Posts tagged #success

Sharing my Perspective on Career Growth, Determination, and the Importance of Feedback

KaLeena S. Thomas Headshot - 2016.jpg

At the suggestion of a few colleagues, I put myself in the “hot seat” and switched my role on the podcast from the interviewer to the interviewee. Michelle McClay, my longtime colleague and friend who joined me for the first episode, was kind enough to act as the host and guided me through questions on how I approached my career planning, tools and habits I have found to be game-changers for performance, and techniques I have used to address low points of challenging situations in my life. Here is a quick summary of our conversation. If you would like to hear more, you can listen to our entire conversation here, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify under “The Savvy Young Professional” podcast.

On turning a negative into a positive. When I found myself without a job during the recession in 2009, I thought my carefully-crafted career was over before my 24th birthday. Fortunately, through my network I was connected with an amazing opportunity to join a startup team within a larger healthcare organization and experienced career growth and learning opportunities during my twenties that I never expected. While my initial goals were modest, I realized that combining goals with hard work and a network of people who will coach and champion you can lead to unique and incredible experiences, learning opportunities, and positive challenges. Looking back now, I am thankful that the door closed on my initial dream and that I was forced to step back and consider what I really wanted to do with my life.

On determination, drive, and discipline. While I have to give a lot of credit to the many people who led, coached, and mentored me along the way for much of the success I have experienced, three things that also contributed and that were always in my control were my determination, drive, and discipline. These three things were at the heart of my attitude day-to-day thanks to the example set by my parents and helped to keep me positive and focused on long-term goals.

On career growth and self-promotion. The popular belief today is that people need to create compelling stories to position themselves for a promotion or to negotiate a raise. In my experience, after one unfortunate salary negotiation incident, I focused less on selling myself and “self-promotion” and more on solving problems for the people who made those decisions. Whether it was my manager, my manager’s manager, another leader who I wanted to learn from, or someone who I admired and wanted to work with more, I volunteered to lead or help solve whatever their biggest problem was. This established me as a “go-to” person for major projects and initiatives. Sometimes, these projects would spin off into their own team or department and I was the first person asked if I would like to continue leading the work in an official capacity. Even when the projects did not result in a new role or a scope increase, leading something that mattered to other people showed them that I could be trusted and that I was someone they wanted to retain. I believe that talented, humble people want to surround themselves with other like-minded people and will find ways to cultivate and retain them in creative ways.

On success. I have been fortunate to achieve a number of my career goals early in life, and credit much of this to other people who have given a lot to me and to my faith. Growing up with a family-owned business, I was exposed to the business world and to a real “work ethic” at a young age through my parents. They have been my guideposts for years and work every day to keep me humble. Throughout my career, there are so many people who have taken the time to connect me with an opportunity, share feedback, champion my work, and advocate for me. Their attitude inspired me to do the same for other people, and I try to spend as much time as possible sharing the knowledge I have acquired over the years, both in person with people and through this website. If everyone only focuses on themselves and their own success, we miss the opportunity to invest in the next generation of leaders, doers, and thinkers.

On receiving feedback,. The most challenging yet rewarding experience I have had receiving feedback was a formal “360 feedback” process I went through a few years ago. As I was transitioning to a new position that was far outside my comfort zone, I asked to go through a 360 process with an outside consultant to give me some perspective. I hoped that I would hear both positive and constructive feedback, but my session only focused on my “issues” as they liked to call them. It took a few months of follow up conversations with the consultant and one experience that brought the feedback to life until I saw how I was being perceived by others. I thought I was acting one way and had good intentions, but others were receiving my actions in a completely different way. Once I realized this, I had a long path forward to change how I acted and to show other people that I could shift and be a different person. Hearing well-intentioned, honest feedback throughout your career is critical to keep improving as a person and as a leader. Often, I’ve found that it can be intimidating for people to share feedback with others, but without it, we will stagnate or regress. I now have a group of people who I trust to give me honest, real-time feedback so I can keep moving forward.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share more about myself on the podcast, and as always, thank you for listening! Please subscribe and share your feedback by leaving a review or a comment, or by sending me an email.

Posted on June 3, 2019 and filed under Career Insights.

Career Inspiration: Succeeding at the Edge of Discomfort

Discomfort.  It isn't an experience we often seek, especially at work.  Being in control of a situation or an expert in something seems easier than trying something new, especially as an adult.  But discomfort at work, when it offers the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, can lead to incredible personal and professional growth.

A gentleman on my team shared an article from called "Succeeding at the Edge of Discomfort."  In the article, Victor Cheng shares his experience with being placed in new and challenging situations continuously while working at McKinsey, and how this approach leads to the development of highly talented, capable leaders, particularly at the CEO level.

Mr. Cheng's sentiments are important for aspiring leaders, both from a personal standpoint as well as from the standpoint of how they develop others.  Personally, my greatest periods of career growth came after, and as a result of, projects, roles or situations that were completely foreign to me.  It seemed like once I'd finally mastered something, I was given a new project to lead or a new role to fill, when I really wanted to take some time to "coast".  The process of figuring out how to accomplish something outside my scope of knowledge and experience was, and still is, stressful.  As a benefit; however, results from these experiences include a deeper knowledge of the business, a more thoughtful leadership style, and a greater confidence in myself - knowing that when I face the next challenging situation, I can and will figure it out.  

While it's easy to stay in your comfort zone, some of the greatest experiences and growth will come from the unknown and the uncomfortable situations.  Maybe it's relocation to another city or country, or leading a supply chain project when you've always been in accounting.  Take this opportunity to pursue something that challenges you, and don't forget to savor the experience along the way.