What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question that women leaders have been answering since they were old enough to play at being doctors, firefighters, astronauts, and more. But as we all grew through childhood, and took on our first real jobs, we learned that working life was not quite as we expected it to be.
For women in leadership roles, managing and growing in your career is an ongoing process of professional development, networking, and active engagement with the ever-evolving landscape of work. As technology and innovation transform the workplace, it’s more important than ever for women who aspire to take on leadership roles to be proactive about career development.
Career-building strategies for women leaders
Here are four steps that can help future women leaders develop their careers:
Build relationships one at a time. When thinking about building out your network, you may be tempted to just gather as many business cards and LinkedIn connections as possible. But the real value of networking comes from creating deeper relationships and finding opportunities to help people in your network, as well as asking for help yourself.
Create and maintain a personal development plan. While many employers offer professional development and learning opportunities, it’s a good idea to build a plan that clearly outlines your career development goals. This way, you can leverage opportunities that are available through your organization but also seek out opportunities to fill the gaps in the company’s resources and offerings.
Develop a personal board of advisors. While a broad and deep network is a great asset for your career, it’s also a great idea to select three to five individuals that know you well who are willing and able to give you honest feedback about how you can make progress in your career. This board of advisors should be as diverse as possible, but put the primary focus on finding people who are willing to spend some time with you one-on-one to provide more active guidance and support.
Own and manage your personal brand. One of the first things recruiters do when considering candidates today is to explore how they present themselves to the world. At a minimum, you need to think about how you present yourself on social media and ensure that your privacy settings are correctly configured.
However, to truly maximize your career potential, you should create a website or blog where you can showcase your work. Be sure to optimize your LinkedIn and other social profiles as well to help build your personal brand in the marketplace, differentiate yourself from other candidates, and support your career development.
As you work to develop your career, you can find a variety of resources and groups that focus on providing networking and career opportunities specifically for women. In addition to using such resources, remember that it is important to extend your networking to people outside your industry, occupation, location, and gender. Be sure to reach across boundaries to develop as broad and diverse a network as possible—one that exposes you to a variety of ideas and opportunities.
We are just a few generations removed from the days when women were not able or allowed to participate in many roles in the workforce. While we now find women working in every sector and at every level of the organization, there is a continued need for active networking and career development for each woman to reach her full potential.
Through AMA’s Women’s Leadership Center, you’ll find AMA courses, workshops, webcasts, and more designed to help women build their leadership abilities, develop their careers, and achieve success.