come into the office early most days and stay late to get the job done. Then, she’d head home for the evening. She got a lot of pats on the back; plenty of attaboys, and ’thanks for being so committed.’  But, she found herself stuck in the same job for six years.  Her career wasn’t going anywhere.

What’s the problem?

Why isn’t Lisa getting someone to pull her out of the pile?

While she’s got a reputation for doing good work in her current job, do the right people really know that?

And, do leaders think she’s capable of doing anything else?

Could we put your name in this situation?

How can you get a sponsor that is willing to help you move up in your career?

Lisa has gotten pigeonholed into a certain type of job.  You may be, too.  And, there may be things that you’re doing, or not doing, that have put you in this rut.

A challenge for women is strategically building and leveraging the types of relationships that act as a support system throughout your career.  You wait for permission or wait to see if you’ll be selected for the official ‘mentoring program’. Stop waiting! You don’t need permission. You are accountable for your own career and for being prepared for each successive step you wish to achieve.  Take the initiative to seek and maintain meaningful relationships throughout your career.

If you’re not using Reach strategies to get ahead, then you’re missing out on opportunities.

Reach is the second accelerator in the Career FuelForward Model.

Reach is an advertising term, which refers to the total number of different people or households exposed, at least once, to an advertising medium during a given period.  This broad reach to a potential audience increases the opportunity that your brand message will be seen or heard.  You have to broaden your potential reach across your career.  This enables you to start building connections with more people you may not get to work with or meet otherwise.   Reach gives you ways of getting your brand message out and helps more people to know more about you.  If you’re strategic about it, you’ll have the right people knowing more about you.

I have defined three “I’s” of Reach, which are Involuntary Reach, Intentional Reach, and Invited Reach.  Your goal is to get to the point where you’ve earned Invited Reach. This is where you’ve earned sponsors who are willing to speak up for you and give you a chance.  Let’s dig into each of these to find out how you get there.

Involuntary Reach happens without you even realizing it.  It’s the perceptions people form when observing you, often when you don’t even know someone is watching you.  Don’t forget that you’re always “on”.  Even when you’re not at work, you never know who may see you or who you’ll casually run into.  Be consistent.  Are you the same whether you know someone is watching you or not?

Intentional Reach is where you have the most influence.  This is where you determine who your strategic connections need to be, both inside and outside your current workplace. Then you have to be intentional about making those connections.  This goes beyond just meeting people.  Intentional Reach means that you’re demonstrating your capabilities so there begins to be an understanding of not only who you are, but also what you can do.  What are some ways you can build Intentional Reach? When you’re in meetings, make sure you’re engaged and contribute in a meaningful way to the discussion and decisions being made. Be the one to make the presentation for your team.  And, make sure you’re well prepared.  Volunteer to be on a special project team or lead a committee for the company’s volunteer project.  You’ll get to work with new people and show your value.  Volunteer for a non-profit organization.  They’re always looking for talent to help deliver their mission.  These are just a few examples.  If you take a few minutes to think about it, I’m sure several opportunities will come to mind.

One of your most important strategic connections is building Allies who can partner with you as mentors.

Ally as Mentor

Allies often are great resources as mentors. Work with mentors to understand the types of skills and experiences you’ll need, and to help you grow in those areas.  They also can help you understand how things really work in the office and help you avoid landmines in your career.  A mentor may be within or outside of your employer and can be at any level – senior to you, a peer, or a subordinate.

The third type of Reach is Invited.  Invited Reach is earned. With Invited Reach, others advocate for you.  You have sponsors who are willing to speak up for you and throw your name into the ring. People have to trust in you before they’re willing to recommend you.  And, to be able to trust you, they have to know you and be confident that you will deliver.  That’s why Involuntary and Intentional Reach are so important.  They give you the chance to expand your connections and to earn their trust.

Advocate as Sponsor

If you want to accelerate your progress, sponsors are critical.   You need to practice “Intentional Reach” in order to grow awareness of you and your capabilities among decision makers who could be instrumental as sponsors.  Leaders have discussions about talent.  And, the conversation goes beyond your work.  You can influence whether your name is brought up and what is said about you.

The opportunities to extend your Reach are all around you. Consider the opportunities that could be available to you that you’re not taking advantage of. You’ve got to be actively engaging Involuntary and Intentional Reach in order to earn Invited Reach.  Make sure Reach is a part of your toolkit to fuel your career forward.

Download our free guide Getting the most from your mentor and take your first steps to Fuel Your Career Forward.

Relationships – Quality Or Quantity?

“Women get less access to the people and opportunities that advance careers and are disadvantaged in many of their daily interactions.”

 LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, 2016 Women in the Workplace Report

Why has this situation not improved for women? Both sides contribute to this challenge. Company leaders tend to have rose-colored glasses. They don’t realize or appreciate the importance of these relationships for women and don’t provide a supporting environment for these relationships to occur. 

Women also make a number of mistakes that suppress their progress. 

Career Success takes a team approach because of the complexity of the corporate environment, with formal and informal processes and networks, and an abundance of office politics. You need people in your network to help you navigate this environment. Allies as mentors and Advocates as sponsors are important relationships in your career. Each has a different role and may come in and out of the career journey at different points in time. 

“This is a relationship culture, but it’s hard to break in. There’s a closed network of people who have known each other for a long time. Or, because of who you know, you’re let into the circle.” These are some of the comments I hear from professionals all too often. Like it or not, relationships have a lot to do with whether or not you make it through the funnel to the higher level roles. Do you have the relationships you need to help you move ahead of other professionals?  What does it take to be in the circle?

Relationships are an important part of every facet of our lives. They are just as important at work as they are at home.  The need for relationships is human nature. In fact, the need for the sense of belonging and connectedness is one of our fundamental needs – the third level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  According to Maslow, we innately long for a sense of belonging and acceptance among our social groups.

Professionally, we call these connections our network.  If you were to describe your network, what would you say? Would you talk about the number of people in your network? Or, would you describe the quality of your network….the connections and relationships you have with people?

The quality of your network is most important.  Quality refers to both the people you are strategically connected to and the relationships you build with them.  The quality of your network, both within and outside your current employer, will directly impact how far up the ladder you’ll make it in your career.   

People are going to make decisions on whether to hire or promote you based on what they know about you and how comfortable they are with you.  It’s up to you to make sure people know you. And, this takes some time.  Build relationships before you need something from someone. 

Relationships go through a cycle of familiarity, likability, respect, and trust.  To get to the point of trust requires interaction and a basis of experience with someone.  You have to be intentional about making those experiences happen.  Also, you have to add value to your relationships.  If you just ‘take’ from relationships, you’ll fail to earn the respect and trust of others.

There are four types of relationships you need to be aware of and manage:  Acquaintances, Allies, Advocates, and Adversaries.    

Acquaintances are people whom you’ve met a few times. You have basically a surface knowledge of each other. Don’t take these interactions lightly.  People begin to form impressions of you the minute they see you for the first time.  The potential of a relationship often starts here.

Allies are people you’ve had multiple opportunities to work or interact with.  You’ve come to know each other and work well together.  These relationships have gone through the four stages of familiarity, likability, respect, and trust.  Allies tend to help each other and look out for each other, very important if you’re going to be successful in your work and in navigating the corporate environment.

Advocates know enough about you to have a high perception of you.  They may not necessarily be an ally. In fact, you don’t always know who your advocates are. Advocates have worked with you or observed you, trusting that if they stick their neck out and recommend you, you’ll come through.

Adversaries are the fourth type of relationship.  We don’t really think too much about managing them.  Have you heard the saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer?  Adversaries may be unknowingly hurting your career potential by damaging your reputation, both by what they say and by often making it hard for you to execute as expected.

Your goal is to get allies and advocates on your team.   By building these types of relationships, you are better connected in the organization.  Your Allies and Advocates will open the door to connections with others, as well, who are strategically important to your success. 

So, to get “in” – it starts with you.  What can you do?

Be thoughtful and strategically consider who you need as part of your network.  Identify opportunities to make connections with those individuals.  This may include opportunities directly related to your work or outside of your daily job responsibilities. Attend company social functions, volunteer for a community service project sponsored by your company, attend employee resource group meetings or be on a committee. 

In your interactions, make an impression. Early in my career, I was so timid at networking events.  I would be in a group, but others would be doing the talking around me. When I did speak up, I wouldn’t talk loud enough for the others to clearly hear what I was saying. Don’t let that be you.

I know what you’re saying, “Vivian, this all sounds good, but I don’t have time.”  Well, if you want to move up, you can’t afford not to proactively work on your relationships.  I encourage you to choose just one strategy to get you started.  You’ll soon see the results.

Influence Your Own Access

You’ll continue to be left behind until you step up to take more ownership in gaining access to important relationships and opportunities,  Take a deep breath, and make it a priority to take the first steps of learning more about these relationships and engaging with a mentor who can be instrumental in helping you Fuel Your Career Forward.

Download our free guide Getting the most from your mentor and take your first steps to Fuel Your Carrer Forward.