Advice for Non-Conformists from Non-Conformists
Move the Needle
May 28, 2024

We asked WIE Suite Women for advice from their multi-dimensional, dynamic careers. Read on for how to scale a career on your own terms for your own dreams.

I find other people with complementary strengths - but similar values - and work with them so we can all succeed together. - Kathryn Minshew

Start with the end in mind. - Krista Bourne, Global Speaker and Former COO, Verizon Consumer (@Krista.Bourne)

This has been a guiding principle for me, not only in managing my time and making decisions but also in setting intentional paths in my personal and professional life. This strategy reflects common practices in our personal lives, such as meal preparation or driving, where the outcomes—like the taste of a meal or a destination—are predetermined. By applying this proactive approach to my career, I've been able to thoughtfully choose which industry to enter based on its long-term viability and select roles that advance my skills and career growth. This purpose-driven mindset ensures that every step I take is a strategic move towards a defined endpoint, aligning my daily actions with my overarching goals.

Have a plan for yourself, how you want life to feel and what you want to do, and keep refining it. You are the best project you will ever work on. - Christina Cubeta (@ccubeta)

Don’t assume the story behind the pivots you took are obvious to others. They often aren’t and others fill in the blanks on why your career or lifestyle changes evolved the way they did. Bring a purposeful voice to the decisions you made when explaining your background - whether that’s about why you stepped out of the workforce for two years, changed industries or professional focus, etc.

While our personal growth paths don’t have to look homogeneous and linear to equal successful, the hiring market certainly recruits that way. It’s oriented around check-the-box recruiting. Succeeding in charting your own path requires cultivating a great network and connecting with those who hire for sharp talent, forward thinking and ability to execute versus twenty years experience in doing one particular thing because it looks good to the board. This is often frustrating, but as they say, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!”

Be Ruthlessly Honest. - Kathryn Minshew, Entrepreneur, Author, Investor

As I've grown, I've tried to be ruthlessly honest about what I know (and what I don't), as well as where I'm good (and where I'm not!). I find other people with complementary strengths - but similar values - and work with them so we can all succeed together.

Just because its expected, doesn't make it right. - Danielle Henry, Founder, The Sinclair Shop (@Daniyonce)

I focused on what I believed was expected.  But as I matured and became the person I am now, I have realized that real life can get in the way. Being more fulfilled and having a career and life that interests and fulfills me is way more important than following what the expected path is. As I gained perspective as things changed in my life, I found myself following paths that are more fulfilling, more creative and certainly personally rewarding.

View each role as an assignment—a course of study.  - Krista Bourne, Global Speaker and Former COO, Verizon Consumer (@Krista.Bourne)

Each position offers something to learn, something to contribute, and a stepping stone for advancement. Focus on the roles' impact on achieving your career goals and maintaining life/work balance. Understand that while titles might change, the impact of your work, the skills you develop, and the experience you gain are enduring assets that pave the way to your ultimate career aspirations. This perspective transformed my approach to each professional role, allowing me to be a student of the industry, expand my network, and build a strong internal brand. Starting from an entry-level position in the mailroom, this strategic approach to career development enabled me to rise to a leadership position within one of the largest organizations in the company. By chasing the impact rather than the title, I aligned my career trajectory with my personal and professional growth objectives.

Say yes. There are two-way doors. - Becky Getz, SVP Commercial Growth - Double Good

When I had the chance to leave the ad agency and open a new office for a much smaller independent agency, I took the chance. It was presented to me on a silver platter and that made it easy to say yes. That first yes began the second chapter of my career. It's felt a little like Goldilocks since then. This one is too big, this one is too small, this one isn't creative enough, this one doesn't like me. But as I've moved from job to job (5 in the last 10 years) I've learned more about myself than I ever would have staying in one place.

Here's the biggest thing I learned: say yes. You hear it a lot, but that's what has made this journey fun and rewarding. Say yes to things you think are outside your wheelhouse. A corporate job, at a bank, in UX? I don't know anything about any of those, but yes. A role on an industry customer experience board? Why me? I'm no expert. But yes, I'll learn from all the experts and meet a colleague who offers me a consulting role. A job at the world's biggest company? Yes, I'll try it, I'll get a "masters" in Amazonian and learn what I don't like. A call from a random PE firm I've never heard of asking if I'd consider being on the board of a company I've never heard of. Yes, I'll see what I like about board work (spoiler alert - a lot). A dinner with a group of amazing women who are part of this group called WIE? As an introvert, I hate the idea, but yes, I'll do it and the friendships and connections I made are still solid. A new job in an industry I know nothing about, working for someone I'm not sure about, for less money and a lower title than I wanted? Yes, ok, it's a new function and I'll learn. And so far it's one of the most rewarding experiences I've had.

And here's what makes saying yes easier, two-way doors. A lesson I took from Amazon. If a decision is a "one-way door" spend time and effort analyzing every piece of the decision - you can't go back. But if it's a two-way door, as most career decisions are, don't worry too much, leap, say yes, and you can always go back through the door.  There are other jobs, other colleagues, and other versions of fun.

I'd love to say that I have found a role that is as fun, as comfortable, and as familiar as my years at the ad agency. But I haven't, I most likely won't. But I have learned more about what I don't like, what having more control over my time and schedule means to me, and how different organizations work. And I wish I had said that first yes much sooner than I did.

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