Career Planning: 3 Ways to Rethink How You Navigate Your Career
By Audrey McGuckin, CEO, WOTW -
Recently I was stunned by an article in The Atlantic titled How Puberty Kills Girls’ Confidence. The author points out that from the age of 10 to 14, the average girl’s confidence drops 30%. Even more striking is that up until the age of 12, there’s no difference between the confidence of boys and girls, but by their second year as a teenager, a girl’s confidence is much lower than that of boys.
As a mother of two girls and a professional devoted to the empowerment of women, this data struck a deep chord with me. It sparked me to imagine the possibilities of reversing this drop in confidence. What if we created a space for women to learn to confidently take control of their lives and their careers? What if we created a safe place for them to develop the mindset and behaviors that would allow them to feel empowered and emboldened to rise? What if we taught them navigational skills to traverse their personal journey?
What I’ve found in my 30 years of developing leaders is that when you illuminate and eliminate old ideas, identify personal pain points, and uncover the landmines that are hampering your career progression, you can truly reach levels you may never have thought possible or even dreamed of.
Most women unfortunately are not taught the necessary skills and techniques to navigate our way above and out of the systems that hold us back. It has a profound effect on our careers. Regardless of how good women are at their jobs, there can be some naivety about the system and what it means for their aspirations.
So, if you’re a woman looking to change your approach, where do you start? You start by rethinking the strategy for your career. Not the strategy of your day-to-day job, but that of your long-term career.
Here are the top 3 ways to really navigate a career:
- Know your why.
- Leverage your peers.
- Be intentional about a sponsor.
How to Be Strategic About Your Career
1. Know Your Why:
First, know your why. Some call this finding your purpose. This process can be tough. It can be tough to make time for, and it’s deeply personal. Many women are struggling with that lately. About 2.5M women left the workforce in the last 18 months, and I’m willing to bet it’s because most of them were either searching for their why or trying to align their careers with their why.
Knowing why you are doing something can be like rocket fuel for your career. If you know your why, it will guide what to do. Everything we do is motivated by a higher intention.
For me, my why is the women in my life. I have two daughters that I want to change the world for. I want them and their friends to have the opportunities and skills to thrive. My mother is also a driving force for my why. She entered an entrepreneurial journey when she was 60 and was wildly successful. My grandmother grew up in the slums of Glasgow in Scotland. She experienced many moments in her life that developed her sense of grit and determination. Knowing the journey these women took gives me my purpose and drives my why every day.
Let’s talk about your why. You have to create space to discover it. In our WOTW Navigator Journey, women create vision boards and reflect on their whys together.
Keep in mind that your why doesn’t have to be something enormous, it just has to be the thing that puts fire in your belly. The thing that turns you on and motivates you to strive.
I recently sat down with a friend to talk about this concept, and she opened up to me that she was struggling to find her why. She had thought all along that her why had to be some world-changing purpose like ending world hunger or helping the homeless. She was feeling empty because she felt like her daily corporate job wasn’t a big why.
However, once we talked it through, we realized she’s living her why every day. Her purpose is to communicate and tell the world about amazing people and inventions, and here she was doing it. She just couldn’t see it. Identifying her why has opened up a whole new purpose in her day-to-day life. So, don’t beat yourself up if you’re real why doesn't seem lofty enough. It’s your why, and that’s what’s important!
All of it should be motivated by your why.
Outline your vision:
If you could dream big without any limitations where would you want your career to go? Dream it. Think about it. Write it down. Share it with others. Be bold and think big. It’s ok if it seems far off. Just have a vision for where you’d like to go.
For WOTW Navigator, we ask every participant: What is your big dream? For some it might be two babies and a dog. For some it might be a family and an executive position. For others it’s freedom to work from anywhere.
Whatever your dream, see it, and document it.
Focus on the moments that matter:
One of the golden threads in my life is paying attention to the moments that matter, i.e. times when something worked just as you needed it to. Moments that matter in your career are important. You identify them, name them and figure out how to replicate them. They can be little things (it doesn’t always have to be something big).
2. Leverage Your Peers
We know that women tend to focus on building networks, yet we know that men are more astute at leveraging networks. There's a subtle yet big difference. When you know how to leverage your network, you see significant returns.
The good news is that leveraging a relationship is a capability that can’t be taken away. That’s why I teach this skill in our WOTW Navigator journey.
Career growth is about having the confidence to connect with your peers, managers and superiors in ways that grow your career. And that starts with having the confidence to ask your contacts for what you need.
Be intentional. Be specific. Ask for their support (and don’t forget to ask them how you can support their endeavors as well--it has to be a symbiotic relationship ). Once you get support, momentum begins. That confidence leads to all sorts of things in your career and your life.
Ask for what you need in the moment you need it. One of my greatest strengths is showing vulnerability and asking for help when I need it. I’ve never been afraid to ask for support. And I will tell you the secret, when I ask others for help, I’ve never had someone say no. Why? Because people want to help you.
Don’t let fear hold you back. Be confident. Be vulnerable. Be brave.
3. Be intentional about a sponsor
For those of you who missed my last blog post on the sponsorships vs mentorships, let me summarize:
Mentorship and sponsorship are two different things. Sponsors are focused on providing connections for higher-profile opportunities. Sponsorship is a large part of navigating “the system.”
Most companies develop mentorships but not sponsorships. In our women empowerment programs, we coach women on how to create sponsorships. A sponsor will use influence and their networks to connect you to higher profile opportunities. They give you access to their network and are personally invested in your upward movement. They are champions for specific high visibility projects, and they can drive your career vision. Sponsorship is more about your career than just your job. So identify your sponsors wisely and work to leverage those relationships.
Be intentional about how you choose as a sponsor. Identify them and write a plan. Then ask them to sponsor you. Again, rarely does anyone say no in this scenario, so shoot for the moon and connect with people you respect.
Invest In Yourself
My last tip which isn’t a top three, but is important is to invest in your career growth. How can you develop these skills? Sign up for classes and spend time being intentional with your growth.
One way to access tools and methods to navigate your career is our year-long WOTW Navigator leadership program. You will have the opportunity to go on a journey with other powerful women over the next 12 months, with an incredible faculty and peer learning. The Navigator Program is led by experts who help women illuminate and eliminate old ideas, identify personal pain points, and uncover the landmines that are hampering their career progression. Learn those skills and more.
TAKE YOUR CAREER TO THE NEXT LEVEL AND SIGN UP FOR NAVIGATOR TODAY
Registration closes November 16, 2021