Every career path is a journey built by a series of job titles and positions that lead an individual to their ultimate goals. For many paths, the common foundation is an applicable education that’s meant to create an equal beginning for people of all backgrounds. Brandi Baldwin played by these rules, earning her doctorate before the age of 30, but was left unfulfilled by her prospects.
From the outside, she explained, she may have looked successful, but it wasn’t until she realized the value of leadership that she saw that success in herself by taking a different tack. At GovLoop’s 2019 NextGen Government Training Summit, Baldwin said that a leadership mindset via the small shifts, big wins method is a tool that can truly transform your career.
The idea behind small shifts, big wins is that a complete overall of the current system is not always necessary to make a difference. Instead, there are little things you can do consistently to make great strides. For people ready to go from feeling like a “nice to have” employee to a “must have” employee, Baldwin said that the small shifts, big wins sentiment can help turn any job into a career.
Baldwin outlined three small shifts that individuals can make immediately to accelerate their career journey.
First, she recommends that employees confront their weaknesses. Simply admitting your shortcomings to yourself will make it easier to process feedback and work towards improving.
“You want to be able to know your weaknesses so that you can play to your strengths,” Baldwin said. “No one should tell you about yourself before you.”
Next, Baldwin discussed trying on leadership as a mindset, instead of just a job title.
“You don’t wait to get a promotion and then all of a sudden start practicing being a leader,” she said. “You become [a leader] today and then people recognize you and say you’re ready for that promotion.”
But first, becoming a leader requires proactive messaging about why you’re qualified. Leadership is not proven by acquiring high standing; instead it can happen at any level if you’re willing to embrace the responsibility. Baldwin said that your colleagues may not always like you, but becoming a leader is about building respect for yourself and your ability to make tough decisions.
Finally, Baldwin suggests establishing a memorable brand. Personal branding is trending in the professional development sphere right now because of its ability to launch your career to the next level. Finetuning your personal brand helps you market your best attributes and stand out from the crowd. For those afraid of coming across as boastful, Baldwin said those feelings should be put aside.
“It’s not bragging if it’s the facts,” she said. “Get comfortable with selling yourself. Get comfortable with acknowledging to people that you actually have skills.”
From there build a coalition of professionals that can vouch for those skills. Broadcasting your skills by yourself will only get you far, Brandi noted, so you should be sure that your professional circles can promote your talents simultaneously. Building a memorable brand helps because it gives your allies positive talking points for whenever you come up in conversation.
Advancing your career path does not necessarily require a major overhaul of your current position or sense of self. By forfeiting the familiarity of your comfort zone and making small shifts today, your future self will reap big wins.