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Reinventing Opportunity To Create A Career Path

by Guest Contributor on March 17, 2011

Miscou, New Brunswick, Canada / Île Miscou, Nouveau-Brunswick, Canada
Guest post by Wendy Stops

How do you remain current and grow and develop yourself personally and career-wise in a world where nothing’s certain?

I’ve been with the same company, Accenture, climbing the corporate ladder for 29 years and am now global Managing Director in the Technology group. I couldn’t have gotten to where I am without taking a few key steps and keeping my ears and eyes open to opportunities that often took me out of my comfort zone and away from my home time zone.

Whether you’re in a large corporate environment or growing your own business, knowing how to grow personally is critical to job satisfaction and future success.

When I look at the recently completed global research by Accenture as part of International Women’s Day, I see similarities to my career path and personal development and some points which are in conflict with my experience.

Each individual is different, but you can learn from this research and others’ experiences to help reinvent opportunity for yourself.

The research indicated that a majority of respondents plan to stay with their companies (cited by 70 percent of women; 69 percent of men) and, in doing so, plan to focus on developing their knowledge and/or skill set to achieve career objectives.

This is something I’ve always been a big believer in. I tell younger employees “the day I stop learning is the day I move on.”  This has been especially true being in technology where there are literally new things to learn and opportunities to reinvent every day.

As we recruit new joiners into our Technology group – which Accenture is doing aggressively right now – we want people who look to expand their knowledge, gain new experiences and bring their diverse backgrounds to bear in their work.

Whilst training is something many companies offer, it’s also up to individuals to seek out learning and development opportunities.

Some thoughts and experiences I have include:

  • Seek out successful, confident people and find ways to engage with them and learn from them
  • Build your network, both inside and outside of your company. You never know where someone may end up next or when they may think of you.
  • Treat everything you are asked to do as an opportunity, no matter how trivial it may seem or how much it’s out of your comfort zone. Ask for help if you need it, but don’t let the opportunity pass by you.
  • Learn from tough experiences (e.g., conflict, failure) and vow to do better next time.  Don’t quit because something didn’t go your way. Think about how you’d do it differently and embrace it next time with confidence.
  • Take on challenges that stretch and expose you to others who may influence your future.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel.  Look for ways to leverage what others have done before you (legitimately, of course) or take up ideas from subject matter experts.  And put your own flavor on it!
  • Seek out informal mentors or coaches.

The last point is really important.

When people ask, “Who is your mentor?” I struggle to think who that has been. Less than one-third of respondents in Accenture’s research reported they have an informal or formal mentor, with one quarter of Baby Boomer respondents having worked with a mentor, compared with 32 percent of Gen X respondents and 37 percent of Gen Y respondents.

Of those respondents, having a mentor help plan career moves was most popular among Gen X (51 percent), compared to Baby Boomers (40 percent) and Gen Y (43 percent). So, as a Baby Boomer, I seem to be right in line with the research.

Having said that, I will offer that while you may not think of a certain person as your mentor, you’d be surprised how many people you consult as informal mentors.

People like myself are often more comfortable having multiple informal mentors to reach out to depending on the situation and where you need guidance. Never be afraid to tap into those who can help you develop and grow.

It doesn’t have to be someone more senior than you or even in your company and it can be a woman or a man. Companies can have formal mentoring and career counseling, but ultimately it’s the people you feel most comfortable talking to and whose career and advice you respect who will be the best mentors.

Having recently celebrated International Women’s Day and now marking Women’s History Month, I look back on my almost 30 year career and see multiple reinventions, many advocates and mentors, lessons learned and, most of all, opportunities taken that have lead me down a very satisfying path.

So if you want some advice from an informal mentor I’d say, “Go for it, ask for help, learn something new and take every opportunity to reinvent your career.”

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Image: New Brunswick Tourism via Flickr, Creative Commons

Wendy Stops is Accenture’s global Managing Director of Quality & Client Satisfaction for the Technology practice and a member of Accenture’s Technology Leadership team.  Accenture’s technology business is comprised of systems integration, technology consulting and IT outsourcing, including application outsourcing and infrastructure outsourcing. An Australian native, Wendy has worked at Accenture for 29 years.  Her work has taken her around the world including  stints living in Malaysia and Singapore.  She currently is based in New York City. She is an advocate for women joining Accenture’s technology practice – and the technology industry in general – so if you’re looking to build a career in technology go to www.accenture.com/careers and check out the latest opportunities.

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