Early in my career, I thought that good things would naturally happen to me. My supervisors at one of my first jobs openly advertised that the organization was a meritocracy. I was told that promotions were based on numbers and that was it. So I completely focused on being at the top of the leaderboards. Then, I saw my male colleagues get promotions faster. Sometimes they became my manager. I didn’t get it. I thought, “My numbers are the best. Why is this not happening for me?”
Soon afterward, I read the book “Lean In” and realized that I needed to ask for opportunities. From that point onward I started asking for myself, and I want to share with you how you can do the same.
While asking for new opportunities is critical, you also need a larger strategy so that you are well-positioned to receive the recognition you deserve. Here are my top recommendations for strategizing:
1. Build your personal brand.
Having a clearly identifiable brand truly helps your career advancement. Identify your biggest strengths and start building your personal brand around them. Talk about your experiences and put yourself out there as a subject-matter expert. A successful brand isn’t just something you say to yourself. You need to make sure others know about it, too.
I have made problem-solving core to my brand. I care about problem-solving and I am good at it. As a result, I’ve always been looking for opportunities to show that I am a problem solver. For example, when I first became a manager, I noticed that we were spending a lot of time trying to renew small contracts manually. I knew there was a better way to do this: auto-renew.
Although that seems like a small change, it required getting a lot of people together. I managed to implement auto-renew, and our retention shot up 15 points.
Building your personal brand doesn’t have to be something uncomfortable. You simply identify what you’re good at and make sure that everyone else knows it, too!
2. Take advantage of leadership opportunities.
I first started as an Account Executive eight years ago. I did not have an exact career ladder in mind, but I took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves.
When you’re an individual contributor, you have to hit your numbers and expand your leadership experiences at the same time. When you see a problem, don’t complain about it. Instead, think about what you can do to make changes. This allows you to naturally expand the scope of your role. Then when a leadership role opens up, you can point to what you’ve already done.
You should always be proving your value within the organization. Consider: How can I make this company better?
3. Work at an organization with a mission if that is important to you.
Before I came to Glassdoor, I did not work for a mission-driven company. There was a moment where I had to look myself in the mirror and ask, am I doing the right thing? And I wasn’t.
For me, it’s critical to work at an organization where I feel like I’m doing something meaningful. When I first came here, I took a $150,000 pay cut. But it was the right decision for me in the long-term. You have to look at where your passions lie. Think about how your career moves will impact you not just now, but in the long-term. If you can find a job that allows you to do what you love and feel connected to a mission, it is the right move for your long-term strategy.
4. Wait for the right role when necessary and be vocal about what you’re looking for.
A lot of people find themselves in situations where they’re in the right organization, but the next role they want is not yet open. In many cases, it’s really just a matter of hanging on for a little bit longer. That dream role may open up sooner than you think.
It’s also important to be vocal about what you want. Some roles are not publicly advertised and the hiring manager will look to people they know can do the job and who they know are interested. Make sure there’s never any doubt about your interest!
Also, think about what roles might not exist today that you could create. If you see a gap in the business, find a coach or mentor to help you make a case for why this role would be valuable to your company and how you could be the perfect person to take it on.
Being proactive in advancing your career will help you reach your goals faster. By building your personal brand, taking advantage of opportunities, and strategizing your next moves carefully, you’re laying out a strong foundation for your sales career growth.
Stephanie Jenkins is the Vice President of Sales at Glassdoor for the SMB division. Her team sells recruiting products to businesses that help people find a job and company that they love. In her 8 years at Glassdoor, she has held a variety of roles working as an individual contributor and leader, to deliver sales and revenue goals across enterprise, mid-market, and small businesses.