I’ve been quite career-focused ever since I was in University. I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be a student forever and that the end goal of all of this studying was to get a job when I graduated and start building a career. Once I did start getting jobs and building my career, I was sure to advocate for myself, find ways to advance, learn, and grow.
Reflecting on how I went about things, there have been several very simple things that I’ve done, that I’ve now realized yield huge results and were especially beneficial to me early in my career. They’re not based on natural talent, anyone can do or learn to do these things.
Here they are:
Write and communicate clearly
Being able to clearly communicate and write professionally has always given me an advantage when applying for new roles and joining new teams. It meant that my emails would come across as professional, that my applications weren’t littered with grammar mistakes, and ultimately that it was easier for me to communicate with the hiring manager.
Clear communication is also a priority for many remote companies. Being able to write clearly means that you don’t need to have as much back and forth on a remote team and you don’t need to rely on other teammates being online.
Here are some of the things I did to improve my writing:
Read I attended school in French, so while English is my first language, I didn’t get as much practice reading and writing in school as the children who went to all-English schools. (Don’t get me wrong though, I’m so grateful to have learned another language so young.) The point is, in University I started reading a lot more, and not only fiction. That time in my life is when I really picked up business and self-improvement books for the first time and they helped me improve on my professional communication in English.
Get a second opinion I had someone who I trusted to give me real feedback read my emails and communication to make sure that they felt professional and were clear.
Rewrite I still do this to this day. I’ll generally write a first draft of what it is that I want to say, and then when I reread it if it doesn’t come across as clear, I’ll rewrite it in a few different ways before settling on a final version. I’ve found sometimes with communication, you need to say it a few different ways before you figure out which of them feels the clearest.
Install Grammarly I didn’t have Grammarly early in my career but I wish I did. It has been a life-saver finding typos and helping me improve my writing.
Keep LinkedIn up to date
I’ve written about this one before but I’m repeating myself because I can’t stress enough how helpful it was to keep my LinkedIn profile updated. It meant that when I met people and they connected with me, they had the latest information. It also meant that recruiters knew what I was up to. They tend to reach out once you are at the one year mark at a company (at least in the tech world) so that’s another reason to keep it up to date.
Another major benefit of LinkedIn is that your profile comes up in search results. So if a potential employer or colleague searches for you online, your LinkedIn profile will likely be one of the first results.
I’ve had several people tell me that being able to find me on LinkedIn added credibility to my application and others have said that connecting with me on LinkedIn made me more memorable which is why they later recommended me to roles.
Learn to follow up
I used to be devastated when I spent a lot of time writing and rewriting an email, only to have it go unanswered. I’ve since learned the art of follow up and the rules are simple. Kaleigh Moore says this perfectly:
My fine print on this would be, you should only follow up once, and only after an appropriate amount of time. For some emails, that might be three days, and for other a week or more. Generally, the time-sensitive ones are the only ones I’ll follow up on in a few days and most everything else can wait a week.
My approach to follow-ups is very short and sweet. I usually go with a variation on “Hi X, Following up in case my original email didn’t make it to you. Insert a line with context about the email and more about what you are asking for/telling them. Best, Hailley” You’d be surprised the number of times someone replies with “I completely missed your first email, thanks for following up!” Proper follow up can open a lot of doors.
I’ve written about this one before but I’ll expand on it a bit more. Lists work really well for me keeping me organized and productive.
If you aren’t keeping career lists like the ones I’ve outlined here, start doing that today! It’s super simple and has made a massive difference in my career. I no longer struggle to remember what I’ve done at performance reviews, I have it all written down and sorted by quarter for easy access. If you use a task system (I use Todoist) you can set up automatic monthly reminders to add your latest accomplishments to your list. I promise it’s worth the effort.
I also use to-do lists for everything. Especially when applying to jobs or starting a new job, it really helps to stay organized. My personal preference is Todoist, but whatever works for you. I know several people, including my MakeWorkWork co-host Habbi, use Omnifocus, and even more people tell me about how much they adore simple pen and paper. Whatever works for you. Make sure to stay organized, write everything down that you need to do, and that way you won’t forget a thing.
Ask for feedback
Getting feedback from managers can sometimes be quite tough but when it’s done from a place of your manager wanting to see you grow and improve it is truly valuable.
Something I learned early on is that not all managers give regular feedback. Especially in the tech or startup world, I’ve had a lot of managers who were first time managers or founders who were just trying to do their best. It meant though, that they didn’t always tell me the areas I most needed to work on, so I had to ask.
An easy way to do this is after completing a project or big task, ask for feedback on the work you just did while it’s fresh in your manager’s mind. You can get specific here and say something along the lines of “Since I just completed this project, I wanted to see if there was anything you think I could improve on for next time?” You don’t always necessarily want to hear all of the places that you are lacking up but I promise it’s better to improve on them now then have them turn into bad habits.
Another time to ask for feedback is when leaving a job. I asked one manager in our last 1:1 what she thought I could improve on at my next role and she gave me really honest and valuable feedback. I really appreciated it and it went a long way in setting me up for success in my next role.
So ask for feedback regularly, write it down when it’s given to you, and then look into ways that you can improve on those areas in the future.
Always be learning
Something I’ve run into at several of my jobs has been that I’m the only person doing public relations and sometimes the people managing me have very little experience in my field. It has meant that I haven’t had someone to learn from at most of my workplaces, so I’ve had to find that someone for myself.
One of the ways I’ve done this is to cold-email other PR people who are in-house at similarly sized companies so that we can learn from each other, more on the here. The other major thing that has worked for me is learning from a community of other PR people. The specific community I’m in is Michael Smart’s PR Inner Circle. It has been so beneficial to be able to connect with PR people going through the same struggles and experiences as me. In the community, Michael also offers a PR basics course and regular monthly calls to learn from PR experts.
The PR group and community are really specific to my role, but I’ve realized that learning and improving are some of the best things I can do for career growth. Without taking the time to learn more about the work I’m doing, the strategies that are working, or read the latest research, I’m putting myself at a disadvantage.
It can be really tough to carve out time for this, and I’ll admit I’ve only gotten better at this in the last few years. Now, I try to block off one hour a week in my calendar to learn more about my work and I’m already seeing the results.
If you aren’t in a community or aren’t sure where to start, here are a few ideas:
- Pick up books related to the work that you do
- Search for communities of people in similar roles online, there are tons of communities right now
- Ask others in a similar role how they learn more about your skillset
- Set up Google alerts for articles related to your role and set aside time each week to read them and take notes
These things all seem really simple because they are. But they’re also powerful. I consider these the basics and when you get the basics right, everything afterward becomes a lot easier.
I’d love to know if you have any simple things that you’ve done that have had a big impact on your career, or any other thoughts you have after reading this blog post! Leave a comment below or send me a tweet to kick off a discussion. :)