Reaching a summit – whether it’s the top of a mountain or a professional goal – can be a challenge. I know from experience that both require hard work and extreme focus on a destination that you may not be able to see.
Over the years as I’ve tackled climbs including Mount Everest Base Camp, Mount Ararat, Mont Blanc and most recently, Mera Peak in Nepal, there have been moments when I wasn’t sure if I’d reach the top. Similarly, as I’ve built my career in financial services, there have also been obstacles I’ve faced in advancing in my role. I’ve learned that both on the mountain and in business, sometimes things are out of your control and as a result you might not make it to the top exactly as planned.
This week we celebrate International Women’s Day, which recognizes the economic, political and social achievements made by women and focuses on creating a more inclusive environment for women and girls. Although more women are entering the financial services industry, relatively few are currently in leadership positions. As a partner at PwC’s Strategy& where I lead the Digital Fit for Growth practice, I am often asked for career advice by junior women looking to navigate the workforce and advance in their careers. Reflecting on my own career path, there are five things I recommend they focus on to reach the summit they’re seeking.
Ask for What You Need
A turning point in my career was when I fully understood that I must be bold and ask for what I need. Most women will encounter a point in their lives when balancing their personal life and commitments with their flourishing careers becomes difficult. When this happens it may feel taboo to ask for what you want and need to help assuage the situation. However, the worst thing to do is sit back, not speak up and voice how you feel. If you’re not sure what to ask for, identify a mentor or trusted person who has experienced a similar situation and ask for advice.
Know Your Weaknesses
Understanding which capabilities make you strong will help influence your personal leadership style and capture the trust of your colleagues. At the same time, you must also identify the professional areas in which you are most challenged and recognize how they may be impacting your career. If you struggle with things like networking, promoting yourself or providing an opinion, focus on learning how to overcome them.
Give Others an Opportunity to Fill the Void
When it comes to leadership, allowing others on your team to take on more can yield extraordinary results. Many times when I let go of the reins a bit and allow others to fill the void, my colleagues will completely blow away my expectations. Providing this opportunity helps build respect and loyalty among your team. Early in my career, it was one of my mentors who gave me the room and opportunity to excel and step up into the role I am in today. Never underestimate what someone can do for the entire team and their capabilities without first giving them the space to lead.
Encourage Honesty and Humility
Honesty should always be encouraged in the workplace. An environment where you can easily voice an opinion and have healthy debates is what’s needed to help promote conversation. The concept of humility also goes a long way by instilling that not everyone is good at everything. Believing that everyone has something valuable to bring to the table will lead to more engaging dialogue and allow the team to collectively find solutions.
Surround Yourself with Support
Most importantly, surround yourself with people who you genuinely like and who will support you. These are the ones you will see day in and day out and will often have a big impact on how much you enjoy your work. Without these individuals, there would be no culture, no organization and no one to help you grow in your career.
Climbing to the top of a mountain or to the pinnacle of your career is often a challenge, but by being bold and surrounding yourself with those you like and support, it becomes a bit easier one step at a time.
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