“It’s about who you are in the process,” is a mantra I heard several times from Mary Lee Gannon, CEO of a $24 million healthcare foundation and a certified executive coach, with over 20 years of experience as a CEO. .
Whether we were talking about a navigating a multigenerational workforce, looking for a job, managing a team, or networking, her answers often started with that message. What does it mean?
Here are career insights I gleaned from her own career as well as our conversation – insights that helped her grow quickly from being a single mom who was homeless with kids to a thriving professional career:
- Remain open-minded: No matter how “different” the messenger or the idea, notice if you’re dismissing them, catch yourself and pay attention to it. Do you want them to dismiss you?
- Embrace the multiculturalism with curiosity: Each generation brings a different culture, just as people from different countries or religions or regions of the United States do. I’m a New Yorker, a classic urban creature, for example, so when I lived in the Midwest, I adapted by being curious about the new culture.
- Notice your self-talk: if you’re telling yourself you’re “too” something or “not enough” something, you’ll show up that way and diminish your own value. If they respect you and value you enough to hire you, then you belong, so get over the negative self-talk.
- Be prepared: This should be on every career tips list! The more prepared you are, the more confident you are, the better you perform and the more you show up as yourself.
- Find a way – cleverly: Gannon wanted a new challenge and heard about a healthcare company that was going through a massive restructuring that she thought would be a great opportunity to grow and contribute. Even though the window to apply for their new CEO role was closed, she reached out to the top decision maker anyway to offer her two cents, and ended up landing the job.
- Demonstrate with stories: Show your value by telling stories that reflect your unique and transferable skills. People relate to stories.
- Be memorable – in a good way: Gannon told me the story of a woman who had to do a presentation on any topic for a job with a records management company. Instead of doing her presentation on that industry, or a related business problem, she did the presentation on…rubber duckies! Even bringing little rubber duckies for each person in the room, duckies which remained on their desks long after her presentation was over.
- Really listen: “The deepest level of listening is being there only for them…not waiting for them to finish so you can speak,” Gannon emphasized, adding, “make the one-to-one connection.”
- Practice FBI feedback: Such as “when you went the extra mile and did….it make me feel confident that I can….and is saved us time in….” Gannon explained this method as, stating how you feel about what they did; focusing on the behavior, and impact for the company and for the person giving the feedback.
- Be adaptable: When you’re adaptable, your relevance never diminishes and you’re always learning and growing, showing your humanity, and you can always contribute and thrive. When you’re rigid, you can’t and you risk becoming obsolete. Besides, it’s more fun to adapt and learn.
- Have a side hustle: To keep learning new things and meeting new people outside your normal daily routine. (Read my Forbes blog on how to protect your side hustle too.)
“It’s about who you are in process,” Gannon said again. “What are your transferable skills that stand out? What measurable key accomplishments do you have and how can you care and create connection with people to help build your sphere of influence?”
These are good points to heed, no matter what age or career stage we are, or where we work, or what culture we’re from. These tips help your career and contribution stay fresh, relevant and engaging.