In these challenging economic times, companies and individuals recognize the importance of differentiating themselves in the marketplace and taking steps to secure their future.
Interested to learn how?
Below are 10 tips from the Inforum Center for Leadership, the education and research arm of Inforum, for anyone looking to take her career to the next level.
(1) Have an Elevator Speech
What do you do, and how do you contribute to the success of your company? When you get that question, you should be prepared to answer it in a brief, compelling and confident manner. Even if you never literally find yourself in the elevator with the CEO, your elevator speech can be the best tool you have when it comes to building your personal brand.
(2) Get Connected at Your Company
If your company has an internal networking or mentoring program, get involved. You enhance your chances of moving up when you increase your exposure to and interaction with the company's decision makers.
(3) Dare to Apply
McKinsey, citing internal research from Hewlett-Packard, found that "women apply for open jobs only if they think they meet 100% of the criteria listed, whereas men respond to the posting if they feel they meet 60% of the requirements." That by itself, if it holds true across the corporate world, could be holding back a lot of talented women.
(4) Network Like Your Career Depends on It (Because it Does)
How many women do you know from your profession besides those who work at the same company as you? If the answer is none, that could be a problem if layoffs hit. Now is the time to start making strategic connections. Professional organizations, alumni groups and networks like Inforum can help you build valuable contacts outside your current sphere.
(5) Have an Online Presence
Online networks like LinkedIn and Facebook can not only make your networking more efficient, they can help you build and maintain your personal brand. For that reason, how you use them is as important as whether you use them. A good rule of thumb is never to post anything you would not want to hear attributed to you in the media.
(6) Get Trained
Are your skills up to date? Do you even know? If your company offers training opportunities or tuition reimbursement programs, use them. If those things are not offered, find other ways to keep your skills sharp and gain new ones. In this economy, knowledge is power.
(7) Boost Your Leadership Skills
Keeping up with the latest technology and industry trends is not enough to get you to the top. Leadership and organizational skills are learned behavior. Find time to hone the crucial "soft skills" that will help you climb the ladder.
(8) Know What You Are Good At
Instead of just focusing on what you are lacking, take time to inventory what you have to offer. Evaluate your potential based on your skills and competencies, not merely the jobs you have held in the past. Many of your skills could be applicable in jobs--or in fields--you have not considered.
(9) Know What Success Means to You and Move Toward It
If you want to get somewhere, it helps to know where you are going. In the book Stepping Out of Line: Lessons for Women Who Want It Their Way...In Life, In Love, and At Work, author Nell Merlino says: "You have to see it before you can devise a plan to get there. Imagine how other people feel or how they might approach the challenge." One good way to start, she says, is by writing down a "strategic outline" describing where you want to go.
(10) Be Flexible
While it is important to know what you want, be ready to alter your plans as your situation--and the world--changes. Opportunities can pop up from nowhere and sometimes evaporate just as quickly. Changes in your personal life also can have a big effect on your priorities. How you adapt to and account for the things life throws at you will have a big impact on your success.