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How I Grew My Career in 2017

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Becky Benishek
MVP

How I Grew My Career in 2017

Growth is essential. It can also be scary!

 

Just like when you’re growing up as a child, you have to stretch—sometimes literally—past your comfort zone to get what you want. Often there are growing pains along the way. And sometimes you suddenly find that what you’re reaching for is in your grasp.

 

You also have to consider what might happen when you’re reaching for that something: What if you fail? What if you don’t?

 

A perennial piece of wisdom is that you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. Today I’m looking back on a few things I did differently this year that have helped me grow in my career.

 

1. I spoke up.

 

girl-holding-megaphone-free-vector.jpghttps://www.123freevectors.com

 

I haven’t always.

 

What I’m more comfortable doing is evaluating and sifting through information. I try to be mindful that what I see in front of me isn’t always all there is. I like to be cognizant of where people are coming from and what their intentions are, and give the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically assuming the worst. I try to, anyway.

 

And I’ve found that I don’t always actively contribute when perhaps I should have.

 

That’s been changing. This year, I’ve been speaking up about things that matter, both to me and beyond me. I’ve been (I hope) expanding my empathy, too.  

 

Speaking up has done wonders for my career. You’re the one who knows your job best. You know your goals. There’s no point in sitting on your words when there’s something you need. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know if the answer would have been Yes.

 

Because of this, I’ve opened up opportunities for myself I haven’t had before, such as becoming a people-manager.

 

2. I took on challenges.

 

485939393-hornbill-microfone-cleansing-animal-communication-technology.jpghttp://footage.framepool.com/en/shot/485939393-hornbill-microfone-cleansing-animal-communication-technology

 

Speaking of speaking up, one of my challenges is public speaking. I do it. I know I can do it. I receive refreshingly good feedback when I do it.

 

I still get kind of nervous thinking about it.

 

So I push myself. I stand up and share at weekly meetings. I volunteer to present at Microsoft Ignite and MVP events. I take opportunities to be a podcast guest.

 

I realize that with some of these, every “you know” and nervous laugh will be recorded ad infinitum. This used to bug me. Now I’ve realized I don’t have to let it. As long as I’m helping someone with what I’m sharing, that’s what drives me to keep taking on the speaking-up challenge.  

 

Another challenge was having the confidence in myself to believe I was ready to be a people-manager, and then to have the confidence to get the powers-that-be to believe it, too! Realizing all this was a big step for me.

 

And since I’ve mentioned this twice now. . .

 

3. I embraced leadership.

 

29a.pnghttp://knowyourmeme.com/photos/313512-like-a-boss

 

I’d never thought about being a people-manager, not really. A manager of things, sure; social media and online communities among them. But when my initial role kept expanding, it became very clear that something had to give: I had to have somebody to share the load.

 

Which led to another consideration: I liked to think I’d be a good people-manager, but how could I really know for sure until I did it? What if I was secretly a micromanager? Agh!

 

I am grateful to CPI for giving me the chance to find out. First through having a social media intern, and now through my direct report, doing what I used to do when I first started here, and doing an awesome job every day.

 

I’ve learned that I am both happiest and most effective at being hands-off, that once trust is established and training is done, I can let that person do the job they were hired for while I focus on the roles I’ve grown into. I’ve also doubled down on making sure I do a better job myself, because my decisions no longer affect just me.

 

And through this, I’d like to say I’m learning not just how to be a manager, but how to be a leader, too.

 

4. I kept listening.

 

558299_fdcee0e30efbd917e25665e553a7c4bd_large.jpghttp://pixdaus.com/donkey-face/items/view/558299

 

I believe if you stop letting yourself learn, you’ll stagnate and then decay. Sounds a bit rough! But working in social media alone taught me that you can’t afford to rest on last year’s successes, nor refuse to learn from yesterday’s mistakes.

 

I’ve really paid attention this year to how opening my mind to new things has helped me grow both personally and professionally. This is something I work on all the time. It’s far easier to gravitate toward our “tribes” or engage in confirmation bias. It’s comfortable! It lets you relax!

 

But you never know where that essential bit of advice is going to come from or what chance remark will inspire you to do something greater than yourself. It’s worth it to seek outside your own comfortable box.

 

ETA: I was planning a separate post for this, but in writing my response to Jeff's comment below, I thought, no, this belongs here, too: 

 

5. I grew in friendship.

 

 owlfox.jpghttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2812383/Their-friendship-purr-fect-Heartwarming-photographs-animals-wild-unlikely-pals.html

 

I wouldn't be where I am now without some absolutely wonderful people I've had the great fortune to meet along the way, and am still meeting. I hope that never ends. I also hope I've been able to give back and support them and others, and have learned to be a better friend, myself. I know this is something to keep working on.

 

Sometimes, just knowing someone is out there in our sometimes-small, sometimes-vast world is enough. Thank you.

 

What it all comes down to:

 

Now that I’ve got all this out in front of my eyeballs, I can see how the decisions I’ve made and the opportunities I’ve taken link together to get me to where I am now. I can also see what I need to keep doing, and what plans I should start to make for 2018.

 

In my personal life, I’ve fulfilled a long-time dream and published two children’s books, with a third currently under contract to a publishing house. Professionally, I’m so grateful to be a two-person team now, which frees me up some to focus on making sure Yammer continues to serve our customers’ needs, and to help other Yammer admins around the world make it work for their organizations as well. 

 

What’s your year been like? What surprising things have you learned about yourself?

 

And here’s to a successful new year for us all!

9 Replies
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Re: How I Grew My Career in 2017

Love this post. It’s hard to reply cause you totally crushed 2017 and it’s kind of daunting to get a reply going, but I love the simplicity of your list.

Your “participation in meetings” is a really good one. I discuss that with people all the time. I ask:
Why are you in the meeting if just to listen? Above participation, are you leading the discussion?
Did people come away from the meeting with energy and clarity on the topic?

When working in groups, teams, big projects, it is really important for personal and career growth to remember how important these interactions are and the opportunity that is possible with a bunch of amazing and aligned people.

That is definitely a great insight you gave. Thanks for sharing!

-Jeff

Re: How I Grew My Career in 2017

Love this post. It’s hard to reply cause you totally crushed 2017 and it’s kind of daunting to get a reply going, but I love the simplicity of your list.

Your “participation in meetings” is a really good one. I discuss that with people all the time. I ask:
Why are you in the meeting if just to listen? Above participation, are you leading the discussion?
Did people come away from the meeting with energy and clarity on the topic?

When working in groups, teams, big projects, it is really important for personal and career growth to remember how important these interactions are and the opportunity that is possible with a bunch of amazing and aligned people.

That is definitely a great insight you gave. Thanks for sharing!

-Jeff

Re: How I Grew My Career in 2017

I appreciate that, Jeff! Thank you.

One thing that remained constant in all these learning moments was that I wasn't an island. I wouldn't have gotten to where I am now all on my own. I include the what NOT to do moments through sheer observation. :)

And even this right here, posting a blog for you to see--I can look back and see the wonderful people I've met along the way and the chain of events that led to what may seem a simple task, but one that has a legacy I'm grateful for.

Meetings can be tricky; there are so many people who are brimming over with good value, but who just aren't comfortable sharing in a large or structured venue. How does one draw out the good ideas without causing anxiety?

Re: How I Grew My Career in 2017

Thanks so much for sharing Becky! I've also embraced saying 'Yes' to new challenges, because more often than not, they open up opportunities to lead, learn new things and grow my network and friendships - all things you mentioned! I'm beginning to see how small this world really is through community and I'm loving it! Excited to hear what new adventures you'll be taking in 2018, please keep sharing :)

Re: How I Grew My Career in 2017

A big "Yes!" to your Yes, Anna! Those unexpected things that come our way, large or small, don't always reveal their full benefits right away, yet more and more I see how one seemingly unrelated thing leads to another that fits in marvelously.

 

Happy 2018!

Re: How I Grew My Career in 2017

Thank you for sharing your insights. There is learning for everyone. The points that you mentioned like Speaking up and listening are applicable to almost all jobs or career paths.

Re: How I Grew My Career in 2017

Becky,

 

Great post. Details are discussable (especially with my 66), but they are not important. Your attitude is important, with it I believe you continue to grow your career.

 

Take care and Happy 2018!

Re: How I Grew My Career in 2017

Thanks so much! I'm so glad to hear that these things can help. 

Re: How I Grew My Career in 2017

 Thank you very much for your kind words. Happy 2018!

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