Feeling stuck, helpless or too busy when it comes to your career?
You are not alone. A 2016 Deloitte global survey of millennials shows 48% of female respondents say they are “being overlooked for potential leadership positions.” What is of particular interest is that many of these women feel they have no control over their careers. In fact, only 29% feel they have total control.
The punchline is that most women (71%) do not feel that they are in control of their career. That sentiment, sadly, is confirmed in the many conversations I’ve had with talented women entering senior roles.
How can you gain “control” of your career?
It starts with your brand, according to Executive and Career Coach, Maxine Dotseth.
With over 25 years of in diverse corporate, sales, leadership and coaching roles in financial services and technology, Executive and Career Coach and founder of Step Up Growth, Dotseth has great perspective and advice.
“Too often we put our heads down and just work. Many of us are so work focused that it’s hard to lift our heads up and do both – work and manage our careers. Yet, the greatest outcomes come from managing your most impactful project – yourself,” shares Dotseth.
We’ve all heard about the importance of our personal brand. But what does that really mean?
Dotseth explains that there are two key components to your brand: how you show up intrinsically and extrinsically. Internally, it’s your mindset, your presence (read Own Your Presence, Own Your Professional Success) and your openness to growth. Externally, it’s the value you deliver – how and who you deliver it to.
Both are important to building a strong personal brand.
When it comes to your mindset, manage the stories you tell yourself. As a woman in an institutional finance role, Dotseth was often the only woman at the table. She recalls not thinking of herself as a female – “I thought of myself as a well-prepared professional.” She clarifies, “mindset can get you far but it’s only one of many components necessary, when you are looking to advance your career.” Research confirms that for many women and people of color, the ascent to the top gets increasingly harder as they move to more senior levels. In addition to mindset,mentors, sponsors and professional development opportunities become critical to continued progress.
Using a coach like Dotseth can be a helpful way to reframe a situation and make progress where you otherwise feel stuck.
Your external brand can be enhanced by thinking about where you can contribute in a bigger way in your company or industry. Consider being a mentor. No matter your level or role, giving back is always valued.
How do you develop your brand?
Use these three steps to develop (or refine) your personal brand:
- Know your strengths
- Understand your gaps
- Showcase your strengths in ways that are relatable (and searchable)
Know your strengths
Dotseth recommends starting with your strengths. Understand the value you bring to certain audiences and the attributes that make you unique.
“It’s often hard to be accurately introspective” explains Dotseth. Using assessments such as StrengthsFinder helps her provide her clients with unbiased and science-backed clarity on their strengths (see Dotseth’s StrengthsFinder strengths at www.stepupgrowth.com/about).
Another way to uncover your strengths is to ask peers and friends — look to your trusted advisors. Ask them, “What do people say when I’m not in the room?” or “What sort of problems or situations would you come to me for?”
Dotseth learned that one of her strengths is relatability. She always thought about it as curious until a peer pointed out that the real benefit of her curiosity was her ability to connect with people.
We are often too close to ourselves to have a clear understanding of our gifts. Using tools such as StrengthsFinder and having an advisory group or career development buddy are invaluable.
We need to start with and draw from our strengths, especially given the challenging time.
Understand your gaps
Being “promotable” requires more than results it demands belief in your potential.
No one has it all; we are all in a state of development. Dotseth recommends we get to know our weaknesses by being open to feedback. The way to not get overwhelmed and continue to develop is to focus on one thing. Your job is to get and manage the feedback. She recommends to keep it simple and focus on one thing at a time.
She also reminds us that it’s also ok to network your way out of an unhealthy situation – you have permission to be honest and act if something isn’t working for you.
Showcase your strengths in a way that is relatable (and searchable)
You can’t just know your strengths- you have to communicate them in the right ways and to the right people to use your brand to influence your career.
This is the area where I see a lot of people get tripped up. They work hard, know and use their strengths but either aren’t showcasing them effectively or don’t know how to highlight themselves in the right ways.
According to Dotseth, effectively packaging yourself starts by knowing your audience and positioning your strengths in a way that is relatable to them.
Whether it’s in a meeting, performance review or on LinkedIn, communicating in a way that addresses your audiences’ needs is key. Make it about them and highlight how you can (or did) help.
Be “found” by your value. If you do this well, people will start to listen and come to you because of your reputation. If you become the “go to person” in your area of strength, you know you’re doing the right things.
Regardless of your career status or internal position, Dotseth reinforces that it is important to manage your external brand via your LinkedIn profile.
“If there’s one piece of advice I can give it’s to update your profile (brand),” she shares. Dotseth specializes in helping her clients develop a strong brand that’s reflected in their resume and LinkedIn profile (including optimizing it for AI recruiting). She reminds us that LinkedIn is a powerful, 24/7 professional learning and networking platform, and is not just for job seekers.
Dotseth’s LinkedIn best practices recommendations:
- Update your profile with the key words and phrases that your key audience values and that defines your brand
- Follow thought leaders and companies that are of interest to you – your competition, trends and the thought leaders that deliver curated inspiration (Adam Grant and Simon Sinek are a couple of Dotseth’s favorites. JT O’Donnell from workitdaily.com is someone to follow if you are specifically interested in career management and job search advice.)
- Engage or contribute once a week (social media is built for engagement, even if you don’t post — like, comment and share content you admire)
- LinkedIn is a great platform for learning and development. Recognize your colleagues accomplishments, make new connections both within your industry and beyond, contribute, and endorse others, but bottom line have an updated relevant profile and brand.
Don’t be caught off guard
The best defense is a good offense. Part of your job (the part that isn’t in your job description) is to manage your career. Dotseth shares she’s always surprised how often people are caught off guard.
Proactively managing and developing your brand by knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and intentionally packaging yourself in the right way to the right people can go a long way to helping you gain control over your career.
There is a lot you cannot control in life (especially this year) but your brand is within your influence.
I partner with financial professionals, asset managers and small businesses looking to unlock potential by getting intentional and comfortable with business strategy and sales. Growth strategist and coach, accountability partner, change maker – those are some of the names I’ve been called over the past 15 years. Access business best practices and learn more at www.shaunamace.com or contact me at [email protected].
Maxine Dotseth, an executive and career coach, is the founder of Step Up Growth. She has over 25 years of experience in the financial services and technology industries in corporate, sales and leadership roles. In her institutional sales career, she helped raise over $500B in new assets. Her professional experience and training give her a unique perspective and skillset to help her clients achieve their goals. Giving back and supporting community members is important to Maxine. She serves as a board member for Women in Investing (WIN) of Philadelphia, as a contributor to the Advisory Council for the PA Conference for Women and on Penn Medicine’s Mind Your Brain Foundation. Learn more about Maxine and her coaching services at www.stepupgrowth.com or by contacting her at [email protected].