When I was in college, my days started before my feet hit the floor… or so my roommate said. I was that morning person who couldn’t wait to get going, even on the weekends. Later, well into my career, I was a good fit for a global company that had employees covering all time zones and a culture that was 24/7: always available, always “on.” When I started a family, this became harder, and I found I struggled to recover at that pace. Now, as an entrepreneur running a global business, who has grown children and young grandchildren, the pace still becomes unsustainable at times. This is especially true now, as each of our days has become a blend of home and work life in this global pandemic. Maybe you feel something similar today or have felt like this through the various stages of your life.
Jan aspired to be the COO. It wasn’t something she had planned on early in her career, but when she got to mid-management, she was put in charge of a major initiative to help fix an operationally deficient business unit. She found she was good at identifying quick wins and quickly making a difference. She began to be recognized for her work and was given more of the same. Her mentor told her she should think about the COO role in her future. She felt honored that he thought of her that way, and the recognition invigorated her to strongly consider that path. Pretty soon, the vision crystallized in her mind, and she began to articulate that, one day, she wanted to be the COO.
This sounds like the beginning of a story with a happy ending. Jan capitalized on recognition, took in the counsel of a mentor, and began to vocalize her aspirations. But there was one thing she didn’t know until it was too late. Jan had the wrong goal. When she became COO, she immediately knew she was in the wrong job. It was not what she anticipated it to be.
You are a top performer and have been for your whole career. Your manager knows it and is a great mentor and coach. But what if your manager leaves the company? How well are you known throughout the rest of the organization?
You may be doing very well with your own work group, perhaps even across your business unit. But what about beyond your day-to-day routines and meetings. How many relationships do you have across the enterprise in other units? In other geographies? In different functions?
If the scouting report on you is “she is a top performer, she always gets things done,” that’s good! But it’s not good enough. What is it about you that is valuable to others?
I recently returned from a week in Nicaragua, my first of many this year. I go to see my daughter and son-in-law twice a year, spaced between their two visits to the US. Visiting the small city of Chinandega, Nicaragua is difficult both logistically and emotionally. The bumpy, 2.5-hour drive from the airport is certainly uncomfortable, and the amount of poverty I’m exposed to is not something I will ever get used to.
“You are responsible for driving your own career.” It’s a refrain we have all heard before, and it may seem obvious, so why do so many people struggle to do this effectively? Often, it is because we don’t know where we want to go. We can’t picture a career path because we can’t picture the destination. What if I told you that you don’t need to know where you want to go?
Your mentors, coaches, and most of all, your sponsors can help you pick a destination.
You just need to be able to articulate your value – your unique gifts – that will help you on the journey. If you can’t describe your own value, how can you expect anyone else to promote you?
In this blog on how to SHINE and earn a sponsor, we emphasize the importance of identifying your unique gifts, articulating them to potential sponsors, and utilizing your sponsors’ broader knowledge of the business to pick the best opportunities for you and your career.
What are you passionate about?
To find out, start with this simple exercise. On a piece of paper, create a left column and a right column. Each evening, on the left side, record your highest energy moment of the day; the point where you felt like you were “on fire.” On the right side, put down the moment that drained your energy; when you felt like you were “off.”