I am frequently asked about key strategies that have contributed to my success in the workplace, particularly as a woman who has progressed through the corporate chain in a very male-dominated field. There are four strategies that, as I reflect on my own career, I typically highlight:
1. Hone your craft. Regardless of your field, gain substantial technical expertise in some area of your business. As you progress through roles of increasing levels of responsibility, your teams will rely on your knowledge, experience, and judgment to guide and train them in their decision-making. Expertise also provides the foundation for your credibility with constituents inside and outside your company.
2. Know your priorities. Rather than trying to balance everything going on in your life and having work, home, etc., all pulling on you at once, make sure your priorities are clear. Those priorities will change throughout your career and life. Sometimes it will be your career, at other times your family, etc. As long as you deliver on your commitments, no one will question your priorities, and having your priorities crystallized in advance of a potential conflict takes tremendous stress off of you.
3. Utilize mentors. Having someone you can talk to who has “been there, done that” is invaluable in helping to guide you through difficult decisions and work situations. Don’t limit yourself to one person, as various perspectives provide additional insight. However, do select individuals you respect enough to put their advice into action.
4. Enjoy what you do. When you are engaged in activities that excite and challenge you, work doesn’t feel like work. If you do the math, we spend an inordinate amount of our lives at or engaged in our work. The only way to make this an enriching experience that spans your total working life is to feel passionate about what you are doing and be convinced that at some level your work is making a difference.