Career Woman

How to create your ‘career-house’ foundation to build your success


Women are engaged in a daily battle to improve their lives and the lives of their family members. Women put in the effort, time and energy to develop themselves and those around them. Even with this heightened level of effort, we are often stymied in our career progression.  Industries and corporations around the world are improving their gender parity rates, and yet we still see little progress in the number of females in leadership roles. Still, each of us can build a career-house, a home-base, from which a career can flourish.

Our career-house starts with a foundation of knowing our worth. If you do not believe in yourself, then no one else will.  Women often struggle with this, unsure if they are as valuable or capable as their male and female colleagues.  The ability to understand your strengths and weaknesses is core to this foundation.  Strengths are to be leveraged and maximized.  Weaknesses are to be compensated and filled in with surrounding talent or other means of support. There a several easily found assessments that will allow us to identify our strengths and weaknesses, some of the most common are Strengths Finder and Myers-Briggs.  A bracing honesty about your strengths and weaknesses is critical for continued development as an individual and a career woman.  Each of us must have a foundation of confidence. We must believe in ourselves, we must know that we can do amazing things and we must not be shy to embrace our inner awesomeness. If you do not believe in yourself and your capability, you will struggle to succeed in your career.

The house cannot be built without a solid frame.  Our career framework must be the ability to deliver on our core work and assignments.   It does not matter how much you believe in yourself, or how awesome you think you are if you are not delivering on your commitments. Every. Single. Day. Women are typically strong in this area, they are often grinders, and they find joy in getting their work done on time, checking the box and meeting established goals. Be the last person with anything late or overdue. Stay committed to the project and outputs and deliver on budget, on time and with a clean product. In the event a deadline will be missed, inform leadership, why it slipped and the plans for mitigation. Then assign a new due date and hit it. There is no way to move up in your career if you do not have the foundation of belief and the frame of delivery.

The wiring and utilities of our house is built on constructing relationships. Steven Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, may have come out over a decade ago, but it is still accurate today.  Purposefully create relationship accounts, then invest in them. This skill does not come naturally to all, but women can succeed in relationship building. Network within your organization.  Construct cross-functional relationships by scheduling time to meet people, ask them to coffee or lunch to get to know them with no other agenda.  Take the time to cultivate deep connections with close colleagues and direct reports. Take this a step further and build an external network.  Internally, the network becomes sponsors and influencers. Externally, the network acts as advisors.  Find and build these external networks by maintaining past relationships and attending conferences that support your career goals. These folks can provide powerful guidance on how to navigate organizations. These external relationships also serve as a connection to opportunities outside of the current company. Both the internal and external networks of people are essential to a successful career.

Here are the components that make the walls of my career-house.  When I reflect, these are the three things that helped me get where I am today. #1: Comfort with change, #2: Focus on problem- solving, and #3: Persistence, persistence, persistence.   The corporate environment is constantly changing and no matter the industry, we can expect change and more of it all the time. Embrace the changes, set aside negative emotions about an upcoming change, and begin to focus on making a positive contribution to the change. Women who focus on problems are often labelled as whiners or complainers.  Focus on solutions to those problems.  Women who present and deliver on solutions are more likely to be lauded and recognized for their impact. And finally, persist.  Persist beyond your expectations. Persist on the things you want to achieve. Persist. These three behaviors have been critical for my success. Everyone finds their way, but these are the walls that I have installed into my career-house.

The doors and windows of our career-house are built by being courageous. Do not avoid conflict. That does not mean yell and scream all the time, but there are clear conflict resolution techniques that should be used, and avoiding conflict is a quick career killer. Avoiding conflict leads to upset personnel, confused direction and an unhealthy focus on non-productive elements in the work environment. I encourage all women to be brave. To find their voice and speak to their boss or colleague about what might be bothering them.  There are common techniques and training for this ability and if you struggle with avoiding conflict, I would recommend attending a Conflict Resolution training. A quick google search or conversation with a Human Resource team provides a list of qualified instructors in this area. As careers advance, regardless of gender, there is more and more conflict.  People who are at the top of their careers must be open/honest and have a solid ability to deal with conflict.  Do not bury your head in the sand, do not wait it out and do not shirk the discussion for later.  Be willing to take the time to work through conflict with your leadership and colleagues, this is an invaluable skill.

The career-house is the home base from which the career is launched and maintained.  We have discussed proven components to a successful career. Be confident in your build and know that you can make progress from where you are at, right now today.  Overcome any nagging insecurities and know that you are amazing and can-do amazing things.

About Hope Mueller

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