Five lessons for women on moving up the career ladder
BY BRITTANY MAYER-SCHULER, GENERAL COUNSEL AT ELIOR NORTH AMERICA AND PRESIDENT OF SUMMIT FOOD SERVICE
At the inception of my career, I job-hopped, thinking external mobility would more quickly advance my career opportunities. Today, I have steadily advanced within the same company for almost a decade. I could fall into the gender trap of crediting luck—I truly have been blessed to work for a rapidly growing and evolving company. But this explanation alone would not explain how I became the longest-serving executive at my current organization. Through much trial and many errors, I discovered and applied these five lessons that helped me survive and thrive within my organization.
1. Know Your Next Stop and Plot Your Course
Your future is too important to delegate to anyone else. We tend to believe our hard work alone will beget a hand-delivered promotion. That has yet to happen for me, and it may not for you. Instead, commit to devoting time to plotting your course. Identify the position that is your ultimate target—your dream job. Next, work to understand what career steps could get you there. Use your resources; ask those you know and do informational interviews with those you don’t. LinkedIn, GlassDoor, Indeed and other career sites are terrific sources for gathering information and connecting with people who are in the roles you aspire to be in. Use that information to create actionable steps toward your goal.
2. Remember Who You Work For
Even if you are currently employed by someone else, you work for yourself. After you have identified your next career step, seek experiences that can bridge your skill set to that next role, and build your resume. Remember, experience can be a form of compensation when it can propel you into advancing opportunities. Just as you typically would not buy a car without test-driving it, most companies are not going to promote individuals who have not demonstrated the ability to perform any of the essential, next-level skills.
3. Know Your Abilities
Ensure you have a confident understanding of your abilities. During your career, some may doubt your capabilities. If their doubt is unfounded, drown it out and prove yourself (or bolster your resume trying).
Knowing yourself can be even more important when you are the lone woman on a team or don’t share common personal interests. Being outnumbered can cause you to question whether your occasional exclusion is because of professional or other reasons. Here’s what I have learned—you can waste a lot of energy attempting to gauge intent. Refocus your energy on identifying the outcomes you need to drive your success. For me, where I didn’t share commonality with my teams as a whole, I pivoted my strategy to building one-on-one relationships with my individual team members. With inherently good teams, facilitating those individual relationships will lead to broader team inclusion, and that inclusion can entirely transform a team’s dynamic.
4. Know How to Bring the Solution, Not the Problem
You can add immeasurable value to an organization by demonstrating your problem-solving (not problem-identifying) skills. It’s the difference between having a smoke detector and calling a firefighter. The first alerts others to the issue so they can solve it; the second is an instrumental part of the solution. Being solution-oriented is critical to upward mobility, and helping others resolve critical issues can create impactful bonds.
5. Know How to Spotlight Your Talent
Understand how your talents can benefit your business holistically. Provided you are excelling in your current role (and with permission), consider leveraging your talents to assist others in other parts of your organization. This will provide you a platform to showcase your talents, help you network and ultimately help you create future opportunities.
By leveraging these five strategies, I have created my own career path and helped others to do the same. Working for a company that recognizes and values me and my contributions has made for a smoother journey. Along my way, like many others, I’ve navigated seemingly insurmountable career roadblocks—like the time I was laid-off from my first real job while pregnant. Those roadblocks helped me to understand that, for most of us, our careers will stall if we wait for others to gift us opportunities. Don’t wait. Be empowered to navigate your own career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brittany Mayer-Schuler joined Elior North America in 2012 and has developed a comprehensive corporate legal structure designed to support the growing organization. She has overseen all aspects of due diligence, contract review and negotiation on the company’s recent acquisitions, and has instituted internal programs, processes and teams to support risk management, crisis management and food safety.
Brittany has extensive experience in contract negotiation and management, labor and employment law, and corporate compliance. Before being named president of Summit Food Service and serving as the general counsel for the Elior North America subsidiary A’viands, LLC, she was vice president of legal affairs at Elior. Brittany earned dual bachelor’s degrees from the University of Minnesota and earned her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from William Mitchell School of Law. For more information, visit elior-na.com.