“If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve been further in my career by now”

Does this sound like something you’ve said to yourself before?

We’ve all had moments in our career where we’ve taken inventory of the things we could have done differently to set ourselves even further along the path to career success.

My biggest career realization came after I returned from a more than one-year maternity leave. As a millennial leaving the workforce to have a baby in the early stages of my career and coming back to a change of management, change of process and a new way of doing things, I didn’t realize how important relationships would be to my successful transition back.

For most of my career, I expected the results to speak for themselves. I told myself “If I achieve results and showed my leaders that I was capable, I would undoubtedly achieve the career success I was after”.

Not so.

Though your results are important in the corporate space, they aren’t a predictor of promotions, salary increases or advancements per se. There are too many factors that can change, especially after an extended leave. When I returned, what I had achieved became a reference point but it’s my relationships, or lack thereof, that made a difference.

Here are 3 things I’ve learned about owning my career and building relationships after my leave:

1. Be At The Wheel Of Your Own Life

Far too often, we hand our career over to our managers, leaders and organization to find a path for us. Many have the impression that somehow, by proxy of their years of employment, they will get ahead. This model may have worked 10 years ago, when senior leaders gave you a career plan and a path was laid out for high achieving employees. However, in today’s global tech-driven world that model is unsustainable by itself. We are now competing in a global career marketplace, where the candidate pool is large and net wide with qualified potential employees.

You have to take the wheel of your own career. You have to do your research, invest in yourself and your development. You can’t expect your organization to drive the car for you. Take charge of your own journey and it starts with the realization that YOU are responsible for your career success.

2 . Start Before You’re Ready

As humans, some of us have a tendency to put off until tomorrow what we know we should be doing today. The same is true about relationship building.

How many of us have forgotten to follow up with a new or existing relationship? Life happens. We get busy. Some lack the confidence required to engage in these relationships. I’ve heard junior employees talk about building relationships once they feel established in their careers because of success insecurities. Feeling like they don’t have anything to offer. When you don’t know what you have to offer, offer your help.

The most powerful thing we can do to own our career is start before we’re ready. Start building the relationships and network early because those relationships will undoubtedly be the social capital you need to carry you not only after a leave but throughout your career as well.

3. Know Your Value

As a leadership coach whose model is built around knowing and owning your value, this point is very real and relevant to my career success. The saying “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” comes to mind.

Too often after a leave, employees may feel like the best option for career success is to go along with the status quo.

Your manager tries to put you on the mommy career track and you accept it. You’re told that the position you want is only possible if your willing to give 60+ hours a week to your job so you don’t apply.

Far too often, we may feel like out best option to get ahead is to lay down and take every piece of advice, information and suggestion made by management.

But take note: not all advice is the right advice for you.

Knowing your values and what you have to offer doesn’t have to be a barrier to success. It’s in fact your advantage. Own it. Stand up for it. Learn to say “no” to the things that do not serve you or your career aspirations.

And don’t be afraid to disagree with the path someone else has tried to lay out for you. Be open to the feedback and the possibility but ultimately choose what works for you.

What lessons have you learned about owning your career journey?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments space below!

To your deserving success and happiness,