Sometimes your best career move, or the one that will prepare you for a great new role, is not obvious. Instead of the next logical rung on the ladder—your manager’s job—the next opportunity may present itself in a more indirect way. In my case, I gained valuable professional experience by leaving my domestic managerial role to move halfway around the world.
When a colleague asked me to source candidates for a project role supporting our Asia Wealth Management unit, I immediately recognized it as an incredible opportunity—for someone else. This short-term assignment in Hong Kong seemed perfect for a capable, mobile, and single professional, and I presented it to members of my team the same day.
Later that night, I told my husband I was amazed no one jumped at the chance, and he said, “Why don’t you do it?” It was easy for me to make a list of reasons—I had a comfortable position I enjoyed, four children at home, and no knowledge about Asia. But, as we discussed it, my reasons faded. The role sounded exciting, my family was keen for the adventure, and my institutional knowledge would be valuable to the Hong Kong team. My company was as enthusiastic as I now was, and decided to broaden the role to Head of Investments–Asia. Within 10 weeks, my family was on the ground in Hong Kong.
This life-changing and challenging assignment opened doors for me and raised my profile at the firm. Less than three years later, I accepted the role as Head of International Wealth for RBC Wealth Management–US. And my Hong Kong experience has been vital.
Being open to a lateral move was a key step in my career. Moving laterally—which may mean moving literally—to another division, firm, or country may be your best next move.
Mary’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
The best advice I ever received, and the best advice I can give, is to know and leverage your strengths. By first investing in relevant training and analysis, you will develop self-awareness about the assets you bring to any role, team, or project. For example, if your strengths include persuasion, analysis, encouragement, execution or strategic thinking, roles that require these strengths will bring you the best opportunities for success and engagement. When you find something that you do well and love to do, you’ll probably be willing to work harder, which will lead to positive results, recognition, and new opportunities.
It is also important that you know what you do not enjoy or do well. The key is to find others with complementary strengths in order to create a powerful team. Remember this when you are given the opportunity to manage people. Hire a diversity of people, so that each individual has the opportunity to use his or her strengths on a daily basis. It will increase employee engagement and productivity, and make for a stronger team.