When speaking to audiences -- especially at colleges and universities-- I am often asked: "How do I really get ahead?" Here are lessons I've learned and advice I've been given from others over the years:
1. Establish your personal brand. In order to have a great career, you need to bring the best version of yourself to work every day. Your personal brand influences what others think of you. Decide what you want to be known for, and then make yourself known for it.
2. Always deliver. At work and in life, you will be known for the quality of the work you provide. You must be exceptional at what you do. As a woman of color, my parents taught me at an early age that I had to perform beyond what is expected in order to get the same treatment of others who have lower levels of performance. So, for me, I tried to consistently exceed my manager's expectations. When you always deliver quality work, you will be an invaluable resource.
3. Move away from competition and more towards collaboration: Don't view your colleagues as competition, but as potential collaborators. This is especially necessary for women in the corporate world. We must stick together. Like Sheryl Sandberg says in Lean In, "The time is long overdue to encourage more women to dream the possible dream." It is time to encourage each other and work together to achieve our goals. This will not only help you succeed but also provide value to your organization!
4. Keep up with the news every day. Knowledge is power. Being aware of what is going on the world will make you better at what you do. When you take time to understand current events, you gain insight into how the external environment may affect your company, your clients or your competitors. Some of the nation's most successful people like Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Warren Buffett all start their days reading the news.
5. Build and maintain relationships. My friend's father has a saying, "It's not who you know, it's who knows you." Knowing the right people can make the difference between getting the promotion you want and staying in the same place year after year. Make it a point to get on the radar of influential people you work with. Network and build relationships whenever you have the chance. Networking remains one of the most effective ways to get a job. Although 70-80% of people have turned to online job searches, employers still prefer a personal connection through the hiring process.
6. Ask for feedback. While asking for feedback can be intimidating, it is an excellent way to gauge how you are doing. The only way to learn from our mistakes is to ask for feedback, and then act on it. Nearly half -- 43% -- of highly-engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to 18% of employees with low engagement. Feedback is becoming an essential part of high performing workplaces. So if you aren't getting any, ask for it!