So here we are. A new decade. In real terms it doesn’t mean very much, after all, it’s just a date. But like big birthdays, a new decade can be a signpost to evaluate where you are and where you want to be. Everyone wants to be further on in their career than they were ten years ago. So let me tell you about three ways to accelerate your career so that you can be sure you aren’t in the same place by next year. And the great thing is, it’s not complicated!
OWN YOUR STRENGTHS
The first place to start is to understand what your strengths are. Those things you do that you’re both great at and make you feel strong. If you’re struggling to see your own strengths (which I see a lot with many of the women I work with) you need to talk to somebody, particularly some other people you trust and respect. Rather than ask for ‘feedback’, identify specific questions you want answered. It can help you really see yourself differently when you understand how other’s see you, what they see you’re good at, and how they would describe how you add value.
It doesn’t have to be limited to people you work with right now: go back to old bosses and colleagues. This has another benefit as they’ll be happy you reached out and rekindled your relationship with them. It will help you build your network and that’s a great way for strengthening loose ties.
When I ask women often what their strengths are, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I don’t know. I’m not sure…’ What I also suggest is that you start journalling every day. Ask yourself ‘what did I do well today?’. Then ask yourself, ‘How did I add value, or what wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t there today?’ This can be a challenging exercise, but it really is worth sticking with it!
Reflect on what you bring to the table and realise that you are amazing, and you are adding value every day. When you start to recognise then you can really own it.
The next step is to be able to talk about your strengths out loud. Some of you might be gasping in horror at the idea of that. But If you don’t say it, nobody else will. I love when I hear a client say, ‘I’ll do that, I’m really good at that.’ And they find that nobody says, ‘Who do you think you are?’ They generally just say, ‘Brilliant. Yeah, go ahead.’
So, practise saying it out loud to yourself, say it in the mirror, tell the cat or the dog, tell your kids. It’s good for them. One night my 5-year-old daughter Alannah, sat on my bed and I asked her about school and how she was getting on. She just said, ‘I’m really good at everything at school.’ (Cue hi-five from me). If little Alannah can own her strengths why can’t you?
Obviously, we don’t want to create false confidence. But when you realise how amazing you really are it won’t be false! It’s not bragging if it’s true.
BUILD YOUR BRAND
So, what do I mean by that? Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. That’s the famous Jeff Bezos quote, and it’s the best quote about brand I’ve ever come across because it’s true. It’s how people talk about you, how they recognise you. Think about what you want to be known for. What do you WANT them to be saying about you?
When you focus on how you want to be known it’s much easier to project it. Clearly knowing your strengths helps you shape it more clearly. When you work from your strengths you deliver a better outcome and represent yourself better.
You need to ask yourself every day, ‘What can I do to build my brand? And my brand awareness?’
Sometimes, it’s just saying no to stuff that really is nothing to do with you. Because then you’re diluting your brand. Sometimes it’s saying yes, that’s where I need to focus. Sometimes it’s you talking about what you can and want to do: challenge yourself to action.
Finally, it’s crucial you consider who it’s important to raise your brand profile with. Who can positively influence your career trajectory??
TELL YOUR STORY
I’m obsessed with getting people to tell their story. Why? Stories connect. They represent. And stories bring your brand to life.
You never know what people might learn for themselves about you. You may be the answer to somebody’s problem, but if you never talk about the stuff you have done and can do, how will they ever know? It’s not just about getting it out there for your sake, but what might the world be missing out on because you haven’t shared it?
One of my clients is really customer service-focused—that’s what she absolutely loves doing; making customers happy. We dug into what her ‘why’ was and she shared with me was that her dad had had a shop when she was younger, and she loved helping in the shop. She enjoyed getting to know the customers and understanding what they needed and having a bit of a chat. She told me about how good it felt when customers left the shop happy because she had helped them. When she told me that story, I watched her come alive! Her story gives people an insight into why she does what she does AND why she loves it.
That’s the kind of thing people will remember, so whether it’s in an interview or a networking situation. Share something that’s REALLY about who you are. Tell your story and people will connect with it. They’ll remember it, they’ll understand you more and you will reap the rewards further down the line when they offer you a job or an opportunity that can be life-changing.
If people ask you what you do in a situation, don’t just give your job title. It’s THE biggest conversation killer. For instance, if you are an accountant and someone asks you what you do, giving your job title will not invite further questions (sorry but it’s true, lol). Who is ever going to ask ‘Can you tell me more about that?’ But if you say instead, ‘You know how you’re getting to the end of the tax year and everything’s a mess and you just need somebody to come in and fix it? Well, what I do is I make it all easy for you, so that you can get on with doing business, the stuff that you really love and want to do.’
Another challenge for you: When somebody asks ‘how are you?’ people tend to say, ‘Oh, I’m not bad. Not so bad.’ Who wants to hear that??? Instead of giving that inane response how about you say, ‘I’m really well. I’ve been working on xx and I’m getting a real kick out of it. I’m loving the results that are happening and it’s given me a real buzz’. Use every opportunity you have to talk about what you do and what you are good at!
There you have it. Own your strengths, build your brand, and tell your story. You will definitely see results in your career with this focus. I’d love to hear how you get on!