Most stories about women in the workplace always include how hard it is for women to make it to the top.
The reasons are myriad: the glass ceiling, unequal pay, and the delicate balancing act of career and family, especially once children enter the picture. But in my career, I have never once used being a woman as a crutch.
I began my career with Adecco more than 20 years ago as a branch manager, and at the time I could never have guessed that I would one day serve as president of its core staffing business, which accounts for the largest part of Adecco Group North America’s business. I didn’t work hard to prove that I can succeed as a woman in male-dominated corporate America. I worked, and continue to work hard, because I owe it to myself as a professional – who just happens to be a woman.
Make no mistake— there are still challenges for women in the workplace, even 40 years after we entered the workforce. But over the course of my career, I’ve learned that the key to success lies in what many would consider old fashioned values: hard work, determination and relationships with people. When I first began at Adecco, I was just one of the many in my position looking to take my career to the next level. The way I set myself apart was by being the one who was willing to go the extra mile and take on more work, often times when I wasn’t even asked. Telling my boss that XYZ “wasn’t in my job description” was not part of my vocabulary, and it shouldn’t be in yours either. Make it clear that you are always available to help with a task or pitch in on a project. It’s something that will make you invaluable to not only your team, but also to leadership. And that’s what helps you get noticed.
Anyone who knows me knows that one thing I’m truly passionate about, and firmly believe is an integral part of making it to the top, is building strong relationships.
It sounds simple enough, but in this age of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, it seems as though real conversations and personal contact have gone by the wayside.
It certainly is easy to get complacent about growing your professional circle when you’ve been at the same company — or within the same industry — for some time, but remember this: every new person you meet is a potential employee, employer, business partner, or client. And when I say “meet,” I really mean it. LinkedIn and Facebook are good resources to connect with people as a follow up to a great conversation, but I believe that the best networking is still done face-to-face. So get out there. Join a professional organization, build new relationships, attend lunches and professional workshops, and anything else that might help you meet new people. The more active and involved you are, not only within your organization but also within your broader industry circles, the larger and more established your network. And if you become the person who connects executives in your company to the “must-know” people within a particular industry, soon you’ll be the “must-know” person within your company.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind as you pursue the top is to never stop learning. It doesn’t matter how long you have worked at your company, or within the field, there is always more to learn. Whether you turn to professional organizations or even classes offered by your company, exposing yourself to new ideas is something that gets noticed. It’s something I still practice today, even after 20 years with the same company. By investing in yourself and your team around you, the professional growth that takes place is two-fold allowing others to move up within the organization as well. The people on your team are a direct reflection of you, so offer them the tools needed for success, and you’ll both grow in the process.
The road to the top isn’t an easy one for anyone, but it’s not impossible. Know what you want, put your mind to it, work hard, be passionate, and the rest—job titles, respect, and compensation—will follow.