One of the most satisfying aspects of the work I do is helping other women create a strategy to achieve their business or career goals, keeping them accountable, and then seeing them attain those goals. As I like to say, women supporting other women – just as it oughta be.
In my last blog on this topic I talked about tips for women entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. This time I’d like to share some tips for women who want to grow their careers in the corporate environment. (Men, these tips will work for you, too!)
First of all, it’s important to understand that you are in charge of your own destiny. You need to keep an open mind, be curious, and get really clear about what YOU want for your life and career, and stop listening to those voices telling what you “should want.” Remember the old saying, “if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.”
Assess where you are. When you’ve decided what you want, take inventory. What skills do you have, what skills do you need? How will you attain those skills? What are your values and interests? What are some internal blocks or other obstacles that have held you back so far in your career?
Understand trends. Bersin by Deloitte recently published a research report about HR and talent in 2017. Here are a few of their predictions based on trends they saw.
-Organizational design will be challenged everywhere. Organizations have to be able to “focus on customer-centric learning, experimentation, and time to market.” Functional groups should be organized into teams that are “smaller, flatter, and more empowered. Leaders should focus more on hands-on leadership, and less on leadership from behind a desk.”
-Culture and engagement will remain top priorities. Deloitte research shows that “86% of business leaders rate “culture” as one of the more urgent talent issues, yet only 14% understand what the right culture is.”
-Human performance and well-being will become a critical part of HR, talent and leadership. Employee engagement levels have not improved in the past 10 years, productivity is down, and U.S. workers take 4 to 5 fewer vacation days today than they did in 1998.
What opportunities do you see in these predictions based on your skills, experience and competencies?
Assemble your supporters. Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, talks about 3 important people you need to cultivate to help advance your career: an advisor, a mentor, and a sponsor. Their roles are different.
Your advisor is there to help you understand who’s who in the organization, provide context about the way things are done, and answer the “dumb questions” you think you should already know the answer to. Your mentor is the one you share your hopes and dreams with. Maybe they’re already doing what you want to do and can share how they got there. Or maybe they’re in a different organization, but know you well and can give you honest feedback and advice. You can tell your mentor both the good and the bad stuff. The sponsor plays a different role altogether. This is the person – maybe someone on the senior management team – who advocates for you when you are not in the room. This is the person you share only the good stuff with.
Learn continuously. Not just to attain the skills to achieve your current goal, but also so that you are always ready for the next opportunity. As we all know, the world changes at a rapid pace. The job or skill “de jour” may not be needed in a year or two. Keep up to date on technology, pursue new interests, read, network, stay informed about what’s going on in the world around you. Many have watched their careers go adrift because they failed to do this.
Give back. As you move ahead in your career, never forget how you got there. Be willing to be a mentor or advocate for those in whom you see potential. Give honest productive feedback. Help others avoid the bumps you had along the road. Be willing to give informational interviews.
And, of course, don’t stop believin’.
Till next time,
Last week I attended the SheEO Activation Summit, in Denver. SheEO World is a nonprofit organization that brings together women entrepreneur investors who provide no-interest loans, plus mentoring and coaching to other women who are building their businesses. Women supporting women. Just as it oughta be - #RadicalGenerosity.
Between 2007 and 2016 the number of women-owned businesses in the US increased by 45%, according to a report commissioned by American Express. Compare this to just a 9% increase in all businesses during the same time period. The 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the US employ nearly 9 million people, and generate more than $1.6 trillion in revenues. Since 2007, employment in women-owned businesses has increased by 18%. Employment among all businesses, on the other hand, has declined by 1%. We women are pretty amazing!
Not only that, women entrepreneurs are happier. According to a 2013 report on global entrepreneurship, American women entrepreneurs “rank their well-being higher than other women in the US, higher than women entrepreneurs in other countries, and higher than men.”
Yet here’s the startling reality. Despite the fact that over the past 10 years the number of women-owned businesses has grown at 5 times the national average, only 4% of venture capital goes to women. Only 19% of business news content mentions firms led by women.
Most of us who go into business for ourselves do so because we want to pursue our area of expertise without the constraints of corporate ladders and company politics. We want to be more in control of our time and our future. What we discover, though, is that in addition to pursuing our strength, we also need to manage other parts of the business that may not be a strength (or that we just don’t like doing) e.g., the finances, business planning/strategy, marketing, selling, record keeping, HR, etc. Getting to that position where you can afford to hire others to do those things while you focus on your strength is one of the biggest challenges of entrepreneurship.
The good news is, you don’t have to figure this out on your own. This is where women supporting other women comes in. If you are a woman planning to start a business, wanting to grow your business, or feeling you need to make some changes in your business, here are some tips for moving forward.
Start your own personal Board of Directors. Gather a small group of other women entrepreneurs who will commit to meeting on a regular basis to share ideas, discuss strategy, give feedback (and yes, hold each other accountable!) Need help getting started? My personal Board and I have a “how to” book coming out soon: The AdviseHERy Board. We’ll announce publication on Facebook (like PeopleThink to be in the know!)
Find a mentor. Think about someone you know through your personal or professional network who is farther along in their business, and whom you admire. Invite them to coffee to seek their advice on a particular topic and to explore whether a mentoring relationship would be a mutual fit.
Leverage available resources. The Small Business Administration has lots of information and tutorials about starting a business and also offers business loans. Also, SCORE, a nonprofit organization that offers workshops and business advice for entrepreneurs, has chapters all over the country.
Join a women’s entrepreneurial group. Network with other women entrepreneurs, in groups like SheEO World, Watermark, Astra - Women’s Business Alliance, and NAWBO. Also, check your local Chamber of Commerce to see whether they have a women’s networking group.
Stay focused and ignore the naysayers! Yes, there are a variety of challenges in starting and running your own business, and…the rewards are so worth it! Just. Keep. Going.
And remember as you navigate the entrepreneurial landscape to turn around and help the women coming behind you. Women supporting women. Just as it oughta be.
“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.” – Maya Angelou
Till next time,