Dear Readers, I apologize. I have stayed away from you for far too long. But I promise, my thoughts have been with you the entire time. I hope that you can forgive me for my lengthy vacation from writing.
The truth is, I have not had a vacation at all. For the past several months I have been stressing, prepping, interviewing for, stressing some more, and trying to wrap my head around a new job. Yes, dear readers, I am now a manager. The process was painful, competitive, and uncomfortable. But I did it. And then the real challenge began.
Management is hard, y’all. Imagine your work problems multiplied by 10 and the amount of recognition you receive divided by 10, and you should have a pretty good picture of what it’s like. But the truth is, I love it. I’ve been blessed to stay within an organization I love, while helping to grow a team of extremely talented individuals. It kind of rocks.
Considering that work pretty much rules my life at this point, I want to share my top tips for success. Full disclosure: there are many people that are much more successful than I am that could give you advice on how to succeed with a capital “S.” Having said that, I did manage to climb my way up from the lowest entry level position to management in under 8 years. That’s a little impressive… just sayin’. So here are my top tips for career success.
1) Give Yourself the Freedom to Fail……and Then WORK.
Look, I work with (and manage) people that are 10x smarter and more hard-working than I am. There are so many things that I don’t know how to do. But you know how you learn? Experience. And you know how you get experience? You try something that terrifies you and fail miserably at it. The next time, you know a little bit more and fail a little less miserably. Eventually, you’re the expert and people turn to you for advice. THAT’S being a #BOSS.
2) Say “Yes.”
In any job, there are tasks that most people would rather not do. These are the jobs that are lackluster, low-visibility, difficult, and generally unsatisfying. There are people that need favors. No one wants these jobs. But you know what people (particularly upper management) do want? Someone that is willing to take one for the team and do what needs to be done. All of those little extra things that you do add up. I didn’t receive a huge bonus or overnight success for all those times that I trained a new hire, listened to someone’s problems, or helped someone that couldn’t help my career. But you know what I did get? A broad network of people that remember me as someone that helped them and a shitload of things to talk about in my interview for management. Face it: people remember how you treated them, and customer service is a huge part of any position. If you’re not helping your customers, you’re irrelevent.
3) Find Mentors That Matter…..to YOU
Here’s a little secret: I’m not interested in playing “the game.” I want to be successful enough to keep my family comfortable. I want to do high quality work. I want to learn and grow and make an impact. I do not want to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I don’t want to sell my soul for the almighty dollar. I’d rather keep a little bit of myself despite career success.
This is why it is so important to me to find mentors that speak to me. If you want to climb the career ladder as fast as humanly possible, you probably want to seek out the highest level executive you can find and ride their coattails as far as you can. As for me, I found Sharon.
Sharon was my first formal mentor, and has since become a very dear friend. She is the first person that I met who found corporate success without becoming “corporate” herself. She knew her shit, rocked her customers’ worlds, inspired her employees (including me), and did it all with purple streaks in her hair. She was the first person that made me believe that I could make an impact and be successful at the same time. If I’m being honest, she was the first person to inspire me to believe in myself.
You see, before Sharon, I was always the weirdo. My entire life, people pointed out the ways that I was different from the crowd. My team always joked about how I was the only one to go against the grain. It took someone that I admired to help me see that this was a strength rather than a weakness. Because in a corporate setting, it’s easy to forget that being different isn’t the same thing as being wrong. So if you’re a weirdo, don’t lose heart. There isn’t one single formula for a good mentor. Find someone that respects the gifts that you naturally bring to the table. Find someone that inspires you. Everyone has something to offer…the trick is to find the people that speak to your soul. And for heaven’s sake….don’t forget to pay it forward!