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5 Things I Wish I Had Been Told When Building My Career

Marissa TarletonBy Marissa Tarleton, CMO, RetailMeNot

It’s happened to all of us. We’ve all received advice at some point in our career that we just knew in our gut wasn’t right. Cautionary words that could have stopped us from moving forward or tamped down our desire to push to the next level. Phrases like, “Just be patient!” or “Don’t rock the boat.”

As the executive lead for the W@RMN employee resource group at RetailMeNot, I am able to connect every week with a group of women that I truly believe will make a difference in the future of the company, technology and the business world as a whole.

For the first time ever, the percentage of female leaders at Fortune 500 companies has risen above five percent. With only 32 females on the list of CEOs, there’s plenty of room for improvement. We can do better.

While changing the current leadership environment requires help from all sides across industries, there are a few things I know to be true. When you have the drive and passion to make things happen, you will ultimately get the edge over your competition. Fear, self-doubt and poor relationship skills can all stall growth and sabotage a career.

I love being a female leader. I think it is important to feel good about who you are, to talk about it and to not emulate someone else—and then lead in that way every day.

I’m honored to lead a team of talented women and men in the tech industry, and I don’t take lightly the impact and opportunity that I have to reach others throughout their career growth. Here’s what I, looking back, wish I had been told:

#1. Stop networking, and create meaningful relationships instead. There is great value in finding someone who can mentor or coach you. A strong, deep support system will help you understand what is derailing your confidence and help build your strengths. Sure, working a room with surface-level conversations can kick-start new connections, but it’s what you do with those connections after the networking events end that really matters.

#2. Ask for what you want. Raise your hand for new opportunities and allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Being direct about what you want, and then doing whatever it takes to make it happen, will build perseverance and potentially help grow your skills in areas outside of your natural expertise. If you don’t speak up, who will?

#3. Know who you want to be. Do not define yourself by your job. Define yourself as a colleague, a friend, a mother, a daughter or whatever you are passionate about, and get to work that way. The more confidence you have in who you are, the more likely you are to find people who believe in you as well and help you keep your sense of self while achieving your goals.

#4. Figure out what you’re good at and thrive in those areas. Every single one of us has natural talents, areas of expertise where our skills seamlessly fit and where we can add real value. I am a huge proponent of stepping outside of comfort zones to learn new skills, but you shouldn’t downplay the areas in which you can thrive. In fact, exploring new opportunities can open up doors to other areas in which you may have overlooked your strengths.

#5. Surround yourself with people who inspire and encourage you. The power of a reputation is meaningful in one’s career path, and this is supported by the strength of your inner circle—bosses, peers, employees. Mentoring circles are a great way to get access to a diverse set of perspectives. The benefit of surrounding yourself with people at all levels who inspire you is that the learning and discussion goes both ways, regardless of experience level. This can be a powerful thing.

Ultimately, it is important to pick people who inspire you, not just companies. Don’t waste your time working for someone that you don’t connect with. Relationship building can make or break a career, but surrounding yourself with people who can be a sounding board during the high and low seasons is an investment in your career that will see long-term benefits. When women come together, change can happen: Communities flourish; support and trust is built in new, meaningful ways; and we get one step closer to building the next generation—one with even more female leaders.

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