Listen up, ladies! No matter what your age or what type of job you have, you should always have your eye on the prize. You owe it to yourself.
Has anyone ever asked you, “What would you tell your younger self?” I was thinking about this the other day because I am a mentor to two amazing young women that I’ve had the privilege to work with over the last 7 years. I have held back from giving them unsolicited advice because I thought it might be overbearing or unwanted. But, you know what? I wish I would’ve had my older self around to tell my younger self a few things that have served me well later in my career. So, I’ve started to share my key learnings with them to help them get a jump on their inevitable success.
Whether you want your boss’s job, a completely new job, a raise, or just some good ol’ fashioned praise, you can be doing MORE in your current job to excel above the rest. Here’s what I have to tell you in your RISE to greatness, and what I would’ve told myself many years ago:
1. You were born to stand out.
Never ever be afraid to speak up at a meeting. Get noticed! Even if your idea isn’t perfect, or you trip over your words a bit, folks will remember that you were assertive and contributed to the conversation.
Take a step past that, and differentiate yourself: When I do presentations now, I use memes, hashtags (#dontforgetthistipladies), jokes and even song lyrics to get folks’ attention. When I’m simply attending a big meeting or training session, I bring my BLUETOOTH SPEAKER and DJ the meeting. Most of the time it goes over great, and people always remember my enthusiasm for bringing positive energy to the room.
You always want people to remember your name, your drive and your uniqueness. Every. Darn. Time.
2. Always ask.
If you want something, ask for it. You will never know how far you can drive something forward until you ask. What do you want: A raise? A seat at the C-level meeting to learn? Donations from the company to your favorite charity? Time off to care for an ailing parent? The adage of “the worst they can say is no” is so true and “no” is nothing to fear. In fact, it’s a fun game to try to figure out ways to turn that no to a yes with a snazzy proposal or a well-written email to an executive.
One of the women I mentor, asked for MORE money when I offered her the first raise at our company. She made a compelling case, so we gave her more money than our original offer! Boom!
3. Map out your plan.
Early on in my career, I just fell into many of the jobs that came my way. I knew someone who had an opening, or I was promoted. In most cases, though, I took that next job often for better pay, but not necessarily because it was on my desired path.
I encourage you to take some time out and research the companies you really want to work for. Think about the type of job, flexibility, location, levels that you desire in your 30s, in your 40s and in your 50s. Prioritize how important travel, family time, work hours, title and pay are to you, along with the TYPE OF WORK you want to be doing years from now.
Write down those targets and goals, and then work backward to determine the best path to get there. Reach out to the right people you should be working with to help you get there, too.
4. Proactively find and build a relationship with a mentor (or two).
Finding a mentor has become more popular over the years, but I know this can often be an awkward thing to ask someone. Many of us just lucked into that ideal person with loads of experience that had time to share a little wisdom, but that’s not always the case.
I encourage you to be thoughtful and purposeful in finding the perfect mentor for you. Find someone who aligns with your end goals (and that plan you mapped out), who can possibly help connect you to the right people and is just PLAIN SMARTER than you. We should always surround ourselves with people we aspire to be like and that lift us up to be better.
5. Get involved.
Whether inside your current company or outside of work, invest in yourself and your community by volunteering for a charity or enrolling in a program. This is an excellent way to meet like-minded people, which also expands your network. Early on, I participated in the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts Leadership Arts program, and there were SO MANY cool people in the program that all went on to do amazing things. I also volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association, and have found a wonderful support group for myself, in addition to the benefit of being able to give back.
Start by looking into your company’s corporate giving programs or just organizing a group of colleagues to run in the next charity race in your town. Getting involved broadens your horizons, helps you STAND OUT, and gives you a healthy perspective that there’s more to life than work!
Bonus Round: Take that vacation.
When I was younger, I was so concerned about getting all my work done and being present and visible, that I missed out on the precious time when I had NO kids and very little responsibility. I missed out on killer vacations in the name of saving a few pennies.
Ladies, this is the most free you’ll ever be: Responsibilities just grow and time becomes more scarce as you age. Don’t wait: Check out the low-priced airline deals and find a VRBO with a few friends in a country you’ve always wanted to visit. Do it now. Your older self will thank you later!
I used to have a rule to never say “never” and “always,” because there are always exceptions to everything, but that kind of middle-of-the-road thinking just slowed me down. You’ll see I use those two previously barred words a lot throughout this message because I believe the keys to success are to ALWAYS stand out and to NEVER give up. You got this.