The Keys to Taking Control of Your Own Career

Photo courtesy of Network of Executive Women

The Network of Executive Women (NEW) held its Summit last week in Chicago. It was the first one I’ve attended and while I did come away with ideas for taking control of my own career, the Summit provided plenty of insights for leaders of all stripes.

Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, noted that networking is the No. 1 reason for success in business. And that the most help doesn’t come from those you know the best – they share too much of the same knowledge you do – rather, the best networking is often done with those loose connections. They have knowledge that you (and your close associates) don’t have or are not privy to, and they can often provide the best leads on what it is you’re trying to accomplish because they simply know different things or different people.

Successful Connections

Those connections are what lead to success, noted Colette Carson. Behaviors make or break connections, so always be aware of how you come across, she added. Your ability to speak the truth affects your ability to make (or break) connections.

Carson also stressed that everyone needs to “master the ask.” In order to succeed, you have to ask for what you need. The answer is always no if you don’t ask.

“Get your ask together,” she said.

In addition to asking for what you need to succeed, you also have to bring attention to your successes, noted Sally Helgesen, author of How Women Rise. You can’t expect people to spontaneously notice your contributions without bringing them to their attention yourself. In other words, toot your own horn, because no one is going to toot it for you.

Importance of Long Range Goals

Nely Galan, self-made media mogul, suggested that we have to change our goals from instant gratification to long-range. She suggested we look at where we want to be in 30 years and reverse engineer what we’d have to do in order to get there.

“Set big goals,” she said.

But in order to achieve those big goals, do the little things by setting small goals to meet those big goals. Every year, determine three things you need to accomplish to achieve your big goal. Then, set another three goals for the month, three goals for the week and three goals for the day all geared to helping you achieve the big goal.

Breaking down big goals into smaller “bites” makes them easier to achieve and helps keep you motivated. But above all, Galan said, “Be louder and braver.”

Just Lead

Along with that advice, came Carla Harris’, which was “Just lead, don’t wait to be asked.” Harris, vice chairman of Morgan Stanley, noted that in business there are two types of currency: relationship and performance.

Performance currency can get you noticed, but it also diminishes in value over time as you continue to perform well. It becomes expected and therefore, becomes less notable over time because you’ve already proven yourself to be a good performer. That is why it becomes key to have a sponsor, someone who is willing to spend their own relationship currency in order to get you a raise, a promotion or whatever it is that you want.

Relationship currency, however, is something you develop by building “touches” (and no, not those kind of touches) with people. Saying hi to people in the elevator, asking people about their weekend are all relationship “touches,” and the more of those you build, the more relationship currency you have.

“Your ascension is based on someone’s judgement,” Harris noted, “and judgement is based on relationships.”

For example, when your name is mentioned, you want the person who is hearing it to think, “Kat asks me about my weekend; she’s good people; she’d be perfect for this.”

“We tend to focus on performance currency and ignore the relationship currency,” Harris said.

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