With a show of hands, how many of you have heard of the TV show "Survivor"? Ok great. Then, as you know, the contestants are eliminated from the game as their fellow contestants vote them off until one winner remains. I have never been a contestant on "Survivor," but I have some experience getting voted off the island.
For me to explain, we have to go back, way back, to the early days of my career. Back when I landed my first real adult job. I was 18 years old and the only girl on a team of 18. My opinions weren't welcome, and my ideas usually weren't great until someone else had them. I'll admit, I was naive, but I was still scrappy, even back then. I quickly learned that the only way to earn my peer's respect was not to back down, and it was better to be respected than to be liked. So I figured out how to stand up for myself and find a way to gain enough knowledge to form an opinion and then share it. It didn't matter if I was right or if I had the best idea. Acceptance came from participation, so I learned to participate.
Those early days of my professional life helped shape what has become my communication style. I am a direct communicator of the four styles, Direct, Analytical, Initiating, and Supportive. What does that mean? For me, it means I am decisive, competitive, & independent. I am focused, ambitious, and like getting results; I prefer a busy but efficient structured environment. I am strong-willed, and on occasion, I give the impression that I am demanding. When I'm bored, I can be seen as impatient. I am usually in a hurry, so I need you to get to the point to get things done.
In my current role, I'm notorious for speaking my mind and sharing my thoughts and opinions. I'm only able to do this, though, because I feel a sense of safety. Someone once told me that organizations don't fail because no one knew they were failing; they fail due to one of three reasons. People were not feeling empowered enough to say something; they were too afraid of the consequences or just didn't care enough. It's never because no one knew. I am fortunate that my leaders empower me to say what I'm thinking, and no matter what, there won't be negative consequences for doing so. I also feel like if I care about my job, which I do, and if I care about my organization and the overall company, I don't have a choice but to share what I'm thinking.
Being a direct communicator has not always worked to my benefit. Remember the TV show "Survivor"? Well, being too direct will sometimes get you voted off the island! The last time it happened to me was when I joined the board of directors for WICT Heartland. I jumped in head first, sharing my ideas and critiques without first getting a feel for the other board members before I understood how everything worked. Their perception of me was that I was judgemental. I failed to hear anyone else out, which left some of them frustrated and feeling defeated. Once I realized the mistakes, I made it was too late. They already had their first impression of me. Fortunately for me, everyone was there to support the mission of developing women leaders. As soon as I showed a willingness to accept feedback and take active measures in the areas that needed improvement, they welcomed me with open arms.
I am lucky that I have a fantastic network of people who aren't afraid of having courageous conversations with me, and in the past, some of their candid feedback was that I didn't do an excellent job of listening; I tend to talk too much. The advice I received was not to dismiss others' ideas; instead, I should acknowledge and validate them.
My primary communication style is Direct. My secondary styles are Analytical and Initiating. Which long story short means I'm a social butterfly who likes to take logical and organized notes and needs space to share my story even though I only want the high-level details from other people's stories.
Being direct doesn't just impact those I interact with, but it directly affects me personally. A couple of years ago, I had to implement a rule that I would no longer say things to or about myself that I wouldn't allow someone else to tell me. I realized that I hear myself talk more than I hear anyone else and while being direct is my natural style, I found that I was so critical that my self-talk had a negative impact.
I live by the principle that if the plan is to show up outspoken and opinionated, I also must be willing to take a hard look within and do some self-reflection. I think that's what has allowed me to evolve and understand that communication styles are situational. I love feedback and ask for it often because that's the best way to determine if my current style is effective. If it's not effective, I know I need to adjust my behavior and adopt new techniques to fit the situation.
The fourth communication style is entirely out of my wheelhouse, and it's the Supportive style. People who have a supportive communication style are usually calm and approachable. Are you starting to see how the two of us aren't related? This style dislikes change and may appear indecisive. The perception is that they are careful and patient. They like to work at a slow pace in a no-tension environment. Paired with good active listening skills (which I don't have yet), others see them as cooperative, dependable, and loyal.
If we were competing on a season of "Survivor," communication styles would be the challenges that offer rewards and immunity. If you want to be the sole survivor standing, invest in understanding your communication style and how to best communicate with the other styles.
I have been a mentee more times than I can count. Before coming to work at Cox, I thought mentoring was a joke. I participated every time the opportunity presented itself, but I never felt like I got much out of it. Does anyone else relate to that?
I came to Cox nervous and worried about what the future held for me. My previous job was a complete train wreck, and I didn't fit in. Before that, I spent nearly ten years at a company that felt like home. It was my comfort zone, and leaving there was scary. I knew that if I wanted to be happy and feel like Cox was my home, I would need to jump in and get involved. It was right around that time that a new mentoring program kicked off, so I applied to be a mentee.
The universe must have aligned just right because they paired me with Kristin Peck, the VP of Public Affairs in my region. Kristin helped me rebuild my confidence. Her advice and insights allowed me to break down barriers and plan for the future. She saw potential in me that I had forgotten. Ultimately, she became my first sponsor. Kristin put my name forward and recommended that I join the board of two nonprofits, and I served as the chair for the market engagement team in Tulsa for two years. There are many other things she indirectly helped me achieve. One of the questions Kristin asked me changed the way I think about career planning. She asked, "What job do you want to have when you retire?" It's not a question to answer. The important part is that you think about the possible answers because how will you get somewhere if you don't know where you're going? Thinking about the job you want to retire from will help you find your career ladder.
Another of my mentors at Cox told me that I needed to stop saying yes to everything. He helped me plot out my 3-year plan to quickly see which things I should continue to say yes to and which ones I should pass on. If it isn't on my career ladder or lattice, then I shouldn't say yes because that would mean I'm taking the opportunity away from someone else. It was one of the hardest lessons I've ever learned because I believed that if someone asked me to do something that I could do, I should do it. As a result, I had a habit of raising my hand too often. At times, this habit led to me taking on too much, feeling overwhelmed, under pressure to accomplish my commitments. Learning to say no was one of the most challenging and equally beneficial things I've ever done. Now I can do things I want, like toastmasters.
The most amazing experience I've had as a mentee happened because of WICT. I applied for the techconnect mentoring program solely because I wanted to go to New York and couldn't afford both the trip and the tickets to the leadership conference. I found out that acceptance into the program came with free registration to the conference, so I said, "sign me up!" I had no expectations when I first submitted my application. When I received the email that said I was accepted, I couldn't even contain my excitement. Just when I thought things couldn't get better, I found out that my mentor was the VP of Engineering at Comcast! It felt like a match made in heaven. Not only did I get my trip to New York, but I learned so much from my mentor. It was a pivotal moment for my personal and professional growth. I walked away from that program with a new zest for my job, big goals and a plan for how to reach them. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will cherish forever.
Mentoring is a fundamental part of career progression. It is not easy, though, especially as the mentee. It is a lot of work to be a mentee. A mentor can't help you if you don't know what you need help with or where you need to improve. It is what you make of it. If you put in the work, you will reap the rewards. I still have several mentors, and it's great because they each have different strengths and bring those strengths to the table. Each time we meet is another opportunity for me to adopt some of their best practices that make me a better version of myself. I've gained so much from mentoring relationships that now I try to pay it forward. I usually have at least one mentee, and that opens up a whole new world of possibilities. It also gives me the chance to implement some of the things I've learned and pass on what works for me. That in itself is a kind of learning and development. The type of development that builds leadership skills that are necessary for nearly any promotion.
There are a variety of mentoring programs available, both formal and informal. If you have your eye on a job you are interested in, reach out to someone in that organization, foster a relationship with them, and then leverage that into informal mentoring. There are multiple options. You need to find the one that works for you and get started. What do you have to lose?
PART 10: MY CAREER JOURNEY
I have a borderline obsession with watching TED Talks, I have a whole playlist on YouTube dedicated to my favorites. One of which talks about finding work you love at the intersection of your work responsibilities and what you are passionate about. How you probably aren't going to accept a position doing a job you love but if you take a good job with a good company, you can then mold it into work you love. Check it out below, it's worth your time!
Part 9: My Career Journey
Trust is complex. It's like a piggy bank, you make deposits and withdrawals but you have no idea the dollar amount each of them are worth because everyone values everything differently. You only know what value you assign to them.
When you start a new job you it can be overwhelming. You have to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the company and it's culture, learn how to do your actual job, get to know your co-workers and probably most importantly get to know your boss and his or her specific nuances.
If you were not in a great situation in your previous job you might even bring with you some biases, anxiety, or assumptions that you don't even realize you brought. I was so on edge when I first started at my current job that every time my boss would say he needed to talk to me I automatically thought I might be fired or at the minimum I was in hot water.
The only way that I know to get passed this is to cut yourself some slack and try hard not to jump to conclusions. Be patient because over time you will get to know your new boss and figure out how to best work with him and what to expect from him.
Part 8: My Career Journey
Life has been getting in the way of me writing blog posts. So I'm sorry for the delay!! Next in my series about my career journey is interview prep.
In my experience, if you are lucky enough to make it through the massive amount of resumes submitted for a job and get a chance to interview you should be as prepared as possible.
My advice is to google example interview questions and then practice answering them using the STAR method.
SITUATION Describe the situation you were in (from a previous job, volunteer work, or relevant event) be specific, no generalizations.
TASK What goal were you working toward?
ACTION Describe the actions you took (specific steps and your particular contribution). Focus on your actions rather than those of the team.
RESULT What were the outcomes of your actions?
Practicing this will bring past experiences to the front of your brain and give you a chance to find the best ones to use rather than trying to think back during your interview.
Other random pieces of advice, prepare so that you can walk in confident that there is not a question they will ask that you won't have an answer for. Do your very best not to come off as being desperate, walk in knowing that you have value to add and that you will be a great addition to anyone's team, its your decision on where you end up working.
That is all for now. I still have more posts before I'm finished with this little series so be sure to check back!
Part 7: My Career Journey
"Major life changes are never easy, because your instincts and the urgent matters of the day work against you. But when you learn to focus on your future self, you'll be surprised at what you can achieve." - Rebecca Webber, published May 6, 2014.
When I say "reinvent myself" I don't mean scrapping everything I've built, the network of contacts I've made and all the knowledge and skills I've acquired over the years. I mean change the way you think about yourself and the future of your career. Just like a car needs to be maintained, so do we.
Innovate has been a buzzword for a while now and it’s overused which means it’s lost some of its value. Many companies and many personal resumes claim to be innovative but innovation is hard. Everyone seems to define it differently but the common theme is to create something new or change something drastically. I think from time to time we need to try to look at what we do through a different lens and not just continue to do things the same way we’ve always done them because that leads to spending too much time on autopilot rather than active thinking. Our brains make assumptions that’s we aren’t even aware of many time a day, the only way to change that is to do something a little bit differently. Shake it up every now and then. You might be surprised at what you learn.
The rate at which things are changing continues to increase. Keep learning, have a growth mindset, and challenge yourself to do something new or in a different way.
Part 6: My Career Journey
Transferable skills are what you take with you across organizations, companies, industries. It can be challenging though to identify the most important ones, those worth mentioning and the not so important ones. And then how do you word them or make them work in a variety of scenarios?
Let's start with some common transferable skills:
Time Management Strategic
Public Speaking Change Agent
Interviewing Resource Allocation
Results Oriented Leadership
Team-building Problem Solving
It took me some time and creative thinking to think back through my life and work experiences, consider things I like to do and compare them to my strengths and weaknesses. The time and effort were well spent though because I learned some things about my self that I wasn't aware of before.
I identified my transferable skills to be: idea generation, adaptability, willingness to relate to others, strategic thinking and decision making, the ability to meet ever-changing needs (also known as being a change agent), a well-honed resilience working within time-critical environments, a persuasive and confident nature, and the ability to take command.
If you haven't identified your transferable skills, I challenge you to at least start thinking about them. You might not need the information immediately, but at some point, it could prove to be useful, I know it was for me!
Part 5: My Career Journey
After the shock wore off from losing my job and my confidence was nowhere to be found, I had to start somewhere. I read through the many versions of my resume found on my google drive, and when I realized that my resume could bore someone to tears, I had to take action. Out with the old and in with the new, I guess. There is a great book title that could be the motto for my life at the time, "What got you here won't get you there."
Change is hard, yet inevitable and the sooner you can learn to embrace it the better off you are. I quickly figured out that even the tools for which I would create my new resume were significantly different than I had initially used, talk about making me feel old! The natural starting place for me was to research what works and then tailor my credentials to comply.
I read several books and watched even more YouTube videos, searched for new templates and best practices. Did you know that you only have about 6 seconds to catch someone's eye when they are reading through a stack of resumes? The tool that helped me the most was the book "The Google Resume: How to Prepare for a Career and Land a Job at Apple, Microsoft, Google, or any other Top Tech Company."
Doing research and educating myself to prepare for a new adventure was the most comfortable I would find myself before landing a new job, and there was still quite a bit of work to do before that would happen.
Part 4: My Career Journey
If I could go back to the day I was let go; I would tell myself to thank them for doing me such a huge favor. Then I would remind myself that this is not the worst thing I will ever endure.
I walked away genuinely feeling like I had let everyone down, that there was something wrong with me. After having a chance to reflect though, I wasn't the problem. Not me as a person anyway.
I wasn't a good fit for the job, and the position was a terrible fit for me, but I probably would've stayed there and tried to make it work for who knows how long.
They honestly did do me a favor by letting me go. I just didn't know how awesome it would be to reinvent myself until later.
Part 3: My Career Journey
Desperate times have a way of convincing you to enact desperate measures, but that won't get you what you want. The point at which you feel most vulnerable is also the moment you must dig deep within yourself and find out what you are really made of.
Depending on what your career progression plan looks like and the industry you work in, your options might vary from one end of the spectrum to the other. For me, I had choices, but none of them were appealing. In fact, they could easily be categorized as a step down from where I was.
With the support of great family and friends, paired with a lot of self-reflection I was able to tap into my inner badassery and came up with a list of what I was willing to accept and what I absolutely would not settle for.
The scary part for me was declining job offers with no other ones on the horizon. I stuck to my guns though and held out for what I perceive to be one of the best decisions I've yet to make!
pART 2: mY cAREER jOURNEY
Self-confidence is your belief in yourself and your abilities. Confidence is knowing what you excel at, the value you provide and acting in a way that conveys that to others.
What happens when you stop conveying that to others though? I know what happened to me, I began to doubt myself and my ability to make good decisions. I lost my job, and I believed that my life had fallen apart right before my eyes. I didn't know what to do or where to go, finding a place to start just seemed impossible.
Confidence is a trait that severely impacts everything we do, losing it is incredibly uncomfortable. Fortunately, we are resilient creatures and have a way of making grand comebacks, but they don't happen without a little self-reflection and a lot of work on our part!
pART 1: mY cAREER JOURNEY
I started my first "real" job as an adult the day after I turned 18. Over 20 years later I was faced with a situation that I had never experienced before. I lost my job.
I played it off more like I had been laid off, but honestly, I got fired. I just couldn't admit it to myself much less anyone else. I was embarrassed, ashamed, scared, and angry. The terrifying part is that I didn't see it coming. I questioned myself as to if I should have seen it coming, what could I have done to prevent it, what was wrong with me?
I didn't know at the time that it would take more than four months even to begin to answer those questions. Spoiler alert, everything worked out alright for me, and I am sharing my story over the next several posts in hopes that it helps someone else as well!
Yesterday I received a meeting invite from my boss that had no agenda and the title was "Carrier Onboarding." I replied asking if this was in fact "Carrier Onboarding" or if auto correct changed "Carrie" to "Carrier" and since I was the only person on the invite did it mean I was trouble for something? He quickly updated the meeting invite so that the subject simply said "Onboarding" and no reply to my second question about whether or not I was in trouble. 5 hours later and a stressed out Carrie, we had our team meeting, and it was business as usual, but the girl in me just couldn't stop worrying that I had done something wrong. So after the meeting, I sent him a message that said "So you didn't respond yet on whether or not tomorrow's "Onboarding" was me being in trouble for something…" His response was "No problem just wanted to get your opinion." That is when it sank in that I am new to the team and also new to the company, and since he has an open position that he is working to fill, common sense says he probably wants to talk about my onboarding experience… Good thing I was so stressed out!
Yesterday was a rough day for me. I love my job but I am new, which means there is a learning curve and it takes time to transition. I fell short on a project that I am working, I didn't coordinate properly which left me a little unprepared for a call. Ultimately, I was able to course correct with little impact to the project and the project team but it made me realize that I am not perfect. I make mistakes but at the end of the day I feel like I am successful, productive and working toward being a better version of myself.