Earlier this year, I got a new job.
I always put my money where my mouth is when it comes to applying and interviewing for jobs so that I can give the best career advice that I can to my clients.
As Resume Revivalist, I want you to trust that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to your job search. So, I put myself out there in the job search world all the time. I’m a glutton for punishment.
My husband tells me that job searching is my sport. I love to get better at it myself so that I am a great coach for my clients.
It’s a hot mess out there in the world of hiring, so I put myself through the gauntlet to prep you for what’s to come in your own search.
So, this year I got back into the trenches.
I decided to start my search again because I am very clear on what I will and will not tolerate from my 9 to 5.
I consider myself lucky to have gone through some really shitty work experiences because each of those gave me the wisdom to know when things are off, and I need to set myself on a new path.
I also am keenly aware of my worth in the market. As a person who dedicated lots of time and money to my education, I feel I must make the most of my career during the few decades I have to do so.
But leaving my team of direct reports was not.
I hired each person on my former team because they are absolute rockstars in their specialties, and they are just unbelievably great women. The team I built is one of my most proud career accomplishments, so leaving them was tough.
Before I left the company, I had one last team meeting to cover off on projects and processes.
At least, that’s why I thought the meeting was going to be.
Here’s what actually happened…
The meeting started with each person asking the standard questions about how to proceed with business as usual.
- How do we process invoices?
- Who controls the budget?
- What’s the next step with our external agency?
That took us about 10 minutes.
Then, they asked more detailed questions about who to go to for stuff and how to navigate office politics.
- Who do you go to for this type of thing?
- How do you protect your direct reports from getting asked to do things we shouldn’t be doing?
- How do you push back when a superior has a terrible idea?
- Any tips for how to talk to so and so?
Then, the questions got deeper.
My exit from the company opened the door to a safe place where they could get unfiltered advice from me. After all, they’re women too, so they’ve been conditioned to restrain their feelings and not ask the tough questions at work.
As the meeting was coming to a close, one of my direct reports said, “Just one more question. You’re a very successful woman, and you’ve worked at a lot of companies. Aside from this place, do you have any tips or career advice you can share?”
“How much time do you have?” I said.
And then I took a beat to think about what I could tell these four women about what they’re going to experience in the next ten years of their career, without scaring them to death.
Here’s what I said.
You need to specialize.
Get really good at something. Something you love to do that aligns with your natural talents. You’ll never be able to separate your personal life from your professional life no matter what anyone tells you, so make sure you like what you do every day.
You don’t have to love it, but you do have to like it. (Read this post to learn how to specialize.)
Use what you like to do as your guide for what you want to do next.
Go deeper into your specialty and own it. Be the best at something and make it known that you’re the best at it.
These are two very different but very important distinctions. You MUST learn how to toot your own horn.
It can be an uncomfortable thing for you to do, but you have to do it if you want to be known for your specialty.
Make career decisions for yourself.
Do not take a job for a title. Do not take a job for the salary. Do not take a job because you’re desperate to get out of where you are.
All of those reasons will only make you momentarily happy because you think one of those things will make your life or career better. It won’t, trust me. Money and titles come and go.
Take a job because it fits in lockstep with your personality, passion, and what you want to learn next. (Read this post to learn how to make a career change.)
Decide if you want to be a people leader early in your career.
Look, you’ve known since you were a kid if you can lead people. You were either born to be a leader, or you weren’t.
We’re not all built to lead, so if you’re not, get clear on that early in your career. Ask yourself if you want to be an individual contributor with subject matter expertise or if you want to lead people.
If you want to be a leader, you have to have the subject matter expertise first, and then you must lead by caring about other people’s careers to the furthest extent that you can.
If you don’t care about other people’s careers, do us all a favor and stay out of management.
Always look for a boss, not a job.
When you do look for your next job, make sure you’re laser-focused on finding a boss you click with.
Besides your family and friends, the next most important relationship you have is the one with your boss. If anything feels off with the chemistry between you and the hiring manager when you’re interviewing, don’t take the job. That little thing will eventually become a big thing, and you’ll be looking for a new job again.
Listen to your gut.
Remember that it’s still a man’s world.
You’re a woman, and because of that, your career path will be different and more challenging than your male counterparts. It just is.
You do not have the inherent advantage in the professional world that men do. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Accept it and make the best of it.
Your responsibility as a professional woman is to seek out and build up other professional women. Do not let individual jealousy, envy, or bitchiness take over your rational thinking and decision making.
Keep your eye on the prize of equality for women in the workplace. You win when she wins.
Figure out what it is that you want and put your all into getting it.
Apply for leadership positions if you want to.
Be a boss and a mom if you want to.
Be an individual contributor and a cat lady if you want to.
Start your own business if you want to.
Stay at home with your kids if you want to.
Be a role model for other women (that’s not optional).
Because you’re a woman, you were born with finely-tuned intuition. Use it to guide your decisions. Always.
Check-in with me from time to time.
Remember that no matter what, I am here for you, and my door is always open.
If you need a reference, an ear, a second opinion, whatever, do not hesitate to reach out to me. I hired you because I care about your career, and that isn’t limited to just the time that we’ve spent working together here.
I will be cheering you on from the sidelines, and I can’t wait to see where life takes each of you.