The most important career capital you have isn’t your technical skills or academic pedigree. It’s not your high-flying title. It’s not even your relationships… It’s your reputation. In every job, people will wonder if you have what it takes to get things done and if you can deal with a wide range of people. They’ll be more than curious if you can handle crises and adversity. My favorite mentor has been known to caution, “Your reputation gets to the next place before you do….What will it be?”
What’s so wrong with an MBA? Over the recent years, article after article has explained why the degree is a waste of money and time. The thinking goes, networking with your friends and reading a few books is an easy substitute. What’s more, the article authors note that if you do get your degree, you end up in debt up to your eyeballs and without much more value than when you started.
Even so, for those who aspire to lead, the job outlook for business school graduates has improved, with more companies planning to hire recent MBA and master-level business graduates. And for women in particular, there are some converging competencies that we can learn in the B-school environment that train us uniquely to lead:
For most of us, working on projects and deliverables by ourselves is becoming increasingly scarce. We are constantly joining existing teams, forming new ones or otherwise meeting in groups. In fact, studies of managers and knowledge workers reveal that they spend between 25%-80% of their time in meetings, suggesting that “teamwork” is a primary vehicle for the modern business today. And, meeting time has only increased since 2008.
If you ask someone to describe a person with a compelling leadership brand, they will often struggle initially to explain exactly why that person is so effective. Maybe this is because everything that we do, say, and embody at work creates the brand for which we become known. For some, this is just too heady a realization to bear… People in this camp may feel powerless about their reputation – thinking, “Others are going to make their minds up about me. I can’t control their views.”
In one of my first jobs out of school, at a tender 25 years old, I found myself at a firm with no career ladder and a particularly demoralizing, tyrannical boss. Every morning that I walked from my house to that job, I was wretchedly miserable. My one glimmer of happiness was a smart, funny peer—let’s call her Sarah—who became my instant friend. We were in the same unhappy boat, at a similar level in the organization, and I seized on our lunch breaks as prime opportunities to vent my gloom and misfortune with someone who I knew would understand.
Ask a woman to name her signature strengths and she’ll often squirm in her chair, look away or hesitate. Try asking her what she’s an expert in, and she may just leave the room! On a daily basis, women juggle important demands…yet talking about our talents can be downright unnerving.
One of the coolest jobs in my early career was consulting at Great Place to Work Institute, the firm that ranks the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America for Fortune. As a member of the consulting team, I worked with great companies looking to become better and occasionally, broken companies hoping to fix their morale problems. The learning was huge as I advised “people managers” and helped assess and shape stronger work environments—where employees could actually have a voice.
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