Lessons From a Week on the Road Edition
You can get here from there but to get there at the time of day you want, you may have to take multiple flights…..
This past week I experienced the Newark, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Charlotte, Indianapolis, JFK, and Ottawa airports. Due to the weather, I missed seeing Reagan National Airport, spending extra quality time in Charlotte….Travel lesson number one: always maintain your sense of humor, as there will be glitches, mishaps and flight delays. Travel lesson number two: remind yourself frequently that you have first world problems when a weather-related flight delay gets you home at 2:30 am and your next flight is at noon. Travel lesson number three: people in the Midwest are waaaaayyyyyy nicer than you will ever be.
An Idea Without A Network (And Action) Is Just That: An Idea
I had the great honor of being the keynote speaker at the Center of Excellence For Women In Technology (CEWiT) at the University of Indiana (Bloomington). Uncooperative and very Pacific Northwest weather kept me from enjoying the stunning campus (checking in at the Biddle Hotel was a near Hogwarts experience for me). CEWiT is the only center of its kind in the U.S. and came about because a group of visionary women not only had an idea — but they threw energy plus resources and reputatons behind it. It is an education model to be replicated and more importantly, as many of us focus on attracting more women into technology, a leadership team other universities should seek out to collaborate with.
Happy Second Anniversary CEWiT
My remarks to the students attending the second anniversary celebrations for CEWiT ranged from opportunities in tech, funding new ventures, navigating sexual harassment to career advice. A day-in-the-career-life type of keynote, which is a favorite of mine. CEWiT has created an environment where the students confidently shared fears, ambitions and challenges, providing me with opportunity to share career stories only my closest friends have heard.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is an insidious disease. Once you’ve experienced it, you’re never quite sure if you handled the situation well, whether telling others your “victim” story will be a lesson in strength or ridicule. I shared my story for the first time publicly as these ambitious CEWiT students wanted to know how to navigate the nonsense (as I call it) of innuendo, subtle or unconscious bias and the rest. There is a special place in hell for the folks who continue to harass women in the workplace (I envision it as a windowless beige bunker flooded with florescent lights, containing an endless amount of filing along with the prerequisite paper cuts — and a clock that slowly, noticeably ticks but never quite reaches 5 pm).
12 Career Lessons
“Let your achievements speak for themselves” “Be the best but don’t brag” — oh, how my professional life changed when I turned off the broken record in my head which kept playing those tunes. As I shared with the CEWiT students, when I started standing up for my career — I moved my career forward in very interesting and unexpected ways. As I’ve shared with students and young professionals before, here are my 12 career lessons, as an attorney turned self-employed, figuring it out, entrepreneur:
Lesson #1: Self-promotion is not a Dirty [Hyphenated] Word. Your career is built on what you know, who you know, and who knows what you know. Self-promotion is highlighting expertise and accomplishments. It’s not sales. It’s about what you know and have earned due to your smarts and efforts — it’s about what you deserve to be recognized for. When your primary currency is your knowledge, self-promotion is essential.
Lesson #2: Build Relationships. Rome wasn’t built in a day and networks of professional relationships don’t happen overnight. Since most opportunities arise through relationships and trusted referrals, build your network before you need it. From first hand career-transition experience, I know it takes time (12 to 18 months to be exact) to build a new network. It’s not easy. It’s work (guess that’s why it’s called networking).
Lesson #3: Take the Meeting. Technology is great, but it is too easy to hide behind the email, voicemail, text, Facebook post….Use technology with the aim of securing an in-person meeting.
Lesson #4: Own the Output. How many times have you diminished your accomplishments by responding “oh, it wasn’t just me…” “do you really think so…” “I couldn’t take the credit for…” ? Stop it. Now. Next time you receive a work compliment, say two simple words: Thank you. Then pause, and recognize the efforts of anyone who assisted in your success.
Lesson #5: Get Out There! Ah, a deadline or product launch or whatever client commitment (real or imaginary) which keeps you in the office/at your desk/on your computer. These things are the hand-cuff of our financial success and often, a crutch propping up our procrastination muscle. Go back to Lesson #1 — Your career is built on what you know, who you know, and who knows what you know. No one knows what you know if don’t proactively get out from behind your desk or your nose out of your computer.
Lesson #6: Ask WHY and be Selective. This may come as a surprise, but there are only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. You can’t be everywhere and everything, so make wise choices with your time. I recommend asking “why” when presented to with opportunities. And yes, because “you’ll have fun” or “you never know who you’ll meet” are sometimes the best answers to the “why”.
Lesson #7: Use Your Network. Don’t spray then pray the people in your network will respond, come to your aid, support your crowd-funding campaign or present the perfect job offer in your inbox. Do your research. Understand how they can help (information, introductions, guidance) and then ask for specific, focused advice. The economy has been in a tough place since 2009 (in case you needed a reminder) and those of us who are sought out for advice are exhausted by general pleas for job-search career-transition help. Being precise in your request is being considerate and focused, traits which makes you someone who others want to help.
Lesson #8: Follow-Up. We all need a reminder to do this. You’ll stand out if you follow-up. And by follow-up, I’m not simply referring to sending a one-time “thanks for taking the time to meet with me” note. Stay top of mind by sending the occasional update to people who have been helpful. To quote Nike — just do it.
Lesson #9: Claim a Good Seat at the Table. Arrive early to meetings and don’t be the first to leave. Survey the seating — and sit near the decision-makers. Sit where you can be seen.
Lesson #10: Dress the Part. If your ambition is to be a high-powered finance attorney or venture capitalist, then dress like one. Make a strong first impression (go back to Lesson #3, we’re still tribal).
Lesson #11: Persist. Get comfortable with silence and non-responses to your carefully crafted outreach. Find ways to reach out until you get a definitive no. Learn the art of sending email updates that don’t require the recipients to respond. Remember you are not the only one who is trying to tap in to the experience or contacts or know-how of an influencer or connector. Networking pro-tip: leverage the eyeballs of the friends, acquaintances and professional contacts you’ve connected with on LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram by posting regular updates on those platforms.
Lesson #12: Stay Positive and be Optimistic. Yes, entrepreneurs are optimistic — how else do we keep pushing forward when everyone else tells us “it just can’t be done”? But there’s a more practical reason to be positive: who wants to help someone who is miserable? You can’t recommend someone who “hates their life and their job” for another position. You know the advice “fake it till you make it” — apply it liberally here.
This post originally appeared in Innovator Insights, Kelly Hoey’s weekly newsletter. To get insights in your inbox, sign up here.
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