Closing The Gap

The No.1 piece of advice this Lyft executive wishes she received at the start of her career

Lyft's general counsel Kristin Sverchek.
Photo credit: Lyft

As a corporate lawyer, Kristin Sverchek has spent the last seven years of her career working as a full-time general counsel for Lyft.

Though she's received a lot of great advice throughout her professional journey, she tells CNBC Make It that there is one critical piece of advice she wishes she received early on.

"I think every generation that goes by is getting better and better at advocating for themselves," she says. "And I think that is a really positive thing."

But the one piece of advice she wishes she had gotten: how to know when to use that power to your maximum benefit, and for the most leverage, she says.

Thomas Barwick/ Getty Images

Sverchek explains that "one of the reasons I've been at Lyft for so long is that I've been very long-term focused. That means that when I've chosen to be vocal on my own behalf, it's because I have an ultimate goal in mind for myself."

Earlier in her career, Sverchek says she often failed to think long-term and would ask for a raise or promotion off impulse whenever she felt she was being overlooked. "Looking back, I wish someone had told me to be a little more selective," she says. "Choose my battles, not be so short sighted, and make sure that I've always got an end goal in mind."

For young people looking to advocate for themselves at work today, Sverchek suggests being "very intentional about realizing what it is that you want for yourself, and make sure that each time you decide to speak up, you're taking a step toward that end goal."

"Is it a promotion that you want? A raise? What is it that you really want," she asks. "Be very intentional so that when it comes time to advocate for yourself, your case is all the more compelling."

To prepare, Sverchek says young people should make sure they have all of the evidence needed to prove why they're deserving of the raise or promotion they're advocating for. "Provide a persuasive argument and anticipate every question or concern that could be raised, and then answer those before they are raised," she says. "And don't give up. Even if the answer is 'no' today, it might be 'yes' in six to 12 months."

In her own career, Sverchek explains how advocating for herself when she felt she was prepared and had a long-term plan has paid off.

Since joining Lyft in 2012, Sverchek says she's taken the platform's legal department from a team of one (herself) to more than 130 people, and she's used her position as a mom and a leader to advocate for a company-wide parental leave policy.

"When I started at Lyft, there were a few dads who had gone out on parental leave, but there were no moms," she says. "So when I got pregnant, I immediately talked to our VP of HR at the time and explained to him that we need to develop [a policy] not just for me, but for all the other women and men who will look to take parental leave in the future."

That conversation, Svercheck says, led to Lyft implementing its first official parental leave policy in the fall of 2014. Today, she says, the company's policy has been updated to include 18 weeks of flexible paid time off for biological, adoptive and foster parents.

"As an attorney, it's my job to advocate on a daily basis, whether it is for the company, for my team, or for myself," she says. "I like to think I've gotten pretty good at it."

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