Game-Changing Career Advice for Women (And Men, too)

As an alumna of Startup Institute, I am grateful for quite a number of things: picking up new technical skills, becoming a better networker, kick-starting my career in product management, and more recently—the opportunity to attend a fantastic event in NYC, addressing the challenges and opportunities for women at high-growth companies. The panelists for Amazing NYC Women, Honest Conversations —Lisa Mann (Executive Vice President at KIND), Grace Ng (Co-founder of Lean Startup Machine & Quick MVP, and Katharine Zaleski (Co-founder and President of Power to Fly)—had much to share at this honest, down-to-earth discussion, moderated by Startup Institute's CEO, Diane Hessan.

Listening to stories and career advice for women-- but really, for all people-- from this incredible group of leaders brought a sense of gratitude and delight. One particularly striking story was Lisa Mann’s experience interviewing with KIND. After telling us how she came to accept their offer, she advised: “Trust your gut.” Her interactions with the KIND team, she confessed, couldn’t help but make her think: “There's so much that feels right that I'll take it and see where it goes.”

When I heard those words, I couldn’t help but think of two key decisions I made that affected my career path: joining Startup Institute as a technical marketing student and accepting a job offer with the product team at ALM Media. In both situations, my gut, rather than the cost-benefit-alternatives that I painstakingly analyzed, determined the end decision. But let me make this clear—your gut can only serve you well if you pay attention!

[bctt tweet="Your gut can only serve you if you pay attention @AnulekhaV "]

For instance, when you are interviewing for a job, it is your responsibility to do your due diligence. According to Diane, you need to “look at who is at the top and make sure you have respect for that person. Culture is key.” As a job applicant, pay attention to how your interviewers present themselves, portray the company, and interact with you. Can you see yourself respecting this person? Can you see them respecting you? Once you get a sense of how the company (and your future team) functions, write down your impressions immediately. You never know when you might need to revisit these.

In addition to learning as much as you can about the company culture, Grace advised the crowd to “be aware of different communication styles and reflect these styles to get results.” In my experience, understanding communication styles has helped in many different scenarios—office presentations, hackathons, and even the dinner table.

But how do we utilize this technique to get ahead in our organizations?

According to Katharine, it’s quite simple. In addition to being aware of communication styles to make the case for our promotion, she also cautioned the audience to get ahead in their organizations “through soft elbows.” In other words, do it in a manner that will allow you to maintain your relationships and not alienate people.

[bctt tweet="Get ahead in your career using “soft elbows” @kzaleski "]

There’s so much more I could write about, but I will end by saying this: the stories that were shared by the panelists created a space where each of us in the audience either learned something new or felt better after hearing how another person experienced the same problem that we once did.