September 28, 2022

8 Lessons for Your Career

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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In this episode, I’m sharing 8 lessons I learned in my Corporate Career in the Pharma/Biotech industry.

These are lessons that when you apply them to your career, you will expedite your own growth and achieve your goals faster.

I am all about application so I’m also providing you with 2 simple questions that will help you apply these lessons to your own career.

What You’ll Learn

8 lessons I learned in my Pharma/Biotech Corporate Career

How to apply my (and other people’s) lessons to your unique situation

Featured in This Episode

5 Fundamentals of Networking
Getting to Your Next Level with Jon Mason
Work with Melissa

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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start are feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.

Hello and welcome to this week of Navigating Your Career. I am so happy that you’re here with me and this episode is going to be a little different. I am going to share some lessons that I learned so far in my career and I was inspired to do this for you after I wrote a post on LinkedIn on my 42nd birthday earlier this month and I wrote out what I would have told my younger self in this post. You can check it out if you look up my profile on LinkedIn. The link is in the show notes and I love connecting with you, so send me a request and say hi while you’re there. But these lessons are going to be different than what I would have told my younger self, which was my LinkedIn post. The post on LinkedIn was more around personal development in a professional setting. And today I’m going to talk about more practical career advice or lessons. So you can use these for motivation and strategy for your own goals, but also please do apply them and take them as truth. Some of them. I know you might feel resistance to think that I have special circumstances or they don’t apply to you, but hear me when I say that they do.

How do I know this? Because I have been there. I’ve heard advice from other people and I thought, yeah, not for me, and learned years later. It actually was something I could have learned from and could have expedited my progress and I just wasn’t in a place that I could see it at the time. So to help you avoid that mental hurdle, I’m going to challenge you to ask yourself two questions for each lesson because usually people just give you advice and then you might think, oh, that’s really interesting, or oh, I’ll have to apply that, or you might feel that resistance, but there’s not really any action with it. And really coaching is all about action. So I want to give you some action to take with this episode. So take some time after this episode to journalists out, but ask yourself for each lesson that I share with you, how can this be true and how can I apply this to my career right now? Because those questions are going to help your brain find the evidence that these are valid and actually do apply to you. They’re also going to put you into action or maybe open your mind up in the possibility of some new action or something that you can do differently right now that’s going to get you closer to your goals.

Okay, so these are in no particular order. Let’s just go number one. Your network matters. Now, the more people who know who you are and what you do, the better. And I’m not talking about an elevator pitch, okay, guys, this isn’t something where you have to perfectly say what you do and the value you bring and all of these things, just like who you are, your name, that you exist in this universe, and what you do, what your job is. I spent time focused on building my network in my career with the building that I worked in, or even the state that I worked in, which I was in Maryland in the most recent years, or the division I worked in at a global company. Now, that helps for your performance reviews. But when you look at wanting to advance to bigger roles, have more visibility and opportunities, and even change companies because you know that this industry is very well connected, tap into the hidden job market and even influence the work that you do, or have roles created for you, your network is critical. There are many opportunities to network. So I don’t know if you’re hearing like, how do I do this?

Where do I do this? There are many opportunities. You can do it through professional networks and associations. It can just be a coffee chat with maybe someone that you work with or that works in another building or another part of the country or maybe is a cubicle mate to you that you don’t know well. You can reach out to people that you want to know more about. There are endless ways. And I have an episode on the podcast called Five Fundamentals of Networking or The Fundamentals of Networking. So if you feel awkward or don’t know where to start, you can check out the episode. You can also check out the episode with John Mason, who is a talent leader at Tequila Pharma. He provides a networking exercise in that episode that you can leverage to figure out who to network with that’s going to be most advantageous to you. So I will link both of those episodes and the show notes for you. But your network is so important, and all it really takes is getting out there that people know who you are. So when these leaders are sitting in meetings, they think of you.

When you’re looking for a mentor, there are people that are willing to help you and be your ally and be in the room that you’re not in, to advocate for you and to say that you would be good for an opportunity. When you apply for a job, they’re going to know who you are and know how amazing you are. So don’t overthink it. It’s really just get to know the people that you work with. Build relationships across your immediate circle, and go farther than that. We often just look at those people that are kind of at arms reach and just go farther. Talk to people that you don’t even know that you need to talk to, but that work in the company that maybe have some connection to what you do. Or maybe they can provide a perspective in your work that would be helpful, or maybe they have something that you might be interested in down the road. Just get your network going. Just start small. Make some goals every week and make some progress at building out your connections and your relationships. All right? Number two, your voice is valid. When you have ideas that are different from everyone else, when you’re not sure if you should share, when you’re worried about sounding perfect or smart enough, just speak up.

I spent so much time considering what other people thought, what the right thing to do was doubting if I sounded articulate enough, that I often just silenced myself. I rejected myself ahead of time. I assumed people who had more experience knew better. But what I learned is this isn’t actually always true. I regretted the times that I didn’t speak up. It reinforced my brain that I shouldn’t speak up. It only made myself dealt worse. But you know what? I never regretted the times that I did that gave me a voice and left me feeling more empowered. And nothing bad ever happened from speaking up. Sure, I flubbed words here and there, or maybe I felt embarrassed once in a while, but it’s not as though my credibility was eliminated or my career was held back. In fact, it was the opposite. People were more drawn to me, and I got farther in my career, faster from using my voice. So use your voice. Your voice is valid. Number three, there is no right career path. When I went to college after high school, I took a gap year, okay? I took, like, four gap years.

I was terrified of making the wrong choice, going into a lot of debt, and it not being for the right job. So I wanted to get some work experience first, but eventually I just went to college because it was necessary for my career goals. And I had a mentor that told me that I was brilliant, but I really wasn’t going to go where I wanted to go unless I went to college. And so I just chose something that applied to my experience, which in that situation was management. Then I went back again for communications, and then I got a Masters in Organizational psychology, and I had it stuck in my head that I had to know my perfect job at 18, and that if I didn’t know, I couldn’t choose and that there was a right and there was a wrong. And I remember wishing that I wanted to be a nurse or a lawyer or something that was really specific. So you knew what path to take, and then you had this career you loved, which spoiler alert, that’s not true even for those professions, right? Because a lot of the people that I work with are PhD scientists and directors and they’re all of the people that have worked so hard and they did all of that education and they went on that path and then they also discover that they’re not happy now and they don’t know what to do and they don’t know how to figure out what they want, right?

So it didn’t really matter what path you chose. There is no right path. So we think that there is a right way and we look to other people to help us define it. We use our family and our friends as measurement of what success is. We don’t make sense, what gets us the A, the fancy resume, what we can be proud of. But this sets us up for failure because when our measurement is always based on other people and has to be right, we never measure up. Right? Because we can’t please everyone and there is no right. It’s all just right. It’s all just opinion, right? I am saying a lot. It’s kind of ironic. But when you think about the opinions that you hear from your family and your friends and your coworkers, those are just opinions. There is no right way. Everything is so subjective. So our happiness becomes fleeting and we get further and further away from ourselves and we just continue to use other people’s ideas for us, other people’s opinions, other people’s paths and make that our own and take that on as our story and make that right and make our own decisions wrong.

And it sets us up for failure because we’ll just never measure up. So know that there isn’t the right career path. There is the career path that you want at this time in your life and you can always pivot. I have my dream job right now. I love coaching and helping women have access to meaningful work and roles of influence. I love the ripple effect of what I do. I didn’t make any wrong choices in getting here. That is a thought that I choose. I was 40 before I had my business. But that doesn’t mean everything that I did before was wrong. I never thought I would work in this industry. My first job in the industry was learning non clinical toxicology and training auditors to monitor and audit non clinical study protocols. I never thought I would do that or say those words. I just said it wasn’t on my vision board as a child because I didn’t have a vision board as a child. But you know what I’m saying. My love of learning led me to the choices that I made into getting into that first role in the industry. And I’m so grateful and happy that that happened.

So don’t let your fear of the future or making the wrong choice keep you stuck or from following your passion. There aren’t mistakes. You either win or you learn. And you won’t regret experience that you gain. You will only regret the shots you don’t take. I think that’s the same somewhere. So be okay with learning what you want to do right now. And know that you can always make a pivot. Each of your decisions is just leading you closer to what you really want. There is no right career path. There’s just the one that you decide and that you make right, right now. All right, number four. Your internal compass is more valid than anything else. This builds on the last one I just talked about. But I thought I had to choose a defined path, something that already existed, and instead everything is created. I don’t know if that’s a word, but I’m using it credible. You can discover what you want and have it created for you, even in a big company. Even if it doesn’t exist. This blew my mind. I did this for myself. I’ve helped a ton of other women do it for themselves too.

This is why, if you’ve been listening or following me for a while, you will hear me talk about knowing what you want and leveraging your authenticity over and over. When you know what you want, then you can problem solve the strategy to make it happen. It’s so much easier. I would have never been the talent and development lead for Biologics with a big company like AstraZeneca if I didn’t realize this, I wrote that job description. That role didn’t exist. It never had. I did the work to make it necessary and then influenced my leadership to make it a nobrainer. And you can do this too. So you don’t have to think that. You just have to do whatever it is that has already been done or what your peers have done, or what’s in chart. You can do whatever it is that you want. But the secret to doing it is to really know what you want first and believe in it. Because that makes a difference in how you problem solve how you problem solve the strategy you use and how you implement it. So like I said in the last lesson, there is no right career path.

You can always pivot. So it’s okay to figure out exactly what it is that you want and go after it knowing you can always recreate what you already have. You can always go back. You can always try something new, but don’t make yourself suffer and struggle and be unhappy and bored and not share your talents with the world because you’re worried you’re going to make a wrong choice or that it’s somehow going to be some permanent decision. Because it’s not just. You need to follow your own internal compass. And if you don’t know what that is and do the work to figure out what that is like, what your compass is, and what you really want. Okay, number five is it’s not that serious. So our work becomes our identity. We spend so much time at work and perfecting our craft, our area of expertise. We spend more time at work than we do awake with our families. So we take it really seriously. But it’s not so serious that it is the end all, be all of our lives. So we have to keep ourselves aligned with our values. That’s something that I learned, is to define what those are and use them as a guide.

Don’t sacrifice your family or the things you really love in your life for your work. If you don’t get the promotion or if someone is an ass, it’s not the end of the world. It’s a problem to be solved. And it’s always solvable. You always have a decision. Let yourself take a step back, be objective, process, remove the emotion, and then decide and take ownership for what you want. Don’t allow work to prevent you from being present at home and getting good sleep and all of the things that are important to you. I spent so many hours complaining about crappy bosses, men who took credit for my work, my ideas, not being used, me being bored, not feeling challenged enough. People would tell me to leave my job or they would empathize with my situation. But at the end of the day, I spent way too much time complaining and being in misery, convincing myself to settle, thinking I had to because this was my career and it was a good job and it’s serious, and this is how it is, and these are the political games, and I just have to master them. But once I started making things more objective and turning them into problems that could be solved, I was happier and more effective.

I felt much more empowered. It actually is what led me to hiring my first coach and helping me make the change to leave corporate and start my business. But when you’re all caught up in your feelings, you just stay stuck and everything feels really bad. So disrupt that and take action and get help when you need it. All right, the next lesson is communication skills are critical. When I earned my Bachelors in communications, I thought I would become an expert, a master. I never have to deal with communication issues again. I had solved the puzzle. I was wrong. Communication skills are so important at every level of your career. They really can make or break your success and how you’re able to create it. Because think about it. If you’re always having conflicts with one person, even if that person is seemingly the problem, or if you have conflicts with several people, if you can’t get your point across, if you can’t communicate well with your team or influence, that’s a problem. Communication skills are usually one of the biggest complaints employees have of their leadership. It’s why people leave. It’s a big issue. So learn a tool or method that works for you and practice until you get better.

Don’t expect to be a master, expect to just get better. Ask for feedback, be humble and know this you can have the best skills in the world. But each of us as humans are living in our own reality. And if your message doesn’t land for the other person, there’s work to do on your end. Communication is all about your message being received as intended with your target audience. So you can’t just say well, I use a tool or I did the best I could or they’re not a good person or they said this or that. Another thing is you can master communication and be effective with your current team or senior leaders, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t run into conflict on the road with a new team member or new leader because this is a new person you’re having to deal with. And again, we’re all living in our own reality. We all have our own experiences and brains that are filtering information and jumbling up the information and distorting the message. And so we can do the best that we can and master it, so to speak. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to land.

And if it doesn’t land, take ownership. I use a specific tool with my clients and we look at communication skills from a self awareness of your style, but also how you can identify other people’s styles and tailor yours to meet their needs so that you’re effective. You also learn how to problem solve this, you also learn emotional intelligence and how this plays a role so that you can not only master your own emotional intelligence but also identify and support others. My clients love it. It just makes such a big difference when you have a simple tool that you understand and can use and pull out really easily. So find a tool or method you like and use it over and over again. Don’t over complicate it. Alright, we’ve got two more lessons to go. The next lesson, you can’t turn down a job you haven’t been offered. A job you haven’t been offered. What does this mean? This means that we get in our head, and I certainly got into my head around what I’m qualified for, what I will be accepted for, what’s reasonable based on my experience. I got caught up in what it would mean if I got a certain job but the changes that would be required and I would essentially reject myself from the application process.

So this had come up a number of years ago and I was considering a job change and I was looking at some opportunities and there were some that sounded really interesting to me. I think I would have crushed it but I didn’t meet all of the qualifications. There was another one where it would have required me to do some travel and I wasn’t sure I wanted to travel at that time in my life. And so I would essentially just not apply. I would, like, reject myself. I would not even give myself a chance to get the information to see if I got it, to make a decision, to interview them as well, make sure that we’re a good fit. I just decided not to even throw my hat in the ring, okay? And that is a mistake that a lot of people make, especially women. And so at that time, I had a colleague say to me, you can’t turn down a job you haven’t been offered. Right? Because that’s essentially what I was doing. I was turning down a job that was never offered to me. It’s brilliant, right? How many times have you gone to apply for something or raise your hand for an opportunity, but you don’t?

Because you’re afraid you’re going to be rejected, because you’re afraid you’re not qualified, because you’re worried it’s going to be a waste of your time, because you don’t know if you can handle the responsibility, because you question your ability to take on a bigger scope. Whatever it is, you’re turning that job down when it was never even offered to you, or you’re turning that opportunity down when it wasn’t even offered to you. So go after the things that you want. See what happens if you do go through an interview process or a selection process. You get to decide and interview. If it’s something that you want, if it’s something you’re interested in and you can see it out, see what happens. If you get offered the job, then you make the decision. If you get the opportunity, then you make the decision. Do you want it? How can you make it work? But don’t self reject. Don’t tell yourself you can’t have it or you’re not good enough for it, or any of the other, like, BS that we tell ourselves, don’t do that. Just go after it. All right? Now, the last lesson I’m going to share with you today is own your results.

This might sting, but ask yourself if you’re owning your current results, where you are in your career, whether or not you know what you want, if you’re getting that promotion, if you’re happy in your life. When we delegate our results to our boss, our family, our situation, our company, to some other external circumstance, we become powerless and stuck. We can feel like our career is out of our control. So something I like to ask myself now that I didn’t used to do is, how did I create this? You can apply it to the amazing things in your life and the things you want to improve. You always had a role in the results that you have. They didn’t just happen. So how did you create your current situation? Then? Ask yourself, what do you want to be different? And brainstorm how you can make that happen. What’s in your control? A lot of my clients want to feel in control, and they get frustrated when they feel like things aren’t in their control, like they’re not getting what they want, that they’re not getting recognized. So how can you get control in your career regardless of the circumstances?

How you do that is to take responsibility. When you take 100% responsibility for your career, you are 100% in control. Then it’s not about what your boss is or isn’t doing. It’s about what you’re doing and what you can do differently, what choices you have, and what decisions you want to make. There is always a solution to your problem, and there is always a path forward. But when you tell yourself that it’s not in your control, you can’t see that. So in coaching, I have a method that I teach my clients called Ace. You take action, we celebrate your action, and we evaluate your results. Then we repeat you’re always taking ownership, trying new things, doing something about the problems you have. We celebrate every step, regardless of the outcome. Failure is not a problem, and action is a problem. Being stuck is a problem. Failure means you’re taking action, that you’re trying new things, that you’re growing. And it’s hard to see that as perfectionists and high achievers. But it’s true, I promise. That could almost be a separate lesson. So we celebrate all of the action, all of the things we tried, then we evaluate what would we want to do differently, what worked, and then we go back in.

It’s like getting in the arena, as Brene Brown would say. That is how you take ownership and make so much more progress than you think that you can. It’s how you normalize growth and take the power away from the failure and away from the need to be perfect. You get the positive reinforcement from the action, and you’re always owning your results and achieving more than you think. You build your confidence so much more quickly. All right, so those are the lessons I wanted to share with you today. Now, remember to ask yourself, how can this be true? And how can I apply this to my career right now? For each of these lessons, you will have so much growth and reflection as a result. All right, have an amazing week.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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