I was honored to present the keynote session at last week’s Women’s Forum for the ISACA Chicago Chapter. Here I share a few salient points from the daylong event that will resonate for women (and men) focusing on designing their professional lives so they don’t happen by default.
Manage up. Don’t assume your boss knows what a rock star you are at work. Your boss is busy doing his or her own job. Unless you are causing a problem, your boss may not notice all the great work you are doing the other 11 months of the year beyond your annual performance review. Send your boss a brief monthly email with a punch list of what you accomplished and your stretch goals. It’s a great way to keep your boss informed regularly about your ROI. If you supervise others, be sure to teach them how to manage up to you!
Be a thought leader. The core of your brand is articulating what you do really well - and what you love in your job. The sweet spot is what you do incredibly well that your company really needs. You must then position yourself as a thought leader and act like a publicist to get the word out about your expertise. Use social media, present at conferences in your industry, take media interviews as an expert in your field and become known as an influencer in your career field. Be searchable online with content you want others to find and become known as the go-to guru for something unique in your skill set.
Know how to communicate with your boss. Figure out your boss’s work and communication style, and deliver your message accordingly. For example, does your boss respond better to verbal or written communication? Does he/she need specific details or a big picture overview? Is she/he a planner or more spontaneous in implementing tasks?
Most conflicts in the workplace come from differences in personality, communication and work styles. Understanding how your boss operates may alleviate some of your stress and give you and your boss better clarity of expectations. So, watch, listen and ask others who have institutional history to share their strategies for dealing with your boss.
Good enough to go. Savvy professionals have embraced the good enough to go maxim that was birthed in the Design Thinking paradigm of tech start-ups. Workaholics often get stuck in the perfectionism paradox and never let go of a project because they believe it can always be better.
High achievers believe that “80% can mean done” when it moves the needle closer to the end goal. Tweaking and improvements can happen in the iteration and test drive phases of a project. If the work product never sees the light of day because of workaholics who practice perfectionism – you might as well have not done the work at all.
Showcase your purple cow. Global branding guru Seth Godin talks about the necessity of being remarkable in his book, “Purple Cow.” The concept argues that the only way to cut through the clutter of a crowded market is to innovate something new, unique and remarkable – like a purple cow.
Marketing is not just for products or companies. Individuals need to consider how they are seen and heard in the career space and control the message they are sending out into the world. What makes you stand out amongst a crowd of perfectly competent professionals? Knowing your super powers and showcasing them in the career world will make you indispensable and highly recruitable.
You have much more control of your life and career if you take ownership of the design process. This follows suit with ISACA’s SheLeadsTech philosophy of: Engage, Empower, Elevate. Design your career and life destiny so it doesn’t happen by default.
Author’s note: Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered," now in the second edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show: Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life on iTunes and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.