4min readCareer 02 September 2019
We are currently at a very exciting time in the world of business. With the emergence of the sharing economy over the past few years, advancements in technology and AI, an enhanced business focus on global responsibility, and so many other developments, companies are finding themselves with staffing gaps that they'd never even thought of before.
Even at Thomson Reuters, where I lead Corporate Social Responsibility, the once ironclad career ladder with a set progression of steps, titles and responsibilities that you would reach after 3, 5, or 7 years no longer exists, and there's opportunity for individuals to carve out niche roles for themselves within existing companies and startups.
More and more, candidates with what seem like completely unrelated skill sets are being hired in new hybrid roles - many that they've designed for themselves. The reason is that a core set of competencies, not experience in one specific role, is becoming more valuable to companies. Especially in the startup world where businesses are constantly pivoting, companies rely on agile, creative, adaptable employees who can tackle one problem after the next, and connect the individual dots within a company on a larger scale.
Every job I've had since I left the finance world at age 23 has been one that I envisioned and created for myself. The key is identifying your passions and unique skills, figuring out what that looks like for you, and finding companies that fit into your vision. Now, to be sure, the traditional career ladder is very much still there, so finding companies that are forward-thinking and open to change and adaptation is key - but it might surprise you who those players actually are.
I knew at a young age that my passion was for connecting others and helping to better our community and world. I had originally planned to be a doctor - I started pre-med but after college, ultimately took a position in Finance. Being a cog in what felt like a very big machine (not to mention a boy's club), I knew that I needed to find ways to differentiate myself from my colleagues - for the benefit of my career and also to be true to my own values.
Finding Your Passion
In terms of finding your passion - it's never too early, or too late, to get started. I meet so many young women who feel like they haven't yet found their “calling," and many feel lost because of that - like they don't know what direction to go in and therefore wind up being stagnant. Certainly, there's a benefit to identifying this early and making it your one-track mission, but if you're not there yet, my biggest advice for you would be to just go out and explore. Try new things. See where you feel energized, gratified and invigorated. Be observant about your own feelings.
In terms of finding your passion - it's never too early, or too late, to get started. I meet so many young women who feel like they haven't yet found their “calling," and many feel lost because of that - like they don't know what direction to go in and therefore wind up being stagnant.
What Drives You
Examine what drives you. Do you enjoy managing others, or do you prefer to work alone? Do you enjoy building teams and creating job functions? Are you comfortable diving into new challenges that you haven't faced before, or do you prefer to stick to what you know? Do you enjoy working on a series of short-term projects, or do you prefer broader, longer term projects? For me, working with teams to build something was my first passion, and my passion for learning and development came along later.
Evaluate Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Employers are looking for candidates who can fill multiple roles at once, and it's better for you to have a variety of relevant, but seemingly unrelated skills that can offer value in several areas of the company. Examine your skill set. Are you good at writing, connecting with others, data analysis, or coding? Are you super organized? Do you have language skills? Are you good at helping others solve problems, or do you prefer tackling them on your own? Set out all the skills that you feel you can jump into, and then piece them together to see what a hybrid role might look like for you. At the same time, if there are skills you're lacking but would like to acquire, it's never too late to learn more. For me, tapping into my strengths meant building teams and generating ideas and initiatives from the ground up. I enjoy freedom and flexibility and the opportunity to take calculated risks within a company for the greater good. That's how I originally came to Thomson Reuters to lead learning and development, but that job over time developed into another role where I was leading global corporate social responsibility.
My philosophy on leveraging your strengths is that it's important to know your boundaries and limits as well as what you need and want from a position. For me, I know that I need variety in my work, to be constantly busy, and to be able to build a great team from the ground up. I also know that socializing and time with family is very important to me as well, so I built a system that allows that to happen.
Do Your Research
Identify companies that you'd enjoy working for. Especially among millennials today, company culture is a key factor for attracting talent. Does the company have a culture that you identify with? Would you feel fulfilled working there? Do you prefer working for established companies where processes and roles are set, or do you prefer smaller, developing companies where you can make a larger impact?
Maybe you want to create a new role within your existing company. The best way to do that is to make a list of areas in the company or within your current role that aren't being served. Quantify exactly what additional areas you'd like to take on, or what a new role would entail, as well as why the company needs it. It's ok to start small with one or two new initiatives at a time. Simply raising your hand and showing that you have an interest, and then acting on and fulfilling that interest will show that you can follow through.
Keep abreast of the news. Where are other companies investing that yours isn't? Are you seeing trends in the field that could be applied to your work? Seeing an opportunity early on and jumping at it can give you a head start and provide immense value to your company.
Know The Key Players
The key to being heard in the workplace (or anywhere, really), is to understand the other person's style and thinking, and approach it from their perspective. I was a student in the second class of women to ever attend Washington & Lee University, and at the time, many alumni and students were unhappy with the idea of women joining their ranks.
However, understanding why they felt this way, their concerns and their goals, helped me to approach them with new ideas, and we were able to develop programs and groups to support female students. Understanding what drives the other person, what their needs are, and how you can bring value to the table will help you get ahead. Sell your unique expertise and experiences, and position those things as beneficial to the other party.
Show Your Passion
Have you ever been passed over for a position (or declined to hire someone) because you simply didn't display a passion or excitement for the position? It's more important that you may think to explain why you're passionate about an area or opportunity - maybe it's a personal experience, or something you got a taste of at a previous company but wanted to learn more about.
Sometimes the best candidates are the most passionate, not necessarily those with the most experience. I took a position at JP Morgan straight out of college - I'd been on the pre-med track during college, and never took a single business class, but my skills and passions were able to translate into the finance world.
Take Leaps of Faith
I've always believed that when it comes to new opportunities, you should always say yes. There are a million ways to talk yourself out of doing something - but instead of doing that, tell yourself yes, I want this, here's what I need to get there, here are the reasons I shouldn't or couldn't do this, and then work them out. No obstacle is truly insurmountable with the right attitude.
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist