How do I advance in my career and find work I love and am good at? More than that, as I advance in my career, how do I increase my impact, influence, and rewards?
Those are among the most asked questions from professional women that I hear through my blog, speaking events, and mentoring.
And the interesting thing is: these questions come from women at all ages and stages of their careers – and from women engaged in a variety of enterprises, from entrepreneurs to corporate managers and executives.
I’ve asked these questions myself throughout my career and expect as I discover answers at one stage, that these will naturally re-emerge at other stages. So, I expect to continue asking these questions myself for the rest of my life.
I think these are good questions to ask and that asking these questions can lead to greater fulfillment, contributions, impact, influence, and rewards.
This week I had the honor & pleasure to speak alongside and learn from three trailblazing women in business at the Empowered Women: Hacking the New Economy summit held at Microsoft’s Innovation and Policy Center in Washington, DC.
Each woman shared simple, yet powerful observations they’ve gained from their careers so far. There were many insights shared. Yet three resonated with me and can help you advance in the work you love. These observations can help you generate greater impact, influence, and rewards for your business, team, and career.
3 Simple, Powerful Ways to Innovate and Advance:
1. Learn by doing
Try new things and don’t give into the idea that you’re not qualified to do something, simply because you haven’t done it before.
That is what Julia Hartz, Co-Founder and President of Eventbrite said. I’ve written about Julia before, and have been inspired by her work. EventBrite, founded 10 years ago, started small and wasn’t an overnight success. However, the founders stayed with it, recruited and built an exceptional team, including investors.
Julia is not a developer and doesn’t hail from the tech world, but that didn’t stop her from imagining a better way to democratize technology so that more people could take advantage of it.
Eventbrite processed over a $billion in ticket sales last year. She also said that unlike many entrepreneurs, she isn’t a natural born optimist; she has learned this from serial entrepreneur husband and co-founder, Kevin.
This advice reminded me of Learned Optimism, pioneering research from Dr. Martin Seligman. You can be open and intentional with optimism – and it often leads to breakthroughs on many fronts.
2. Look for ways to innovate at every age and stage in your career
That was a key point made by Teresa Carlson, Worldwide VP of Public Sector for Amazon Web Services. Teresa knows; within Amazon, her group was formed much like a start-up. She led the public sector practice in Web services before there was a real market – from zero to 1,700 government, 4,500 education, and 17,000 nonprofit customers.
You can have a mindset to innovate regardless of the size of your company – whether you are in a start-up, small business, and especially in a global company like Amazon. In fact, one of the keys to the growth and success of Amazon has been a culture of innovation.
Teresa recently said, “We look for inventors, builders. People who think differently, who are questioning the status quo.”
Some of us don’t think of ourselves as innovators – and I believe that is a common way many women in business underestimate themselves. Teresa recently elaborated on her idea in an interview with FedScoop:
“I look at it as failing fast and cheaply so you can be successful faster. Anyone who understands the concept of innovation knows that innovation doesn’t happen overnight. There’s lots of failures before you end up where you need to be. You want to be able to learn from a failure, recover, and take that failure and move faster to success. I think that’s what our customers are seeing with AWS. It allows you to try multiple things. “
3. Cultivate & lead with at least one key strength, every day
Many of us focus too much on our shortcomings, which diminishes our confidence & holds us back from taking risks. Diane Tomb, CEO of Tomb & Associates and the former CEO of the National Association of Women Business Owners, made this observation.
As Diane recently shared, “Women are a big barrier to themselves due to their lack of confidence.” Julia, Teresa, Diane and I addressed this in one way or another at the Summit.
When it comes to cultivating your strengths and intentionally leading with at least one of them every day, I chimed in and encouraged everyone to consider taking a Strengthsfinder assessment. It is the best 20 minutes – and for $10, anyone can invest in themselves and take advantage of this scientifically developed assessment that has helped over 11 million people across the globe to understand (and lead with) their strengths.
Once you take Strengthsfinder, you will also have a greater understanding of strengths you may have previously undervalued in yourself. You will also have a powerful new appreciation of your strengths and an enhanced vocabulary with which to articulate your value.
One more observation I made – with great enthusiasm – is that there has never been a better time for women to start, build, or lead a business.
Our economy isn’t perfect, but we have never had more opportunity, flexibility, or technology available that can spur us further and faster.
Teresa Carlson of Amazon wholeheartedly concurred saying that as she travels the world, no other country offers more opportunity to start and grow a business than the good ol’ USA.
As Diane Tomb has previously pointed out:
“There are 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the US and they employ 7.7 million people. That’s 40% more than the three largest employers McDonald’s, IBM, and Wal-Mart combined.”
I wish everyone reading this had been able to attend the Empowered Women: Hacking the New Economy Summit! But even if you didn’t, you can still benefit from the advice of these trailblazing women in business.