Reflecting on my career, there are three crucial lessons I wish I had grasped earlier. Understanding these would have allowed me more ease and less hustle, accelerating my advancement significantly. Many women I’ve worked with have seen benefits from these principles, and I believe they can do the same for you. Here are the three insights that could transform how you approach your work. 

Speak Up: Why your career ambitions deserve a voice

Have you ever fallen into the trap of thinking that your hard work and accomplishments will speak for themselves? It’s a common misconception that just doing your job well will guarantee career progression.

If you’re not vocal about your ambitions, you’re likely to be overlooked when opportunities arise. People are busy with their own responsibilities and might assume you’re content where you are. This passive approach can cause your career to plateau, leaving you wondering where you went wrong.

I’ve seen many women in the RISE Accelerate program experience breakthroughs simply by choosing to have clear, well-thought-out conversations with their bosses or senior stakeholders about their ambitions. Articulating your desires and backing them up with a solid business case does more than just communicate your goals—it demonstrates your courage, clarity, and professionalism.

Use compelling ‘why’ frames

Consider a typical day at work: your boss approaches with yet another project, adding to your already full plate. Your immediate thought isn’t about the logistics or the extra hours it might entail but rather, “Why? Why this project, and why now?” This isn’t just about resisting more work; it’s about seeking a deeper understanding. We inherently crave compelling reasons for changes to our routine or the challenges presented to us.

Your team and stakeholders are also seeking this natural quest for a reason when you propose something new. They’re not satisfied knowing just the “what” or the “how”; they need the “why”—and it has to be compelling. Without articulating a clear and personally impactful ‘why,’ plans often fail to engage or motivate effectively.

Don’t keep your head down at work

Ever seen a duck dipping its head into the water, tail sticking up into the air? It’s quite a sight—with only its tail and paddling feet visible. When we bury ourselves in our work at our desks, we end up much like that duck: all others see is our back. This metaphor highlights a crucial point—when you’re too focused downward, your view of the broader business environment is severely limited.

If you’re constantly looking down, think about the critical conversations and opportunities you might be missing around you—those that shape the business and political landscape. Engaging with your surroundings is essential for seizing these opportunities.

So, if you’re inclined to be a ‘head down, tail up’ kind of person, consider re-allocating just 5% of your week to interact with others and look up across the business landscape. Challenge yourself and you might be surprised by what you learn and how much more visible you become.

In Summary

Reflecting on my experiences, I’ve learned three invaluable lessons that could have made my path smoother and my progress faster. First, don’t hesitate to voice your ambitions—let your aspirations be known. Second, always question the “why” behind tasks to understand their significance and alignment with broader objectives. Lastly, don’t confine yourself to your desk—engage with your surroundings to broaden your perspective and enhance your impact. So, let’s speak up, seek clarity, and keep our heads up to navigate our careers more effectively.