Whether you recently started your first full-time position or you’ve been in the working world for many years, a little insight and advice from those who came before can be invaluable. Below, five DePaul administrators share guidance and tips for achieving career success.
“Find your leadership brand.” –Stephanie Smith, vice president for human resources
There are certain things people automatically assume based on what they see—before they know who you are or how you’re going to lead. It’s imperative to figure out “your leadership brand.” A brand is literally how you show up—what you look like, how you speak, what you do, how you approach issues. Think about what your point of difference is. Who are you? What’s your expertise? What do you have to deliver to an organization? What is it that you want to be about? How are you going to incorporate your authentic self to benefit the organization and the people you lead?
“Learn to be comfortable with ambiguity.” –Erin Minné, senior vice president for advancement
There is so much gray area in our lives—in higher education in particular, but in anybody’s life these days. And you need to find a way to be OK with that. There are a lot of people who want things concrete, and they want all the answers. They only want to deal with things they can get their arms around. As you progress in your career, that becomes increasingly impossible. You have to understand that there might not be one right answer to a problem. There might be many solutions, all with different outcomes, and some are better than others [but that can be] subjective. Gray can be good. Knowing how to find your way through it, and how to help others through it, is valuable.
“It’s not about balance, it’s about integration.” –Ashley Knight (MED ’04), dean of students
I don’t have work-life balance. I work every day. Weekends. I’m always working. I try to make sure there are big chunks of time in my life that are enjoyable and spent with family, but it’s really about integration. If you can find integration in your life between work and your family and love and passions, then that’s your goal.
“As a female leader, you should lead with authenticity.” –Jennifer Rosato Perea, dean of the College of Law
If you are warm, be warm; if you are passionate, be passionate. If you are authentic, you will be a much more effective leader and will be much more satisfied personally and professionally.
But there are limits to how authentic you can be, as you still need to meet the expectations of a leader in a male-dominated environment. It’s not enough to be competent. Charisma matters, how you look matters–so you need to be constantly self-reflective as to how you will be perceived. Every dress or suit I put on, every nail color I put on, every shoe I put on–I ask myself not only, “do I look and feel good?” but also, “what impression am I making on others?” If I feel good and will make a good impression, then the focus will be on my experience and skills.
“Meet somebody new at work every week.” –Cheryl Einsele (SNL ’11), assistant vice president for academic fiscal administration
I had a mentor who advised me to try to meet someone new at work every week. Find out what they do, and see what you have in common. In an elevator, just say, “Hello! Good morning!” It’s that easy, and you might meet someone who you have a lot in common with or who can connect you with people who might be helpful to your career.