Lessons in Leadership

Lessons in Leadership:  “Top 10 Career Tips” and Advice – “Use Your Voice”

Anita Scott, Senior VP, Chief Human Resources Officer, for Radian Group Inc., a residential mortgage insurance company based in Philadelphia, and I recently participated in a mentoring session for promising women leaders. I’ve been privileged to know Anita since we first worked together at Advanta. As so often happens with people we admire and respect, our paths have continued to cross over time and I value her practicality, grit, passion, and hard-won insights as a senior leader who has progressed through the ranks. When I heard her “Top 10 List of Career Advice,” I knew these were the perfect lessons to include — for young as well as seasoned professionals — as the third installment of guest posts in our “Lessons in Leadership” series.

While you could read an entire book about the topic, it’s all included in this wise one-page handout. Anita stresses that communication cannot be overstated. She advises us to “use our voices — to ask questions, summarize understanding, and show our individuality.”

Career Advice – My top 10 favorites

  1. What’s the best advice you’ve received when preparing for a job interview/new job?
    • Practice your response to “tell me about yourself” – to someone else or in the mirror – SAY IT ALOUD!
    • Take a dry run before the day of the interview so you know where you’re going.
    • Make sure you know with WHOM you’re meeting, and research those people on LinkedIn – know what they do, how long they’ve been at the company, etc.
    • Be prepared to ask at least two to three questions about the company or the position. 
    • Make some time to take it all in — go on a listening tour
    • Ensure that you understand what expectations people have for you in the first week, month, few months, so that you’re clear.
  2. Communication is one of the most important aspects of any role and cannot be overlooked or forgotten. Use your voice to ask questions, restate your understanding and make eye contact. Reflect who you are as an individual.
  3. Feedback is a gift so ask for it often. It won’t always be positive, but it will help you to know where you stand, and possibly, what you can do to correct issues or improve.
    • Always thank people for their input, even if you didn’t want it in the first place. Say “thanks for your email…” at the beginning of every email
  4. Don’t send emails when you’re upset or angry.  
    • Write the email, save it in a draft, and review after a period of time (an hour, a day, etc.).
    • Rewrite it as necessary when you’re calm or pick up the phone and talk.
    • Ask others to review before sending (check for tone, content and spelling/grammar)
  5. Day to Day Tips:
    • Perception is reality, so make it work for you.
      • A messy desk or constantly arriving at work “only five minutes late” will eventually leave a negative impression.
      • Like it or not, appearance matters. Make sure you’re presenting yourself the way you want to be seen on a daily basis.
    • Spend time developing yourself (via experience, exposure, and education – not just training classes).
    • Continue to grow in order to help move yourself AND the company forward.
    • Exposure and experience are usually free – ask your manager for his/her support in endorsing you to lead a meeting, observe a new situation, take on a bigger role in a project, ask a lot of questions following a new experience, etc.
    • If you like structure, make a realistic development plan for yourself — with milestones and key dates to achieve those milestones.
  6. Learn the business (and follow changes/news about the business), even if it’s not “required” for your role. It will be important in any role you are in or will aspire to move to in the future.
  7. Always NETWORK – talk to people and build rapport every chance you get!
    • If you like structure, consider building a simple plan for yourself to meet one new person per week/month, etc.
    • Networking is always a good idea, not just when looking for a new role. Having connections with people will pay off — you help them AND they help you. Make sure you are on the “giving end” once in a while
  8. When you make a mistake, take responsibility for your decision and admit that you were wrong. It’s okay to apologize! Humility is an underappreciated quality that goes a LONG way.
  9. Track your accomplishments throughout the year (don’t save them for your annual review – you and your manager will not remember all of them). 
  10. Dealing with Change
    • Reach for the stars in your goals, but be a realist in your timeframe to achieve them.
      • Life changes A LOT, and sometimes the best laid plans go off course – professional and personal.
    • There will always be setbacks in life. Try to envision them as speed bumps, not stop signs; you may need to slow down, but don’t you dare give up.

How can you use your voice? What have you learned that can you apply today to your situation? How could it make a difference?

I’d love to know what you think so please leave your comments below. 

Anita Scott is a practical human resources executive equally skilled at developing a winning culture and managing executive partnerships. She has advanced to a strategic Human Resources leadership role at Radian, where she has been since 1999, and previously worked for 20 years at Advanta, serving as the Director of Human Resources. She is known for superior relationship management skills, being a direct communicator, and for solving complex problems both at project and organizational levels. She and her husband reside in Bucks County and have two adult children who are growing their own careers.

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