In a few days, I'll be celebrating my first anniversary at my new job. Marking this significant point on my journey, got me thinking about my experiences in the last year and other significant career milestones.
In this blog post, I will share some of my most memorable career milestones and the lessons I learned along the way. Also, check out my previous post titled "Celebrate your professional achievements" to learn five simple ways you can start celebrating your accomplishments.
We are accustomed to celebrating some typical milestones such as birthdays and landmark anniversaries. In my experience, we do not spend enough time thinking about the crucial points in our careers.
Let me take you on a journey of some of my memorable career milestones:
My first paid part-time job
Although it was over 18 years ago, I can still remember the first twenty euros I made. The excitement of being able to do something I enjoyed, support someone, and get paid was immeasurable. This experience kicked off my career and taught me some many valuable lessons.
Getting my first Internship
Throughout my time at University, I wanted to go into the industry and take a job that let me see how I could use the skills I had learned. And in summer 2009, I had the great opportunity for my first internship at a Bank in Luxembourg. This was my first practical introduction to project management.
Starting first full-time job
I can still remember when I interviewed for jobs after I finished my first degree. And after a few months, I received my first offer for my full-time job as a Project Manager in a Digital Agency. Thinking back, I did not know what I was getting into. I learned a lot of excellent skills in the years that followed.
Getting my first big promotion
Doing great work was a priority for me. After a few years of being a great contributor to the company, I got my first promotion. I now appreciate the fact that back then putting in great work was what got me a promotion. It definitely gets more complicated as you progress in your career.
Moving to work in a new country
When we move to a new country, we typically focus more on settling in from a personal life perspective. I had a unique situation that I started working in the US only two days after I moved here. I remember the first day I walked into my new project assignment in a new country. It marked the start of the most substantial growth I have experienced in my career.
Working on projects with much responsibility
A few years ago, I was asked to lead a Global Project Management Office. Initially, I rejected the offer because I felt I was not ready, and I did not want to travel for work. Thankfully, they offered me the job about two months later, and I took it. This move in my career set me up for the more significant opportunities and took me to places I would never have been if I did not take the leap.
Working at a new company
After working at my last company for almost eights years, I made the transition to a new company. Thinking back to my first day at the new job, I was very excited to be starting a new phase of my career journey. And now, it's been a year already, and I'm in my second role, I am looking forward to seeing where my journey goes next.
Call to Action
Do you know how to tell a compelling story about your Career?
Over the past months, I have been interviewing for a new role at my company. Going through the process, I had the opportunity to tell my Career story to a new set of people I networked or interviewed with. Sharing my story has been something I had struggled with in the past but have been learning to do over the past two years since I launched my blog.
In this post, we will explore the benefits of telling your career story, some aspects you can include to make it a compelling story and five steps to create your own career story today.
Why is it important to have and share your Career story?
What can you include in your Career story?
Some components of a great career story are
How to prepare yourself to tell your story
Step 1: Take stock of your career
Take time to reflect on your career. Think about some of the accomplishments you have had, situations where you overcame challenges, skills you gathered, and your unique selling points. This activity may take a while and feel painful. However, the reward will be worth it.
MC's Tip: Do some research and see how other people tell their career stories.
Step 2: Write it down
Writing down your career story brings it to life. Remember, at this point, it is more important to write down your first thoughts. Your story will be refined and tweaked in the next steps. The best stories are honest and authentic.
MC's Tip: Get your raw thoughts on paper. Don't edit yourself.
Step 3: Gather feedback
As part of the process of perfecting your story, it's crucial to test it by sharing with people around you. Select a few people who know you very well and others who know some of your work to get their feedback.
MC's Tip: Practicing with real people will give you additional data points to make your story better.
Step 4: Share it with everyone
A story gets better as you share it with more people. Be prepared to share your story at any time with people you meet at networking events, interviews, mentors, or sponsors. When people hear a compelling story, they never forget it.
MC's Tip: Take every opportunity you get to share your story.
Step 5: Tweak and update
As you share your story, you will recognize areas that people find exciting and what you can improve. Take the time to evaluate the quality of your story and make it better. Success is when you can convey the aspects of your story that you want to share, and people are resonating with your story.
MC's Tip: Continuously craft and improve your story. It's an ongoing process.
Call to Action
What have been some highlights in your career? Highlight your accomplishments.
What are some unique aspects of your career so far? Highlight your unique selling points.
How often do you make time to reflect on your career?
Navigating our careers and being successful requires action on our part. Reflecting is an easy way for you to gather some insights on what you want to start, continue or stop doing to get to the next career level.
In this post we will reflect on your career so far, start planning for the future and discover a tool to help you build the career you want. This is one of the posts where you would have to take notes to get the most value.
Why is it important to reflect on your career?
The benefits of making time for reflection include:
What aspects of your career have you found most rewarding and why?
Think about your fondest work memories. Reflect on what made those experiences so special and great. Reflect on the work assignments that brought you joy.
What keeps you excited about your field of work?
Reminding yourself of the reason you decided to take the career path you are on, is something you should do more often. It is easy to forget the passion you once had.
What are your career-related fears?
Reflecting on what has been holding you back from making those bold career moves is very important. Especially if you would like to see different results and achieve your career goals, knowing your fears allows you to address them.
How do you prioritize your career growth/development?
The concept of owning your career development is one that I talk about frequently. Making a conscious effort and investing in your career development should be a priority for you. Discover more practical tips in my previous blog post "Own your career development".
Who influenced you in your career?
Surrounding yourself with great peers, mentors and sponsors is essential to build a great career. Think back on the people that have played a small or large role in your career.
What's the best career advice you ever received and how has it changed your career outlook?
Think back on some of the great things you heard along the way that helped in your career. It could come from people, books, trainings or other sources. Write it down and share with others.
What are your greatest professional goals or objectives?
Knowing what you want to achieve in your career will play a huge role in your satisfaction and help you plan for the career future you want. Having a career plan will help you on your journey.
Tools in your Toolkit - Create your Career Journal
To make it easier to reflect on your career moving forward, start writing things down as you go. A few years ago I started writing things down mainly in preparation for conversations with my managers to ensure I did not miss any important details about my work. Recently, I made a slight change and started my weekly career journal. It may sound like as big task, but it is not. I dedicate about an hour every Thursday evening or Friday morning to document what I worked on, my highlights and lowlights from the week. This consistent practice helps me reflect on the week, celebrate my achievements, identify things I want to change and plan for the next week.
I recently transitioned to a new job. At the start of my job search, it was important to me that I had better experiences than in my previous job. At this stage I had a mixed portfolio of achievements and failures. I had learned lessons on what I wanted to do more of and what I did not want to do.
Reflecting on my career provided clarity in the following ways:
Call to Action
What are the three biggest lessons you have learned in your career so far? Learn from your past experiences.
What are you working towards this year? Identify your career goals and plan action.
"Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."- Francis of Assisi
After the long holidays, we are all now back to work. Some of us are having a great time, while others are not happy to wake up and go to work every day. With the amount of time we spend at work, I firmly believe that we need to enjoy work more. Thinking beyond your day to day job and more about finding fulfillment on your career journey will broaden your perspective.
Studies show that about 60% of women like to set career goals for themselves and 74% of women globally in junior or middle manager level positions expressed aspirations of reaching senior or executive leadership ranks within their organization. To get desired results in your career, you need to act.
Career growth should be on your list of goals for 2019. Continuing our thoughts on what we can do for ourselves, let's prioritize growing our careers and taking action. In this blog post, we will explore ways you can ensure you get the results you want at work.
Own your career development
To continuously grow in your career, it is essential to have a career development plan. Think about what you want to achieve in your career in the short, mid and long term. It is a missed opportunity to take the approach of "let's see where my career takes me" or “ I’ll see what my company will do for me.” Take an active approach to discovering where you want to be and working towards it. Learn more practical ways to Own your career development from my previous blog post. Remember that you are responsible for building the great career you desire and that it is possible.
Talk about your work
A great way to show your value and contribution is to make your work visible. Many women I talk to struggle with talking about the great work they are doing and their unique contribution to their company. Practice sharing highlights of what you are working on at any opportunity you get at work. Share some lessons you learned and the great results you have produced. If you aspire to get more recognition for your work, start talking about your accomplishments today. Discover more ways to Celebrate your professional achievements.
Find Mentors and Sponsors
Identifying the people who can serve as advocates and support you with your career development is a great contributor to your career growth. You need a mentor who will give friendly advice, build relationships and help you improve. A sponsor, on the other hand, can support you to get to the next level and help you get ahead. In a previous blog post titled How to find professional Sponsors, I shared some practical tips that can assist you on your quest. An additional piece of advice that I would like to share; seek out mentors and sponsors way before you need them and invest time in building relationships. The more they know about you and your work, the better they can support you.
Build your network
Having a community of people who are working on developing their careers will help you propel your career. Sometimes networking sounds daunting because we think of growing a massive network of people rather than making connections with our peers and industry partners. Great ways to start building your professional network include attending events, conferences, talks, and trainings. Discover more practical tips from my blog post How to build a professional network.
Seek out new opportunities
To find fulfilling work, you may need to look outside your day to day responsibilities for new opportunities. An essential part of women's satisfaction at work comes from doing more meaningful work and having opportunities to make a difference. Seek out work that provides you some satisfaction and growth opportunities. Depending on where you work, this may be a gradual process, be patient and persistent. Explore more tips on How to take Initiative at work from my previous blog post.
Call to Action
Where do you want to go in your career? Write down 3 things you want to achieve at work over the next year and 3 more longer-term career goals. Take a step today.
"Hold up a mirror and ask yourself what you are capable of doing, and what you really care about. Then take the initiative - don't wait for someone else to ask you to act. " - Sylvia Earle
In an in-depth conversation I had recently with a fellow boss lady, we discussed the successes we have experienced as a result of us taking the initiative and seeking out opportunities. We also discussed the need we see daily for more women to be bold and take the initiative. Isn't it interesting that the verb used in relation with Initiative is “taking”? This highlights the need for us to take action.
In this blog post, I want to encourage you to take the initiative with the help of some useful techniques and resources.
What does Initiative mean?
Why do you need to take Initiative?
Why don’t we take Initiative?
To understand this more, I did some research to find the top reasons why people don't take Initiative.
Five ways to start taking the initiative
Make the decision
Be clear on the benefits of taking the initiative in your career development. Decide to start taking the initiative today and take the first step. When you decide to start taking the initiative, good things start unfolding, and opportunities come your way.
Questions to consider:
Seek out development opportunities
Now that you have decided to start taking the initiative, be on the lookout for things you are interested in and care about. Take full responsibility for your development and start identifying ways to make it happen.
Questions to consider:
Work on extra projects
Showing that you can take the initiative and work on projects that may be outside of your daily responsibilities has many benefits. If you are looking for a way to gain visibility and set yourself apart, working on a side project is a great way. Use every opportunity you get to show your value.
Questions to consider:
Stay informed and current
Connect yourself to people who know what happens within the company. They will provide you with insight into the events that you can benefit from. Staying informed and aware is a crucial part of taking Initiative.
Questions to consider:
Surround yourself with other "Initiative Takers."
The best way to cultivate a habit of taking Initiative is by surrounding yourself with others who believe in the power of taking initiatives. You can inspire and get inspiration from this group of people.
Questions to consider:
Let's wrap up this post with some great quotes about taking the initiative
In job interviews, you are often asked: "what motivates you." Interestingly this question is only asked before you start a job. However, it is a valuable question you should repeatedly ask yourself as you get deeper into your job responsibilities. This topic is very close to my heart because I see many people around me who don't feel motivated at work. With all the time we spend at work, it is essential to enjoy it.
The primary objective of this post is to encourage you to be in the driver's seat when it comes to your motivation at work. Often motivation is talked about as if we have to depend on others to motivate us. Earlier in my career, I tied my motivation to things my managers or team did. It became exhausting as I was often disappointed and in turn easily demotivated. Once I decided to make a change and start being self-motivated, I found more happiness at work.
Why do you need to be motivated?
There are many benefits of being motivated at work that you want to tap into:
How to stay motivated at work
Let's explore five ways to take control of staying motivated at work
#1: Do work that you enjoy
The concept of being able to enjoy the work that you do is one I have been pondering on lately. Does it mean that you have to enjoy every task you do? The answer that gives me peace is, no you don't have to enjoy every single aspect of your job. The key is to identify the one thing you like doing at work and do it well. Although you might have to do things you don't like, now you have something that makes you smile.
#2: Build a peer motivation community
Camaraderie and peer motivation are significant factors for employee motivation. Build your support group of co-workers and other colleagues that help one another stay motivated. I encourage you to surround yourself mostly with co-workers who are positive and motivated. You will begin to see great results in your attitude and motivation at work.
#3: Own your professional development
One of the reasons we feel stuck is that we fail to plan our careers. An excellent way to avoid getting to that point is to have a professional development plan. Ensure you set goals and work towards them. Working towards your career goals will not only help you grow professional it will also help you stay motivated.
#4: Check your motivation gauge regularly
Be aware of the circumstances that affect your motivation negatively. Make it a priority to check in with yourself and adjust accordingly. Personally, checking in on how I'm doing at least once a month helps me. I notice that if I let too much time pass without checking in, I miss key signals that highlight the need to make a change.
#5: Stay connected to your professional network
Some great ways to get instant motivation at work include keeping your skills current, being mentored, reading industry journals as well as attending events and conferences. Staying connected to other professionals outside your day to day team provides you with a needed fresh perspective. I've found inspiration from my professional network. Keeping your inner fire burning is crucial!
Here are the Top 10 lessons I have learned about staying motivated at work
What is your career development plan?
In recent conversations, I heard women say that they expect their managers or companies to drive and invest in their career development. Early on in my career, I realized that it was my responsibility to ensure that I was advancing, growing and learning. I seized the opportunity and started creating my career development plan. Reflecting on where I am today and how my career has evolved and changed over time, I value my decision to own my development. I encourage you today to take charge and enjoy all the benefits of being in the driver's seat of your career development.
In this post, we will define career development, debunk three common myths and explore five ways you can start owning your growth today. For further reading and in the context of this post, career development and professional development are used interchangeably.
What is career development?
What are some benefits of planning your Career development?
Taking a more active approach to your career development has the following benefits:
Three common myths about career development
Myth 1: My company will help me develop my career
The expectation that your company will set you up for success in your career might lead to disappointment. If your company provides development opportunities, be sure to take advantage. However, if they don't, seek out opportunities to make it happen for yourself. Be ready to invest in your development.
Myth 2: My manager is responsible for my career development
Owning your career development planning is key. Your manager can support you in implementing your plan. However, it is your responsibility to take charge of the implementation of your plan and shaping your career.
Myth 3: Career growth will come naturally
All good things demand some effort and work. You need to take an active role in your career development to get the career you desire. Don't leave your career growth to chance or circumstances. Your steering and managing are required to have the great career you want.
How to own your Career development
Let's explore five simple steps to own and shape your career development.
Set your career goals
Where are you now in your career? Where do you want to be in one year, three years, five years? You should have clear answers to these questions. However, if you don't have the answers, that's perfectly fine. Start thinking about your career goals today and write them down. Think freely, don't limit yourself, think of all the great things you can achieve in your career. This activity will help give you clarity and a sense of purpose for your career.
MC's Tip: Be as specific as possible. For example: By January 2019, I want to transition into a new role as a Product Manager in my current company.
Create your career development plan
What do you need to do to achieve your goals? If you want to succeed, you need to have a plan. Take a more in-depth look at what activities are necessary to achieve your goals. Remember to set due dates for the activities. Also, make it a priority to revisit your development plan regularly and keep your plan current to where you are in your career.
MC's Tip: Break down the tasks you need to do to achieve your goal. For example: To become a Product Manager, I need to gather more information about the role, inform my manager, get product management training and search for open positions.
Take steps to get where you want
Now that your goals are clear, and you have a plan, it is time to take the first step towards the career you want. Making progress towards your goals is the best motivation on your journey. We achieve our career development goals by taking ownership and taking a step. Remember to track your achievements and progress.
MC's Tip: Do something today. For example: Contact someone working in the role you want and invite them to have a cup of coffee.
Expand your support system
Having access to people with experience, insight, and information will help you get ahead in your career. Be sure to invest time in building a network that propels your career growth. A great support system should consist of a mix of mentors, sponsors, colleagues, champions, and partners. The people that form your support system can serve as accountability partners, share knowledge, celebrate you, give you advice and feedback. The crucial role of your professional network in your career growth can't be stressed enough.
MC's Tip: Find people who have experience in the areas you are interested in. For example: Join a professional network of Product Managers and start taking in knowledge of the community.
Build your professional portfolio
Your portfolio is an organized collection of relevant documents and artifacts that showcase your talents, most relevant skills, and charts your professional growth. (Source: Developing a Professional Portfolio). Spend time building your professional portfolio that has information about you and your professional journey. As you progress in your career, show and share your achievements and your experience that showcase your professional identity.
MC's Tip: Your portfolio should contain proof that you have put in the work to get where you are. For example: Add relevant knowledge, experience, and successes that will make you a great Product Manager. Let your portfolio speak for you.
When was the last time you celebrated your achievements?
Today, we are going to make time to celebrate your achievements. Every time I watch award shows I look forward to the lifetime achievement awards category. They typically dedicate some time to look back at what the person has achieved and highlight some results. Until it's your time to be honored on a major stage, start celebrating yourself on your stage. You might feel like you haven't achieved a lot - I beg to disagree. We achieve small, medium and big things every single day and don't even recognize them. When you start acknowledging your achievements, your perspective on your experience changes.
In this post, we will discuss some practical tips as well as the benefits of tracking and celebrating your achievements. Generally, achievements and accomplishments are used interchangeably in this post. Also, I would like to share the great research done on this topic see the "Great Resources" section at the end of this post.
What are achievements/accomplishments?
My favorite dictionary definitions are:
What are the benefits of tracking your achievements?
With the help of your achievement log you can:
How to celebrate your achievements
Let's explore five simple ways you can start celebrating your accomplishments today.
Create your achievement log
As with every great thing we do, we want to be able to refer to it. Make it a practice to write down your achievements. Document the situation, your contribution and the results. Being able to review your achievements and share them provides you with a boost and motivation to do more. Some great places to share your achievements log include your CV/Resume, LinkedIn profile, and all relevant platforms. Also, include quotes from the positive feedback you received from your clients, colleagues or boss. Valuing your achievements coupled with having trusted people confirm them is huge.
Know your achievements and talk about them
Especially in your professional life, there are key events when you are asked about your successes and contributions. You want to have them readily available to share. Your achievement log will serve this purpose and help you prepare for yearly performance review, an interview, a request for a pay raise, promotion request or introduction to a new project team. Now when someone asks you what your most significant achievement is, you have a quick place to look, and you can confidently share.
Track metrics and results
As you make progress every day, you want to make sure you capture metrics as well as the positive results you have contributed to. For some reason, people respond very well to achievements that are quantified and have positive results. Read about your industry standards on metrics that matter and track them. With the help of relevant metrics, it's easy to measure your progress and track accomplishments.
Review your achievements regularly
Are you looking for a boost or motivation? Reviewing your achievements will give you a confidence boost. Set aside time at the end of every week and month, to review your accomplishments and highlight the results that stand out. Your log should be a living document. Remember to add new achievements and update old ones with relevant information.
Celebrate milestones along the way
The end goal is important, however achieving critical milestones on your way is even more significant. Celebrate the small milestones as well. Especially when the results are not visible for a long time, it is important to celebrate small achievements along the way. The fact that you are still on your journey is a significant accomplishment. For example, completing a module on your way to your masters is an accomplishment. It might look small to you, but you are one step closer. You did it!
Do you have a professional network?
Your network is a valuable asset on your professional journey. To rise to the next level professionally, you need to connect to a community of professionals. Especially if you live in a new country, you probably lack the network that locals might have. The good news is that you can build a professional network at any phase of your journey.
Are you jaded from hearing about networking and building networks? There is a way to make it work for you. In this post, I will share my experience and eight strategies I have applied to develop my professional network.
Although my career started in Germany, I didn't learn the value of building a professional network until I moved to the US. When I moved here, I had no connections, the business culture was very different, and I didn't have any professional references. I quickly realized that I needed to prioritize building my network to grow professionally. I identified the first steps and started building my network. Some of the activities that have helped me so far include attending events at least once monthly, growing my LinkedIn connections, taking classes and volunteering. My network has provided great benefits such as vast industry knowledge, referrals to new opportunities, mentoring and sponsorship. Till today, I am still building my professional network.
Why should you have a network?
There are many benefits of a professional network, such as:
How to grow your network
Let’s discover practical strategies you can apply to build your professional network.
Define your objectives for your network
When you are building your network, it is essential to be clear on what you want to get out of it. Do you want access to a forum to discuss industry trends, opportunities for personal growth or more? With a clear objective, you will be able to build a network that provides you with what you need. For example: if are you looking to get a new job you should prioritize connecting with people who work at your desired companies. Also, as your objectives change over time, make sure you re-evaluate your needs at every phase of your journey.
MC's Tip: Your network can provide you more than your next Job. Look for other benefits you can derive from your network.
Prioritize your offline network
In a world where we communicate mainly online, we tend to neglect our in-person network. It is vital to develop and value your offline network as well. 1 in four people don't network at all (Source: [Infographic] – 6 Statistics On Networking And Steps For Future Success). Make sure you are building in-person connections. Relationships that begin offline tend to be more successful than purely online relationships.
MC's Tip: When you meet people, remember to make a great first impression.
Develop your online network
As a professional woman, you should actively grow your professional networks platforms that are relevant in your line of business. Personally, LinkedIn has been the platform I have invested in developing over the past three years. Statistics show that 51% of people don't have LinkedIn profiles - the number is higher with female professionals (Source: [Infographic] – 6 Statistics On Networking And Steps For Future Success). If you don't have an up to date profile on a professional network, start building one. I was extremely proud to see an eighteen-year-old lady in my network on LinkedIn.
MC's Tip: Don't shy away from sending invitations to people you don't know. Add a personal note if possible. Remember it's about growing your network. Also, ask people you trust to make introductions. I learned that when I reached out and asked people in my network if they knew anyone in a particular field, they were willing to share and connect me with people they knew.
Prepare your professional portfolio
When you communicate with your network, you want to ensure that you have your portfolio ready. You should be able to express who you are professionally and what your goals are. In my blog post Building your professional portfolio, you can find some personal insights on how to build your professional portfolio.
MC's Tip: Depending on the norms in your Industry equip yourself with the professional tools. Always have your business card, project portfolio, website, LinkedIn profile ready to share.
Contribute to your network
It has been proven that we get more value from our network when we give. If you only take from your network, you will lose the impact of your network. Don't you get tired of people who reach out to you to ask for a recommendation or favor but who haven't given back to you or other people in your network? We don't want to be those people.
MC's Tip: Think of what you can give not only want you can receive. We all have something to offer our network. For example, you might be able to provide industry knowledge.
Attend networking events
Find events around topics you are interested in and attend them. At a lot of the invents I attend I see a deficiency of women and even less women of color. Let's get out there, learn and make the connections. Personally, I commit to attend at least one event every month round a topic that inspires me. In my post How to get the most value from Events, I shared practical activities that will help you benefit from the networking events you attend.
MC's Tip: Make time to attend events. Even when you are busy, you want to ensure you are still making time to network.
Volunteer at organizations
Think about giving your time for a cause you support and getting something in return. If there are professional networks in your industry, make it a point to join them. One of the first steps I took when I moved to the US was to join my local Project Management Institute volunteer management team. Volunteering helped me to extend my network and meet a lot of great project managers.
MC's Tip: Volunteering is a fun and committed way to grow your network and give back. Join an organization and start volunteering.
Maintain your connections
Last but not the least, as with every relationship you need to maintain your network. A few months ago LinkedIn added a feature that reminds you to connect with someone you haven't interacted with in a few years. Why wait to be reminded? Start reconnecting with people in your network. I recently started reconnecting with people I haven't connected with in a while on a weekly basis. It's been a great way to revive dead connections.
MC's Tip: Reconnecting with people in your network will keep your network alive. Reach out to selected people in your network on a monthly basis.