In a recent article, Zara Zhang, a Harvard graduate and accomplished product marketing manager at Bytedance, delves into the key quality that sets new graduates up for success in the corporate world: the ability to make things happen.
Drawing from her own experiences, Zara highlights 5 crucial components of this ability. As a fellow product marketer in the tech space, I couldn't help but share these insights, as they resonate deeply with my own journey.
In this blog post, I'll combine Zara's tips with my personal experiences to provide you with five actionable strategies that can accelerate your career in the corporate world.
Understanding the dynamics within your organization and fostering cross-functional collaboration is essential. Zara emphasizes the importance of knowing who does what, regardless of titles. For example, if you need a meeting with a senior executive, it's often beneficial to connect with their administrative assistant, who has access to their schedule.
I learned this lesson the hard way during my time in the sales team when I mistakenly assumed anyone in the marketing team could help me with a case study. In reality, marketing was divided into smaller teams, and understanding this structure would have made the project much smoother.
To identify the key players and their responsibilities, proactively schedule one-on-one meetings and coffee chats with cross-functional team members, those you collaborate with on a daily basis.
During these interactions, focus on uncovering three crucial insights:
Building a strong network within the organization not only helps you understand synergies between different roles but also creates opportunities for collaboration and personal growth.
As a new employee, you'll often hear that there are no stupid questions and that you can ask anything. However, the manner in which you seek guidance can significantly impact the quality of the help you receive.
Zara recommends seeking advice from colleagues who are just a step ahead of you, as they often possess valuable insights. During my time as an account manager, I found that colleagues who had recently joined the company were instrumental in providing practical advice on selling techniques, surpassing even the wisdom of more senior leaders.
When approaching someone for help, demonstrate your proactive nature by sharing the actions you've already taken.
This not only shows your initiative but also provides a starting point for them to provide actionable advice tailored to your situation.
Additionally, when you feel overwhelmed by the flood of new information, prioritize the topics that directly impact your core KPIs. This demonstrates your ability to effectively manage your time and shows the person you're seeking help from that you're focused on achieving tangible results.
Escalation, in plain English, refers to going over a colleague's head and directly approaching their boss.
Zara highlights two scenarios where escalation might be necessary:
However, my experience in a relatively flat organizational structure like Google differs slightly from Zara's perspective, which is more applicable to a top-down organization like Bytedance.
In my experience, even if a senior leader supports your idea, it's often their direct report who executes it. By identifying synergies, building personal connections, and exchanging resources (as discussed in tip #1), you can secure the support of the person responsible for execution without burning bridges.
Of course, there may be instances where escalation becomes unavoidable. In such cases, I recommend first making your manager aware of the situation.
They can either escalate the issue on your behalf or provide support if needed. Building a strong relationship with your manager ensures you have the necessary backing and guidance when navigating challenging circumstances.
We've all been in meetings where we question our purpose for being there. Zara eloquently captures this sentiment by emphasizing that the meeting organizer's failure to communicate the meeting's context to participants beforehand results in confusion and disengagement.
To host effective meetings, there are several strategies you can employ. First, for new initiatives, pre-align with stakeholders individually before holding a larger meeting.
This allows you to share the project outline and demonstrate how it will benefit each attendee. If someone isn't convinced, it indicates a need for further communication, which can be addressed offline rather than in the meeting itself.
During the meetings, focus on sharing only the information relevant to the attendees. Avoid overwhelming them with unnecessary details that are specific to your role as the project manager. Keeping meetings concise and to the point ensures everyone's time is respected and utilized efficiently.
Lastly, always follow up with a recap email that clearly outlines the action items and assigns owners. This helps maintain accountability and ensures everyone knows their responsibilities moving forward.
While these practices may require extra effort, the reputation you'll gain as someone who hosts productive meetings will open doors to increased autonomy and freedom within your role.
Your manager plays a pivotal role in your corporate experience. Research consistently shows that people leave managers, not companies. In fact, 57 percent of employees have left a job due to their manager.
While I've been fortunate to have supportive managers throughout my career, I've observed a common theme among colleagues who effectively manage up despite challenging managerial situations.
To make your manager your biggest advocate, provide them with the tools they need. Regularly document your wins and achievements, such as thank-you notes, positive feedback from other teams, or cost-saving initiatives.
This treasure trove of evidence becomes invaluable during performance reviews, as your manager can use these accomplishments to advocate for your growth and success during calibration meetings.
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