When I was 25 years old, I was laid off from my job in retail. I had a car payment, a house payment, credit card debt, and no idea of how I was going to pay my bills.
I remember feeling so overwhelmed.
Fast forward to now, and I realize the lessons I learned in those trying times way back then still hold true today:
That said, managing your career can be challenging. Sometimes it can seem that career growth and development is a job in and of itself. I’m here to tell you that it can be done, even when there are a million other things going on — like a pandemic or having a baby or getting married or whatever else life is throwing at you.
But first, you need to recognize that there are things within your control and things that aren’t. For example, you control how you show up to work, your performance, the health of your network and connections, how you manage your team, and the relationship you have with your boss. You can’t control other people, stock prices, the government, etc.
The first step starts with you. Believe in yourself, because you can achieve your goals. Get focused on what you want to achieve in your career, and then take action.
In January 2020, I was about to have my third child. I prepared my team for my five-month maternity leave from work, which was the second five-month leave I’d taken in three years. I’d been in my role as Director of Marketing for just over three years and knew I was ready to continue my career growth. So, before I went out on maternity leave, I had a career development discussion with my boss.
I shared my career goals, areas of business that I was interested in expanding into, scope I thought I could handle, my passions, and my willingness to learn. (Note: I have no formal marketing education. I’m 100% self-taught.) I told her that even though I was going out on maternity leave, she could rest assured that my team was ready and prepared to meet our business objectives. I’d left them with plans and paths to achieve our goals. They were prepared. I also told her that I’d be back in May and that I’d want to resume the career advancement conversation. This conversation set the stage for what was to come.
One year later, in December of 2020, I took on a new role with a new team and a new scope of work — and I got a promotion!
Once you’ve taken ownership of your advancement and are in the right mindset, find a mentor… or two! Mentors are people you can count on to help you navigate your career. They’re the people whom you can call to vent or bounce ideas off of, ask advice on navigating difficult decisions, and ask for coaching on how to handle situations you haven’t had to deal with previously. A mentor relationship provides so much value,
I personally have two mentors: one that I turn to for leadership and career advice; the other one is part of the business I serve. I leverage that relationship to help me navigate the business, understand the mindset of my customers, and bounce strategies and executions off of.
Another lesson I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Each and every job I’ve gotten has been because of a relationship and referral, versus on my credentials alone. I’m not saying you don’t need to be qualified to get a job, but I am saying that your network can play a huge role in getting the interview or even knowing a job is available. You need to build your professional network. Talk to people, meet them for coffee (virtually), and share your story, goals and aspirations. You never know where that conversation might lead.
My cousin reached out recently because she’s interested in career growth and wanted advice on how to navigate advancement. Within a week, an agency partner of mine had a job opening, and I forwarded her resume. That role didn’t end up working out, but just yesterday my agency partner reached out because someone in his network had asked him if he knew of anyone for a marketing role (that happened to fit her skill set perfectly!). Now she’s interviewing with that company. That’s exactly how networking can lead to opportunities that you never even knew were available.
If you know you want to move up the corporate ladder or have continued career growth, but just aren’t sure you have what it takes, I have three books I’d recommend for you:
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes – In this book, you’ll find inspiration to say yes to challenging opportunities and believe in yourself.
You are a Badass by Jen Sincero – In this book, you’ll learn how to connect with a Higher Power, live at a higher frequency, and manifest your success.
The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni – In this book, you’ll find wisdom on how to be humble, hungry and smart; and how to spot those qualities in others.
Lastly, you’ll never know what you can achieve unless you try. It’s okay to fail, because when we fail, we learn. So get out there, take control, and work hard toward the career goals you envision for yourself.
Courtney Hennessey is a wife and mom of three girls under three; lover of God, Crossfit, and wine; and a Senior Director of Marketing at Ally. You can connect with her on Instagram at @mamahenncrew.
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