May 1, 2022

How to excel in your career

Three women looking at a tablet screen

A version of this article originally appeared on Thrive Global.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of speaking about career development as part of a series of talks focused on women in finance. My colleagues raised excellent points about networking, leadership opportunities, taking on new roles and more. Here are some key takeaways that apply no matter what industry you're in. If you're looking to develop your career but aren't sure where to start, read on.

Cultivate meaningful relationships 

You can learn something valuable from every person you encounter at work. Some may have important information about your role now or a future one. Others may give you an opportunity to cultivate soft skills. I know I've improved my resilience, confidence, and self-awareness through colleagues, and that's been crucial for my own career growth. 

Also consider finding ways to connect with your co-workers outside of work. For example, my love for Cleveland's rich culture has led to after work trips with teammates to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Being together in different environments lets you get to know one another in new ways, and that can strengthen professional interactions, too.

Sometimes, the best move is lateral

Many companies have formal programs for leadership and skills development, but sometimes the best education is to observe, inquire and absorb information when you aren't the expert in the room. And then maybe take a step sideways.

A "lateral move" can provide great experience. It's like switching camera angles to see your company or industry in a new light. After broadening my own perspective with a lateral move, I was much better prepared to move up to the next level. You might also find yourself on a different path altogether with the new skills you learn. 

Take the initiative 

In applications, interviews, and performance reviews, women are harsher self-critics compared to equally performing men. With this awareness, you can learn to highlight your own skills for hiring managers inside and outside your organization. Show how your experience will make a positive impact for the role and articulate how you will deepen your expertise where necessary. There's a good chance your confidence and self-awareness will be well-received. 

Earlier in my career, I thought that if I did great work, someone would notice and ask me to take on more. Later, I realized you have to seek opportunities and advocate for yourself when the time is right. If you are looking at a role within your organization and you don't tick every box in the job requirements, apply anyway. You might be holding yourself back. I would not be in the role I'm in now if I did not raise my hand, put my ideas forward and learn to make a good case for myself. 

Careers aren't linear. When I had young kids, there were opportunities that I turned down because they weren't right for me then. It's important to give yourself time to grow. If you aren't in a position to take action on all these ideas now, remember your career is a lifelong marathon. You set the pace!