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Sexual Harassment and Navigating Workplace Holiday Get-Togethers

Each week brings the announcement of another man or even multiple men who have taken advantage of their power and influence to sexually harass someone in the workplace.  While there have historically been times when this issue has been in the spotlight, many are hopeful that this will be a watershed moment for women’s claims to be taken seriously and men’s actions to have consequences.

From Hollywood to the boardroom and beyond, what’s happening is nothing new.  These stories about newsworthy men behaving badly represent everyday reality for some women in the workplace.  Clients share their struggles regularly during our coaching calls and, particularly during the holiday season, they share concerns about how to navigate the upcoming holiday work party.

The office party provides an extra layer of networking on the job – the key words are “on the job.”  Remember, you are at work, so be aware of your surroundings, watch what you say and how much you drink.  While sexual harassment is not the victim’s fault, you have the power to control circumstances that can keep you safe.  Unfortunately, the office holiday party can bring out the very worst of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviors.

Then there’s the after party, which is like playing golf with your boss and can be the most advantageous networking opportunity, as long as you stay smart and stay safe.  Please do not buy into the conference syndrome where you’re offsite, so you rationalize an isolated incident.  This is work, not Las Vegas.

Regardless of whether you’re at the office or elsewhere with co-workers, you cannot control what others do.  If you are the victim of sexual harassment, inappropriate advances or worse, you need to feel empowered to speak up right away.

I always recommend that you speak up and say something to the perpetrator first and keep ongoing documentation of what’s happened.  Say something to the individual a maximum of three times before taking the situation to your superior or the human resources department.  If you’re not satisfied with action taken at this point, it’s time for you to engage an attorney.

Whatever you do, do not be silent.  I understand there’s a fear-factor with speaking up and speaking out against someone, most likely someone who is higher on the corporate ladder, in the workplace.  There’s a reason for the fear – women have been demoted, fired and passed over for promotions based on what they do or don’t do in these very unseemly circumstances.

With everything that’s been in the news lately, I’m hopeful that women will continue to feel empowered by the #MeToo movement.  So, please, go to your office holiday party, enjoy yourself and network.  If something happens there or any other time, speak up, because having no voice is the greatest risk of all.

In speaking up, you are joining with other women who also refuse to continue to permit such behaviors.  Further, your voice helps forge a new path for the younger generation of women who will hopefully one day be able to collaborate and work in environments free of fear and harassment.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Fall Focus with New School Year Excitement

No matter what the season or the stage of your career, balancing work and life successfully can always be challenging.  With the start of the new school year and fall just around the corner, this can be the season to renew and refresh your career goals.  At the start of the summer, we focused on the need to find your high-heeled equilibrium during the summer months when attitudes relax.

As July and August come to a close, work, school, volunteer and really everything seems to rev up to get back to business.  This new attitude allows for a fresh start; however, you now have opportunity to hang onto the summer balance tools that may have worked especially well for you.

For example, if being in nature was something you discovered as restorative this summer, make it a priority to continue to enjoy the outdoors.  Maybe you found that being less tethered to your electronics was a new discovery that allowed you to switch gears, enjoy the moment and even sleep better.  If you found that worked for you, keep it up!  Summer often forces us to find ways to simplify.  If you managed to feel positive effects from simplification, keep doing whatever worked for you.

In short, let’s approach your career guide for fall, like you would approach the excitement of starting the school year.  Remember what it was like to go back to school in the fall – everything was fresh and new.  You might have been excited about your new school shoes or excited about making new friends, either way, remember what excited you about this time of year.

If you were like me, you would wonder what new information you might learn in the coming year.  Just writing this column, I’m reminded of that feeling.  I’m challenging myself and challenging you to think about what new, exciting opportunities and challenges might be facing you in your career and in your life.  Is there a new technology you want to learn?  Do you need to be more assertive in the workplace?

If new friends are something you looked forward to in the new school year, think about your workplace relationships, both internal and external.  Take this opportunity to focus on new goals with your relationships.  Maybe you’ll decide to take lunch with a work friend or set your sights on developing a new mentor.  Whatever the goal, fall can be the time to refresh your plans.

When I was a kid going back to school in the fall, my parents took me to St. Louis to go shopping for new school clothes.  The brief family trip was full of tradition.  We went to the zoo and a baseball game.  The ritual provided the reset I needed.

As an adult, you can decide that a fall refresh involves reinventing your image and/or your wardrobe, deciding you need to update your style or sharpen your focus.  As a professional woman, monitoring your body language and the signals you send could be the reset you need.  (Watch for a more extensive conversation about body language and what it transmits in a future issue.)

As the regular school/academic year calendar pace picks back up, whether you have children at home or not, take advantage of this opportunity to renew and refresh with the same excitement you had as the new school year started in the fall.  Whether you’re wearing your high-heels or your fuzzy slippers, take time to keep what worked for you in the summer and sharpen your career focus to best suit your own personal needs.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Finding Balance When You Want to Wear Flip-Flops

Successfully balancing work and life are always challenging, yet finding your equilibrium in high heels can be even more challenging as attitudes shift during the summer months.  The entire work world seems to redirect a certain amount of focus toward summer life style and vacation, and you might find you want to swap your high heels for your flip-flops.

There are unique circumstances to consider in the summer as you plan to take vacation, do more at work while someone else is on vacation and possibly juggle out-of-school children while maintaining your normal work schedule.  Let’s dig our toes into the sand and ponder how you can take advantage of this time to improve your work-life balance.

It’s summer, so the pace at work will likely slow down a bit.  At the same time, there will likely be fewer people pulling the weight at the office.  You and your co-workers will renegotiate the office work load to be sure everything is covered and your client needs are being met.

Nothing is more frustrating for a customer or client to find out that a deliverable is on hold while their primary contact is on vacation.  With planning, a team can cover for each other and allow everyone to go on vacation with peace of mind to enjoy a complete break from the office.

As the pace slows, take this time to assess how well you are balancing your busy work and home life.  Seriously take stock and ask yourself if you tend to overschedule, find it hard to ask for help or let go of control at work and at home.  Self-awareness will go a long way toward helping you find your work-life balance.

As the pace slows, you can also time to assess your own schedule, everything you do and why, and start to dream about the life design you want.  Life is too short to do something just because you were asked or you have a hard time saying no.  If everything seems important, you need to learn how to identify the real priorities and be satisfied with your achievements.

Your day-to-day mental health is paramount.  If you begin experiencing increased fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, anxiety, anger or insomnia, it’s time to make yourself the highest priority.  When it comes to taking care of yourself, you need to take time to connect with others.  Ask yourself if you’re spending time with people and doing the activities that provide support or that undermine support, then do what’s needed to invest in yourself and create more relationships and situations that support you.

To take more time for yourself, you will need to take something off your plate.  Realistically, ask yourself what would you be willing to take off your plate?  If you took that thing off your plate, what would you be willing to do for yourself?  This is the only way to take actionable steps toward assessing your work-life balance and creating change.

Finding equilibrium and knowing when to take off your high heels and put on your flip-flops is best achieved when you avoid being the martyr or sacrificing yourself when you need to be delegating and asking for help.  When you do for others that which they can rightly do for themselves, you rob them of opportunities to raise their self-esteem and sense of competence.

In addition to your colleagues at work, use this strategy at home with the kids.  Think about having a summer chore list – having a family plan for everyday household tasks will teach your children a great life lesson.  We all need to feel needed – even kids need to know that they are contributing.  By not doing everything for them and having them contribute in age appropriate ways, your children will have their own sense of accomplishment.

The regular school/academic year calendar has a faster pace for everyone, whether you have children at home or not, so take advantage of this opportunity to slow down your pace.  If you do have children at home, it’s beneficial for you to slow down the pace with them.  Remember work will always be there tomorrow.  In the meantime, life is waiting.  Whether you’re wearing your high heels or your flip-flops, take time to enjoy the summer — reflect, vacation and spend time with the people and doing the activities that give you pleasure.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Underestimate The Power of One

We’ve been talking and posting on social media about #WomensHistoryMonth throughout March to celebrate the women who have blazed new trails throughout history and to increase awareness for the work that still needs to be done for each of us to reach our full potential.  This includes leveraging the experience of those who have gone before us through mentorship and support for other women.  When one of us wins, we all win!

Everyone is familiar with the “old boys network”.  If women are going to be successful, we need each other – we need to create the “new women’s network”.  While some women achieve success, and then want other women to have to “work as hard as they did”, it’s the true leaders that will encourage other women and help pull their chairs to the table.

We still have a lot of ground to make-up to reach C-Suite positions, upper level management and pay equity, so we must learn from each other along the way.  Take the time to seek advice from the one woman who has a seat at the boardroom table – she knows the players and the culture.  Men network and help each other, so women should do the same.

Most importantly, a woman boss or colleague who steps into that important mentor role for you could be the person that changes everything.  A good mentor can have many roles.  She (or he) can:

  • Advocate for you and open doors for you internally.
  • Introduce you to key people.
  • Provide inside information and help you learn the politics of your company or industry.
  • Help push you to the next level by shining a light on what you might not know about yourself.
  • Believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself.

When you’ve found that person, listen to her, appreciate her, because you might remember her for the rest of your life.  Personally, I met the mentor who would change the course of my life when there was a gap between my career in the mental health field and starting my own business.

During this period, I managed to land a position with the Flint River Girl Scout Council as a field director, and a woman named Gail Kirocofe was my direct supervisor.  I believed myself to be completely out of my element, with no experience hiring staff and managing the many details associated with being a camp director.

Every day, Gail reassured me that she knew I had the ability, strength and smarts to do the job.  She let me know that she wasn’t going to do it for me, but that she had the belief in me that I was fully capable of doing it myself.

In my effort to not disappoint her, I was able to dig deep and find what she saw in me.  I literally credit her with having a thumbprint on my success, which changed the course of my life.  Even though I was only with the Girl Scouts for two years, this story illustrates my conviction of the power of one mentor.  Gail believed in me, which gave me the confidence to raise my expectations for myself.  While I have had many mentors over the years, Gail was the one that touched my career at that pivotal moment.  When I left the Girl Scouts, I moved on to start my own business.

In 2015, the awareness of the impact Gail had on my life was particularly striking.  I was featured on an electronic billboard as a conference speaker in Pennsylvania.  Realizing how far I had come, I found Gail to let her know I would not have been on that billboard without her.  In her 80s, Gail became a children’s book author and was enjoying her next chapter of success.

When we talk about Women’s History Month and mentorship, don’t ever underestimate the power of one – that one mentor can have an astonishing impact on your life, your success and who you ultimately become.

If you are eager to make a greater impact in your career and be a game-changer, it would be my honor to be part of that process with you.  Please give me a call at 513-561-4288 or connect with me via email at, so we can empower you to achieve that goal.

Read Kay’s Corner in the March newsletter to find practical tips for mentoring.

©Copyright 2017.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Asking for What You Want in the Workplace

Childhood experiences can affect us for a lifetime, whether for good or for bad.  I share one such memory with you as it relates to this month’s topic.  I call it my Lemon Drop Story:

It’s a lazy July afternoon when my grandmother and I strolled into Neibur’s grocery store, in the tiny town of Cobden, Illinois, population 500.  Time has forgotten Cobden and Neibur’s; the store could have easily been a set for a movie set in 1904.  It has wooden floors, baskets of fruit, burlap bags with potatoes and barrels of hard candy.  To my 8-year-old eye, the most important barrel is the lemon drop barrel, I LOVE lemon drops.  Tiny and shy, I stand close to my grandmother and eye the lemon drops.  I am just about ready to summon the courage to ask for some lemon drops, when Mrs. Neibur comments, “Helen you are so lucky to have such a quiet and well-behaved granddaughter, she isn’t like most of the children that come in here throwing a fit for candy!”  My grandmother replies, “Yes, Ethel, we are so fortunate, Kay never asks for anything.”  Those words were like a knife, a reminder that good little girls never ask for anything.  I swallowed my request, as usual, and left the store with only visions of lemon drops.

That day is etched in my memory and behavior.  It has taken me a lifetime to ask for what I want, and it is still an ongoing battle.  The good news is, deep-seated thoughts and behaviors can change!

In my experience coaching women, I have identified the top five reasons why women don’t ask for what they want.  Interestingly, the barriers that block women for asking for what they want are the same for women in traditional workplaces and women entrepreneurs.  The number one culprit is thinking you shouldn’t have to ask for what they want because others should already know their wants and needs.  This thinking is flawed for several reasons.

First and foremost: no one is a mind reader.  You and you alone are responsible for communicating your wants and needs simply because you are the only one who knows.  Even though this basic truth is so simple, I can’t tell you how many times women raise it as the main reason they will not ask for a raise, promotion, or more time off.  Second, your manager likely has a lot on their plate and many other employees in their organization.  If you don’t speak up, it is reasonable for them to assume you are good with the status quo.  Lastly, if you allow others to decide what you want and need, you are yielding your power to control your career path to someone else other than you.

Fear of seeming too greedy also tops the list.  The underlying issue with this feeling is not valuing your work contribution enough.  If this fear plagues you, think about how much time, effort, talent and attention you pour into your work.  Communicating your wants and needs to be fairly compensated or recognized for your competence is not greed.  It is simply logical and reasonable.

Some women are concerned about appearing too needy if they ask for what they want.  This fear is similar to feeling greedy, but centers around personal self-esteem versus competence.  Your relationship history can play into this fear more than you may realize.  Have significant others downplayed your desires as too needy or ‘high-maintenance’ in the past?  Over time, such collective messages build up and can block out the truth; you have every right to ask for what you want and need.  Notice I did not say you are ‘entitled’ to your every want and need, but asking for what you desire in and of itself is not needy.  The key here is discretion.  Repeatedly asking for unrealistic desires will definitely garner a reputation of being needy.  If your request is fair and reasonable given what you do, or are willing to do, in return, then it is not needy.

Some women feel they should wait their turn for reward, recognition or favor.  Perhaps because they came from a large family, are ‘others’ focused, or feel that the wants and needs of others are more important than their own.  Newsflash: if you wait around in the workplace for your turn, you’ll be sitting alone in the same cubicle for a very long time.  Fulfilling your wants and needs is an independent function relative to the timing of when others’ have theirs met.  Being considerate of others is a courtesy issue, always putting the needs of others before your own is an issue of low self-worth.  You are worthy of having your wants and needs met.  Asking, not waiting, is the first step.

A less common, but also not rare barrier some women encounter is that they only speak when spoken to.  The reasons for this can be complex and varied, but overcoming this hurdle is more important than identifying why it’s a problem.  You are not a child of the 50’s!  Rather, you are a grown, capable woman in a career or position with responsibilities who delivers outcomes for your company.  Whether this is in an entry, mid- or upper-level job is irrelevant.  Speaking up and advocating for yourself is a core competency that any employee must possess for their own protection and advancement in the workplace.

You may have identified with one or more of these hurdles, and feel they are legitimate reasons for not asking for what you want.  The reality is that asking for what you want and engaging in self-advocacy actually garners respect.  That’s right, respect.  When you speak up for yourself, you demonstrate confidence to others and send a message that your contributions are worthy.  You may ask, ‘But Kay, how do I do that?’  The answer is to focus on the outcome rather than the process.

Focus on the benefit, not just to you, but to the person you are asking.  Just like any relationship, those in the workplace, or with a client, are give and take.  Before you ask for what you want, consider what benefit the person in a position of power, or your customer, will receive from your request.  For example, your promotion may take a significant amount of work off her plate.  Additional time off may enable you to recharge your batteries or restructure your life a bit to enable a more efficient work process.  With a raise request or fee increase, you could offer to take on additional responsibilities.  Each scenario provides something of significance to the person who has the power to grant your request.

How can you move past your own barrier, and into a state of mind that enables you to be strong in your communication and self-advocacy?  I can help!  Call me today to set up an appointment, and we can work toward a solution together.

©Copyright 2016.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

March is Women’s History Month

Most people don’t even know this simple fact.  Further, the majority of Americans do not know their women’s history well either.  In fact, a recent online survey from the National Women’s History Museum reveals that most Americans receive an ‘F’ on their knowledge of women’s history.  By way of example, do you know Ida B. Wells (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931), Elizabeth Blackwell (February, 3 1821 – May 31, 1910), or Sally Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012)?  Probably not, but do you know Martin Luther King, Sigmund Freud and Neil Armstrong?  Respectively, these two lists of women and men were civil rights activists, doctors and astronauts.

It could be due to the history books we studied in school, maybe the media doesn’t highlight women enough, or perhaps we tend to skip over or discount significant contributions made by women.  Regardless of the reason, the reality is that countless women have made significant contributions to our country, society and government that have and will make a lasting impact, but that sadly, we know little about.  Let’s explore.

From the first US settlers, through the industrial age, and within the last 150 years, women in journalism, civil rights, science and business have continuously worked to improve their fields of study and work.  Today, as women who mentor or touch the lives of other women, knowledge of women’s history is an important and useful tool.  The accomplishments of women before us can inspire, challenge and pave the way for the continued success of our current generation of women.

Know this – someone is always watching you.  Whether it’s your daughter; a neighbor girl; a female colleague at work; a woman you volunteer beside; a young mother you encounter frequently; even a sister or cousin – someone is learning from you whether you realize it or not.  Often, what they emulate is non-verbal.  Your actions and behaviors speak much louder than your words.  Ask yourself what messages are they internalizing about assertiveness, taking a stance or even self-value based on you as a role model.   Would you want a female you care about to emulate your behavior?

Further, if someone is emulating you, they will look to you for guidance and advice.  If in those encounters, you can draw on the example or parallel situation of a woman in history who has made a significant impact, what a powerful lesson and message you can teach.  To know that a woman has forged a path before us in a certain area is very empowering.  Read on for more than just a few examples (I had a hard time narrowing it down!)

Nurse Clara Barton, most famous for treating injured Civil War soldiers, later founded the American Red Cross.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were a fierce suffragist duo who also fought very hard in the war against slavery.  A major contributor to literature, Louisa May Alcott was the first author who produced literature for the mass market of young girls.  She published nearly 300 works, most notably, Little Women, which was published in 1868.

In 1932, Florence Allen was appointed to the US Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit after serving on the Ohio Supreme Court.  She was the first woman appointed as a federal appeals court judge.  Today, 1/3 of those serving on the US Supreme Court are women.

In science and technology, Sally Ride was the first American woman in space in 1983.  Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman in space just nine years later.

As a mentor, leader, counselor or otherwise encourager to other women, we assist in unfolding the future for our younger generation.  As you go out and positively impact women, consider the lives and accomplishments of those before you and share their stories in honor of them, and in the building up of strong women around you.  Inspire them to make a difference and challenge them to reach to higher levels than they ever thought possible.

In closing, I’d like to share this timely video of my own granddaughter, Samantha, speaking about the life and accomplishments of the first African-American female astronaut, Mae Jemison:

Mae Jemison, presented by Samantha Shannon

When Samantha, age 8, learned about her, she was inspired and excited.  Our goal is to inspire you as well.  I challenge you to learn about one woman that changed the course of history and share it with a young female in your circle of influence.

©Copyright 2016.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Speaking with Confidence

Do you shudder at the thought of presenting in front of a group?  Or, maybe you’re comfortable in front of a group, but feel your skills could use some polishing?

Polished communication skills should be the basis and core from which all of your talents and other work skills flow.  Without the ability to clearly communicate, your prospects for individual and business success are low.  Excellent communication skills portray as good leadership skills, and in most businesses are a necessary element and large consideration for promotion.

Today business communication is often over email, text and voice mail, making powerful in-person presentations more important than ever before.  Moreover, speaking with confidence is critical to being viewed as an authority in staff meetings, with clients, when networking, at large formal presentations and during upper level management meetings.

Surprisingly, confidence and the authority factor of in-person communication lies more with the way you look, act and project yourself more than what you actually say (but, of course, that is important too!).

Here are 6 keys to success on your path to speaking with confidence.

1.  Make an impact from the moment you enter the room.  This is important whether meeting one-on-one with a new (or existing) client, or addressing an auditorium full of people.  Showing up with a powerful, professional image will make a lasting impression and go a long way toward making your message resonate.  Start with the basics like a well put together outfit and personal presentation, but go above and beyond.  Here are just a few ideas spanning small to large group talks:

  • One-on-One Meetings – bring an article, magazine, publication or book pertaining to a topic discussed at your last meeting; share a small business-related tool or gadget from your last business trip, vacation or a store; or give a memento pertaining to something your client likes.
  • Small Group Meetings – Wear a new outfit, bold color or unique accessory; choose a location with a special point of interest or something different from the norm; begin the meeting with an ice-breaker (even if the group knows each other).
  • Large Group Presentations – Play impactful music or enter with a prop pertaining to the topic; wear bold color; set your stage with props to use throughout the talk.

2.  Command your space to exude power.  Research proves that standing up straight and assuming positions or stances of power prior to your talk increases confidence and testosterone (power hormone), and decreases cortisol (stress hormone.)*  Power positions include stances like standing up tall and reaching for the ceiling with your arms stretched overhead; standing strong and tall with your hands on your hips; sitting tall in a chair with your feet up on a desk; or sitting in a chair with your hands behind your head and ankle resting over the opposite knee.  Assuming these poses for as little as two minutes prior to your presentation can make a huge difference in your delivery and confidence.

After you enter the room, assume a strong stance without crossing your legs or arms, and without pulling your shoulders down or inward.  These movements do not convey power or confidence.

3.  Grab your audience with your first word.  Think about the ‘firsts’ in sporting events; the football kickoff, first pitch in baseball, or basketball toss up – these are major actions that set the game in motion.  The same needs to be true each time you present.  Your starting words are your launch point to a successful presentation.  Begin with a relevant story, funny anecdote, interesting trivia about your topic, or audience quiz which ties into the topic.  Make it impactful and memorable.

4.  Develop rapport quickly and easily.  This doesn’t happen by standing behind the lectern, or sinking into your chair if you’re in a conference room.  Ditch the lectern if you are in front of a big group.  It creates a barrier.  Instead, invade the audience space.  Take your power and energy around the room, or across the stage to help make a connection to everyone.  Use positive gestures throughout your talk like a subtle thumbs up, nodding, smiling, and mirroring to make people buy your story or your point.

5.  Organize your points for maximum persuasion.  Impact, power, attention grabbing and building rapport all do matter, but the end goal is to get your core message across.  Know your content like you know the alphabet.  Don’t make the mistake of reading slides to your audience.  Put one or two key points on a slide with graphics and pictures to drive your point home, and let your slides act as memory joggers for your next point.  Run through your presentation ahead of time until it’s natural and easy to deliver.

6.  Conclude memorably.  Finish strong and people will remember your message.  Your closing is as important as your first moment of impact, and needs to make a lasting impression.

The best way to sum up how to be confident in front of a group is to ‘get out of your own way’.  Your audience is looking for information, education, tools, entertainment, enlightenment, and they want these things from someone who is efficient, capable and engaging.  Think about and focus completely on their needs when you are building your presentation, and what they want to get out of the encounter and walk away with when you are delivering it.

Of course, since you are the main event their eyes will be focused on you, but don’t waste time second guessing yourself, or in self-doubt.  People will be interested in what you have to say if you say it with impact.  And if you do it right, they will not only have heard your message by the end of your presentation, you will have won them over as well.

* Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are Ted Talk, June 2012

©Copyright 2015.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.


Spearhead Your Career

Who’s in charge of your life?  When it comes to decisions around your house, with your family, your finances and free time, who is the decision maker?  YOU are (at least that’s what I hope you answered.)

Next question; who is in charge of your career?  Is it your manager, your company, your co-worker, your college (if you’re getting your degree or going back for one)?  NO!  It’s none of those entities.  Just like you are in charge of your life, YOU are in charge of your career.

So how is your career going?  Do you have an end-game in mind with a vision, goals set to achieve your vision, and a plan to reach those goals?  Have you even given this any thought, or are you just waiting for your co-workers, manager or upper management to notice how hard you work, and either recommend you for, or give you, a promotion?  If you aren’t focused on your career advancement, and only working hard on what’s right in front of you, you can count on staying in exactly that same place for a long time.

The 21st century business world is very different from the one our parents worked in.  Holding a 25 or 30-year career in the same company is a thing of the past.  According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics news release in May of this year, the baby boomers (born 1957-1964) have held an average of 11.7 jobs in their lifetime.

This means that you cannot expect your employer to be loyal or faithful to you because you have seniority.  Workers that expect loyalty from a company because they have ‘put their time in’, or because it’s ‘fair’ are positioning themselves to be dis-empowered.  These same individuals typically take on a victim mentality when things don’t go as they expect.  This mentality expects ‘the boss’ to take care of them.  Employers are now used to a transient workforce, and only reward skilled employees who possess strong leadership skills and greatness, and who have the ability to bring out those same qualities in others.  The competitive economic and business environment of our times forces companies to continually seek efficient streamlined processes and the best talent.  So ‘working hard’ and seniority in and of themselves don’t cut it anymore.

So, how do you get ahead?  Instead of thinking like a ‘worker’, think of yourself as a ‘free agent’ or a ‘freelancer’ who wants to bring just as much value to your ‘client’ (employer) as you do to improving yourself, your skill set and your career.  This mindset positions you for building your own personal ‘brand’, which consists of your abilities, leadership skills and unique things that you bring to the table.  Here are a few ways to spearhead your career and build your personal brand at the same time.

1. Don’t expect the workplace to do it for you.  Treat your career advancement like other areas of your personal life, where you take control and spearhead the situation because you are seeking a desired outcome.  For example, if you want to develop better sleep or eating habits, you don’t wait for someone to tell you when to go to bed, or what to eat.  Likewise, your savings and investments aren’t going to manage and grow by themselves, you need to keep abreast of them and fine tune along the way to ensure good returns.

Be self-responsible all the way around by not only doing your required work, but making sure it aligns with both your company’s goals and your personal goals.  One way to do this is publicize completed projects and achievements to your manager by outlining the strategies and skills used, and demonstrating how it helped the company.  This can be done via a simple power point or in an email, and is an effective way to showcase your abilities versus just submitting the project or report upon completion.

For example, instead of just submitting a completed marketing ROI report showing dollars spent versus new customers or sales, go a step further.  If you taught yourself how to use pivot tables in Excel to analyze the data, tell your manager – especially if you shared the knowledge with a co-worker.  This demonstrates your ability to seek and learn new things as well as leadership skills.  To add value, augment the report by suggesting where the money could be spent more effectively, or how if funds were increased in a new area, it would result in a more significant ROI.  This framework can be applied to any area of business within a company, and demonstrates your greatness.

2. Identify what you want – for yourself, and then to your employer.  If you are currently in an entry level or middle management position, have you envisioned where you want to go next?  Whether it’s with the same company, or in a completely different industry, it’s important to be working with that next step in mind.  Today, workers have many projects to manage and juggle.  If you know where you want to go next, it makes it easier to prioritize and publicize important projects and their outcomes.

Using the same example, perhaps you want to become the next marketing manager at your company.  Prioritize and execute with excellence the projects that showcase your skills, and keep details records of your accomplishments.  During your review, or sooner if the time is right, share your collective accomplishments and state your desired goal to your manager (or upper management if appropriate).  You will get an immediate sense if your vision can take shape with your current company, or if you need to go down another path to accomplish it.

This is where spearheading comes into play again.  If your dream is realistic where you currently work, forge down the path with continued passion and commitment.  If after a reasonable amount of time, your sense is that your goals will not be realized, gather your accomplishments and seek another company where your vision can come to life.  In both scenarios, you are spearheading the outcome and in control of your destiny – not your employer.

3. Continually educate.  Whether it’s teaching yourself a simple new trick in PowerPoint, or pursuing your MBA, continual skill and knowledge development is one of the strongest ways to spearhead your career.  Below are some additional forms of education that will build your personal brand:

  • Join a local business women’s group.
  • Attend local networking events relating to your current industry or role.
  • Find a ‘Meetup’ in your area that relates to your job, or a new area of interest.
  • Go to an industry conference relating to your line of work, or one that will help you to work smarter.
  • Take a night class to improve or learn a new skill.
  • Join a Toastmasters club.
  • Look for webinars to enhance your skills, communication, leadership style or industry knowledge.
  • And my personal favorite – attend a High-Heeled Success Workshop, or work with me to learn how to make a career breakthrough if you are struggling in any of the areas mentioned in this article.

©Copyright 2015.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.

Here We Go Again? No…Here We Go Still

Managing a Hostile Work Environment

There are few topics that get more polarized responses from each gender than sexual harassment.  Never in my wildest nightmare did I expect in 2011 to be talking about this issue in the same polarized way as we are discussing the Herman Cain allegations. When I first entered the workforce the terms: “Honey”, “Girl”, and “Baby” were common references to women.  It was standard fare for men to expect “perks” from women for the crumbs that were thrown on the table of the workplace.  Then the term sexual harassment didn’t even exist.  The bad behavior of males at work was just the way it was.  Shoot, we weren’t all that very far away from a time when my grandmother could not even vote.

Fast forward to 2011 and here we go still.  Entitlement is an ugly thing.  How will we stem the tide of male entitlement?  Let’s look at two “how to” thoughts.  One of these is certainly at your discretion, the other might be.

What do you normally do when someone oversteps a boundary with you?  Do you in very clear words telegraph the line has been crossed?  If a colleague comes into your office and begins that put his paws on the items on your desk what do you say?  “That’s private please don’t mess with my stuff!”  Are you just and clear and forceful when it comes to unwanted comments or touches?  Isn’t it interesting that many women won’t hesitate to say “don’t touch my stuff” but balks at saying “don’t touch me.”  Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT blaming you for men’s bad behavior but somehow we have to be part of the solution.  It takes courage to state our boundaries but that pales in comparison to the courage that it takes to file a sexual harassment claim.  Your words, your steely stare, and your unequivocal tone are all part of the solution.

If you are a parent, grandparent, or teacher what an opportunity you have.  Today is the day to be setting a new standard for our sons and daughters.  How effective are you in conveying where the rights of girls begin and where the rights of boys end?  Males didn’t learn entitlement their first day on the job did they?  We learn entitlement from the day we are born.  Have the courage to help create a child who understands the rights of others.  Until next time, have courage and be part of the solution.

©Copyright 2011.  Kay Fittes.  All Rights Reserved.