As an employee engagement consultant, career changer, coach and entrepreneur, I’ve had the fortune of seeing a lot in the professional world. The good, the bad and the questionable. In return, those 8 years of experience have given me the gift of being able to help a lot of people in all phases of their career.
I fundamentally believe that you have what it takes to go where you want to go. You may be struggling with the “shoulds" and “coulds” - but when you get past those layers of sediment, underneath it is everything you need to be successful. My job, as a coach, is to help you uncover those gems.
Perhaps that sediment came from a bad interview experience, feedback that stuck with you or a lack of permission to be a certain way in your job. You have big goals and you’re too busy to hold on to that dirt!
Through coaching hundreds of career changers and organizational leaders, there are 3 practices that you need to integrate at all phases of your career to be working at your peak.
Knowing your superpower is knowing your special and unique mix of intrinsic qualities, skills and experiences that make you really good at something. Your superpower is yours, and yours only. It’s what makes you better at doing [fill in the blank] better than anyone else out there. A good way to recognize your superpower is to look at where in your life and work you feel the most alive, fulfilled and capable. It may also be that thing that comes really natural for you.
For one of my clients, this is the ability to get smart on complex topics, really fast. For another, it’s mining data for powerful insights. For me, it’s helping people change behaviors to be more successful navigating their careers.
Knowing your superpower is critical, no matter where you are in your career journey right now. It will guide you to a job aligned with your values, and it will help you build a unique and stand-out personal brand in your organization.
Try This: Take a moment to think about your blend of intrinsic qualities, skills and experiences that make you unique. Let’s look at each of these 3 components:
What are your innate qualities that are the fabric of who you are? These are words your close friends and family would use to describe you. It’s also often the qualities that you don’t consciously think about because they are second nature to you. Your intrinsic qualities are key differentiators; they’re personal and they reflect who you are at the core, so get to know them and get comfortable speaking about them.
What skills have you acquired which make you marketable and talented? This is your area of expertise and should include both hard (e.g., research) and soft (e.g, people management) skills. Look back at jobs, internships and projects that utilized your strongest skills. These are skills that often prompt your colleagues to ask for your help and/or opinion.
Everything you’ve done in your life has a purpose and has shaped who you are. What are the experiences (jobs, projects and roles) that have given you the most value and have made you the professional you are today? Remember, we are looking at the experiences that ladder up to your superpower: what makes you really good at what you do.
Self-promotion is not broadcasting your accomplishments. Your story is, in part, made up of how you lead people, the hard-earned success you have and the relationships you build. Think of it, instead, as being the owner of your brand and story. If you don’t tell your story, no one else will - and don’t you want to own your story? If you’re able to do this successfully, you’re probably also in touch with your superpower.
Very often a client will quietly mention an accomplishment to me - as if it’s just everyday news. Sometimes I have to work a little harder to pull it out. In either scenario, the same thing is happening. Like most people, you may be under-representing or even undervaluing your own work, which is why these accomplishments don’t float to the top of your mind often enough.
So, how do you self advocate tactfully? Try this:
KEEP TABS ON YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Maintain a running list of accomplishments you’re proud of. Projects you’ve owned, results you’ve help make happen, relationships you’ve nurtured and personal career milestones you’ve met are just a few places to look. Set reminders (monthly or quarterly) for yourself to return to this list, keep it up-to-date and refresh yourself on what you’ve accomplished.
KNOW WHEN TO USE "I" AND WHEN TO USE "WE"
Some people automatically go to the place of “we”. If you were accountable for and owned a process, deliverable, relationship or perhaps discovered a really great insight in your research - don’t be afraid to say “I” and own it. This can always be balanced by emphasizing what the team, collectively, accomplished, but don’t shy away from owning your piece. I find this especially common when coaching individuals through career transition where authentically self advocating is especially important in order to stand out. I always want to know, “but what did you do?”
GET OTHERS TO SPEAK ON YOUR BEHALF
Relationships are key. Maintaining relationships with current and past colleagues, and others in your network, will have a strong return for you. Consider asking people in your network to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn. In your organization, share project updates that highlight your successes and progress with other leaders and peers. Word of mouth will work in your favor, but only if you’re sharing the notable achievements you’re proud of.
The ability to recognize what’s in your control is empowering. The ability to recognize what isn’t is liberating. It can save you a lot of stress and heartache if you can truly understand and internalize what’s in your control, and let go of what isn’t. Consider this:
You cannot actually control whether or not someone offers you the job, but you can control whether you show up confidently and competently. Putting your energy into preparation to ensure you’re putting your best self forward and can stand out in the crowd will guarantee you’ve done your best.
You can’t control how a team member delivers work, but you can control how you set them up for success. Recognize the actions you can take (and take them) to best position your team for success.
The reality is, it’s easy to place blame on everything else. What will set you apart and make you more successful - no matter where you are in your life - is shining the spotlight on yourself and what you can actually influence.
• Think of one thing you really need in your life right now. Make it a good, meaningful one!
• When you think of this goal and what's possible with it, what comes to mind?
• Think of one action you can take or behavior you can modify to get closer to that goal. It only needs to be a small step in that direction.
• Tune out the consequences, tune out the noise. Focus squarely on what you can do, and do it. Nothing will happen without action.
When you know your superpower, can self-promote naturally and are attuned to what’s in your control, so much more is possible and available to you. In nearly every conversation I have - whether with the Director of Strategy or career changer in transition, one of these principles appears.
The common thread is the ability and willingness to operate as the best version of you.
ARE YOU READY?
I look forward to having a consultation with you helping you create your most fulfilling career.
All the best to you,