Finding career success isn’t a matter of just “climbing the ladder” anymore. But women shouldn’t look at layoffs, lateral moves, or short-tenured positions as failures—it all adds up to a body of experience, says Katy Tynan, founder and chief talent strategist at Liteskip Consulting Group.
Even what feels like a backward move may give you the knowledge or inspiration to go further than before, she told attendees of “Navigating the Career Jungle Gym,” a Women’s Leadership Center (WLC) workshop held at American Management Association’s New York center.
Advancing in your career requires learning, building on your strengths, finding out what makes you happy, and recognizing your value, as well as networking, strategizing, and building a personal brand, Tynan says.
Five steps for women to build their careers
In the WLC workshop, Tynan suggested taking these actions to transform a “jungle gym” of a career path into future success:
Make time for career development. Schedule a solid two hours every two weeks. Everyone is busy, so you make a commitment and stick to it, Tynan says. The two hours can be spent networking, taking a class, or meeting with a mentor or coach—anything that supports your own development.
Work on your personal brand. What are your unique skills? What makes you happy? What do you want out of a job—more money, an opportunity to learn something new, professional growth, or a more interesting group of people to work with? These factors are important, yet money is sometimes the only thing we look at when we consider a job, Tynan points out. “If you chase money, a lot of times you’re chasing stress, and you’re finding it,” she says.
Define your worth. What value do you bring to the table? “Everything with companies starts with, ‘Can this make us money?’” Tynan says. For a nonprofit, you can demonstrate how your skills support its mission. But in all cases, you have to try to package what you’ve done to make it attractive to the people you want to hire you, she notes.
Quantify your knowledge base. Consider everything on your career path to be your informal education, Tynan suggests. Taking formal classes is valuable, but it’s also important to see how you can use what you’ve learned throughout your career in new ways.
Look for support—and be supportive. Tynan advises every woman to seek support in her career development. Look for people who can help you get to your next job or goal, such as a mentor, coach, or sponsor, she says. Before asking someone to be a mentor, think about what you admire, respect, or value in her career and have a clear goal about how you think she can help.
Tynan adds, “The next step, while you are seeking a mentor or sponsor, is to turn around and say, ‘Who can I mentor?’” This could mean joining industry associations or just stating on LinkedIn that you’re open to mentoring.
Tynan suggests checking out the LinkedIn profiles of a few people you admire professionally. Scroll to the bottom and look at their career paths. They could be just as wandering as yours is. “Figure out for yourself who you are, what you need, and where you’re going to be,” she says. “Everybody has a different path.”
Connecting with other women for career-building knowledge and support is at the heart of the Women’s Leadership Center. Check out our upcoming webinars and live events created specifically for women.