Why you need a Professional Champion

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This is going to be quite a statement coming from me, but I’m starting to see that mentors may not be the biggest factor is helping your career advance...

As you build your goals for 2018, consider adding a CHAMPION to your list of professional goals rather than a mentor. Here’s why:

Mentors have long been considered (for good reason) as someone to lean on for young professionals who are looking for timeless/priceless advice on how to rise above challenges and get ahead in their career. The benefits of having one are plentiful - they provide you with a place to vent, to validate, and to begin moving towards your solution. What mentors DON’T do, however, could be holding you back a LOT in your job.

Since mentors are not always in our current organization or field, it can be hard to use that mentor beyond getting their advice. Even with organizations establishing formal programs, mentors may still view their role as providing guidance, not necessarily going above and beyond like a champion can.

So who are professional champions? They are the advocates and supporters you need who can really make a difference in your long term career progression. Champions support you, defend you, and advocate for you, both behind closed doors and in different, more senior circles. This can seem like a daunting difference at first, but you’d be surprised to know you probably have sponsors at your job right now. The question for you is, how do you build on this relationship?

To understand how these relationships work, it’s important to understand how they form. Champion relationships start differently than mentors - that’s because you earn the relationship rather than receive it. Champions are in the trenches with you. Sometimes they’re your immediate boss, but often they’re director level and above people who personally saw you kick butt on a project. They know they can rely on you, they want you to be on their team whenever possible, and they know they can use you as a sounding board. To be a trusted advisee to a champion is an honor - the relationship will extend way beyond the end of the performance year, and can even continue for years after you’ve worked together!

I had a sponsor in one job that was incredibly helpful - someone I trusted, and who trusted me to help with a variety of highly sensitive projects. I valued that relationship greatly, and because she also valued my work, others constantly approached me for more projects and opportunities. I was treated with MORE respect because she was on my side. She even supported a year end bonus (when no one else thought there would be money in the budget, but oh look at that!). The relationship continues long after the job ended. It took some hard work to make it happen. I worked side by side with her during late nights putting together events and briefings. I went out of my way to be on call if we needed it, and I made sure that when she needed me to look at something for her, I took the time and did it right. She grew to trust my work so much so that she wouldn’t even check it after I gave it to her. In the end, it was totally worth it for me to go out of my way!

If you’re thinking about a new role in the same company OR a promotion in your current department, really think about finding a champion for yourself. Many women look to mentors for advice on HOW to succeed by themselves, but champions can be super helpful for building political support for you in the office, getting you the projects you want, and supporting the salary you deserve.

So here’s your CHALLENGE: Think of a senior staff member you’ve collaborated with and done great work with. Think of how you can continue or even BUILD a stronger working relationship with them. Is there something you can do to show off your know-how and expertise to really help them land a proposal, meet a deadline, or nail a project deliverable?

OFFER them help, even if you aren’t sure how that may play out - it could be something as small as helping them brainstorm a new strategy, or as big as planning a large event. Show them how well you perform and help them look good. If your intuition is right, this person will become a champion without you even having to ASK.

With a champion in your corner, not only will you have an advocate to support your career growth, but you’ll have the confidence you need to perform your best for the company and really build your skills in an area that you’re passionate about.

To your career success,

Lea

Boosting your career with self love

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It may seem like an unlikely pairing, but when you are looking for consistent results, high performance, and maximum impact both at work and at home, you may want to hit pause on the motivation movies and and quotes...

Instead of swiping through Instagram, turn to your own routine. How well you take care of yourself correlates directly to your career performance in a number of unique ways.

When you feel your best, is it when you've had zero sleep? You probably feel better when you're well rested and rejuvenated.

There's a reason people who, after coming back from vacation, are likely to give creative and insightful comments and feedback. 

Here are my top reasons for focusing on self care when you need a long term career performance boost:

1. Perspective: Time for yourself connects you back to your root, grounds you in what happens in the world outside of your work. The world is big, super big, and although our own personal worlds can feel small when you go from day to day, a change of scenery and broadening your scope is important. This allows you to take off your blinders and see new patterns, perspectives and connections that you wouldn't usually see. This connection of patterns translates well into any business environment. You can bring a real world example or perspective that answers the question "how does this impact the person we are trying to help?" Answering this question with authenticity makes a big difference not only in the lives of other people, but your career potential as well!

2. Prioritization: You may think all job performance means self sacrifice, but with each promotion and passing year, responsibilities add up. New challenges will continue to demand your attention, and force you to juggle with your own life. Self care and taking time to repeat the activities that really make you feel good can also help you gain a key management skill- prioritization! Think of it this way, if your boss gives you two weeks to finish a project, you'll map out a plan to complete the project and fill the days with activities to help you achieve the goal by the 2 week deadline. If your boss gave you the same project and said I need this is one week, well you're going to have to identify what needs to happen when and what may not be included in the final product due to time constraints. The point is, the more time you dedicate to small filler activities, the less time you have to devote to activities that really set you up for promotion and/or the position you're really eyeing. Self care is an active practice of prioritization. Every time you do it, you receive the benefit, and by doing so you can effectively discern activities and projects at work that will set you up for success at your performance review!

So what's the harm with total self sacrifice for your work? Well, depends on who you ask. For some people, they feel fueled soulfully by performing their work. Creatives find their happiness in their art, project managers lose track of time solving problems, and research associates get sucked into interesting articles or books on their topic. There's no "total perfect balance" to help you achieve the self care you need with total high work performance. We all have activities that enrich us, and by focusing on them you'll have a ten times greater chance of working smart rather than just working hard. So the next time you're letting excuses win you over, think about your next pay increase or job change. That will get you up and out of your seat in no time!

To your career and care,

Lea

Quick Tips to up your networking game ASAP

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If you’re job searching or business building, you’ll find yourself at a lot of networking events this Fall. Just about every group I participate in LOVES hosting events where guests have a chance to mingle and meet each other. Whether you’re new to town or looking to improve your skills, networking can feel tedious at times, and even exhausting. If you’re looking for a reason to brace the cold, perhaps it’s time to sharpen your skills to get the most out of that time. With your calendar fast piling up this fall, it’s a GREAT time to remind yourself of the quick tips to help you network like a Pro and get the right connections you need.

Here are my top tips for upping your networking game ASAP:

1. Make sure you define what success looks like before you head into the event.

If you need to meet at least two new prospects or connect with someone who knows someone at a particular organization, know that ahead of time. By knowing what your goal is, you’re much more likely to walk in with a plan, and have a more focused (not narrow) conversation with the person you meet. This isn’t to say the whole conversation should be focused on your goal - but in case you find yourself forgetting what to bring up or what brought you to the event - make sure you come prepared!

2. If you’re walking into a room cold, meaning you don’t know a soul in the room, you’re doing it wrong.

Look up the attendees or ask the host for a list of attendees ahead of time. You’ll have a much easier time thinking of what to say and to who before you get there.

3. Walking into a room and moving from group to group can seem daunting but it doesn’t need to be.

When you walk in, take note of the room, where the bar/food is, other tables, and take note of how the crowd is dispersed. If you’re a fan of talking to groups, focus on where those groups are, or if you prefer one on one conversation position yourself accordingly. When the conversation ends, know where to head next, even if that means the bar or the bathroom!

4. The biggest failure point for people is following up.

Pro-tip to try at your next event: Tell the person you want to genuinely connect with how and when you plan to follow up by. By directing the follow up and action you are essentially committing yourself to the follow up - and much more likely to remember it. Use that momentum and follow up with them exactly as planned to remain reliable and courteous of your time and energy.

Share your experiences in the comments below!

xxLea

The two words you need to banish at work

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This week’s post hits VERY close to home. I come across people who overuse this phrase time and time again. It used to irk me every time I heard it, then I started to hear my clients say this to me, and I would make it a point to coach them through this habit to help them see how this one small phrase is getting in their way at work....

"I'm late, I'm sorry!"

“That shouldn’t have happened, I’m sorry!”

“That’s all my fault, I’m sorry for that”

In the workplace, there are everyday occurrences that can spur the line, “I’m sorry”. What you may not realize, is that by using that phrase, you’ve given your boss and coworkers reason to look down on you. It may seem hard to believe, saying I’m sorry is undermining your credibility and your confidence.

There are two types of work situations where you may find yourself saying (or wanting to say) I’m sorry.

1.     When it isn’t really your fault – Say the metro was delayed, your dog ate your powerpoint slides, or maybe you woke up with the biggest migraine this side of town – all of these things are part of LIFE, and not a reflection of your ignorance. For times when life just seems to throw coffee on your white shirt, or a giant puddle before you even step off your curb, this is called life, and it isn’t something you brought upon yourself!

2.     When you dropped the ball – If you work on a team, there are going to be times when you are passed a task to complete, and somehow someway you forgot one small detail and the project got delayed. Although you are the one who missed the step, remember that you’re also learning, and not always fully aware of when you make those slipups. Being extra hard on yourself for forgetting doesn’t change the past (but we will save this for another blog post!)

3.     When it’s a serious issue that you objectively see – serious workplace issues happen, and by saying “I’m sorry” before you explain what you’ve witnessed, you are taking the hot air out of your balloon. There’s nothing to apologize for when it comes to reporting HR related issues at work!

You may be thinking, well if it’s my fault, I SHOULD apologize for what happened. Not necessarily. Rather than think of apologizing for a mix-up or act of God, turn your mind towards the other person. Instead of saying I’m sorry, say “thank you” to them. Thank them for being understanding or covering you when you needed to run inside and change your shirt with the coffee stain, or when you forgot to add the updated text to the bottom of your report.

By shifting yourself to thank you, you’re the team player- you’re showing that even mistakes deserve some wiggle room. If the roles were reversed, you would be the one understanding of the other person’s predicament – and it’s much easier to be understanding when you know the other person appreciates you.

Take the I’m sorry’s and make the decision to leave them out of the workplace, you’ll feel more confident, happy and build a much stronger team in the long run!

xxLea