What does career success look like to you? Is it starting your own company? Building a thriving freelance career that allows you to work from anywhere in the world? Climbing the corporate ladder and landing in the corner office?
Whatever your lofty career goals may be, success doesn’t happen overnight. And no one knows that better that Rhonesha Byng, founder and CEO of Her Agenda, a digital media platform that gives millennial women access to information to help them move their career to the next level. She began her career at NBC News as an intern, and eventually climbed her way to field producer, where she won an Emmy award as part of team coverage for a breaking news. Today, her resume also boasts speaking at the White House and a spot in the 2017 class of Forbes' 30 Under 30.
How'd she get here? “One of my favorite quotes that applies here is by Robert Collier: ‘Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.’” says Byng. Which leaves us all wondering, what exactly are the small efforts that add up to big success? The expert on climbing the corporate ladder, and letting nothing stand in your way, offers up her best tips for taking your career to the next level.
1. Help people help you
Goals are often something we jot down in a notebook and revisit every so often; we have a mental plan of how we’re going to accomplish these things and a sense what that trajectory looks like. But, according to Byng, this information isn’t doing us any good kept to ourselves.
“Be vocal about where you see yourself going and your goals,” she says. “Most people want to help you, you just need to show and tell them how. It’s not bad to have an agenda when it comes to your career. Own it. This helps people know what type of opportunities to share with you and understand how they can possibly help you connect the dots in your career.”
2. Know your audience
When you do have the opportunity to share your accomplishments and future goals with others, it's important to tailor your "pitch" to the audience. For example, you may be used to spewing off all your accolades — dancer, teacher, writer, host, brand consultant and social media strategist — after all, the more accomplishments the better right?
Wrong. “What seasoned professionals hear when you say that you do a million and one things is that you are unfocused — especially when your experience doesn’t reflect your titles,” says Byng. “Listen, I know you don’t lack focus, you’re just multi-passionate (many of us are). However, the first step to delivering a compelling message? Know your audience. When introducing yourself to others, remain mindful of your environment and your key objective in speaking with the individual.”
3. Don’t shoot too high — at first
Sure, we all have big dreams. But you’re not realistically going to go from intern to CEO overnight — nor should that be your goal. You need to do the work to back it up.
Make it your goal to “master your current role before trying to be the CEO,” says Byng. “As an entry level employee or intern your goal should be to demonstrate your competency and capability to handle the smallest tasks. View it as an opportunity to build (and earn) trust, respect and credibility from your colleagues through flawless execution of those tasks. Focus on the task at hand keeping your ‘big’ ideas in mind for a timely and deserving pitch.”
4. Be solution-oriented
This may sound like a no brainer, but take note of the contributions made during your next meeting. Chances are, more of them focus on why things won't work, or proposing open-ended suggestions or questions, versus presenting concrete solutions. Be conscious of this and work to actively change the way you're contributing.
“Don’t point out what’s wrong, or present ideas in the form of a question,” says Byng. For example: “Should we have a quarterly meeting soon?” versus “I noticed we haven’t had a chance to go over goals in a while, I’m looking into scheduling an all hands session for Tuesday afternoon.”
5. Use technology to your advantage
Technology has made every area of our lives faster and easier. So make sure you're taking advantage of it at work, too. Byng recommends installing a few plug ins and apps to up your productivity at the office:
- Streak: This plug-in helps with scheduling and tracking. Her favorite feature is the ability to schedule an unlimited amount of emails. “I consider it unprofessional to email people outside of business hours. It might be old school, but think back to the last time you got an email at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night? What impression did you get of that person?” says Byng. “In my mind, it seems that person might not have great time management, which would be likely to be reflected in their work. Avoid falling into that category and just schedule your emails!” The plug in also lets you know when the person opened it, on what device and how long they spent looking at it.”
- Camscanner: If you need to scan something, no need to go looking for a printer — this app is all you need. You can take a picture of the paper and it will turn it into a readable, enhanced PDF. “It has helped me digitize contracts in a pinch,” says Byng.
- Trello: The ultimate organization tool, Byng uses the program as her to-do list, and also as a way to collaborate with her team on projects. “To keep focused on my priorities I keep it simple and use Trello to track and prioritize projects. It’s the first thing I check and organize for the day before I even open my email (so that I start the day being proactive instead of reactive),” says Byng. “I do believe there’s power in writing things down, and I did for a time heavily rely on physical agenda books to do this, but then I realized that I didn’t always have it on me, and I couldn’t sync it with my team. So now I’ve officially gone digital with my to-do list.”
6. Gather your team: mentors, champions and sponsors
No matter how hard you work, you can't get to the top on your own. Byng recommends having three types of people in your corner to help advise, support and promote your career:
- Mentors: your personal board of directors
- Sponsors: people who are the decision makers who can advocate for you on a high level behind closed doors
- Champions: everyone who knows you/follows you on social media