Advice from a CEO herself.
The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: “What advice would you give to women who hope to make to the C-suite?” is written by Debra Reed, CEO of Sempra Energy and no. 22 on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list for 2016.
While there is no single path to the C-suite, I believe there are four ways to boost your career and create opportunities to advance to the top of your organization.
Bid farewell to your comfort zone
Fight the anxiety that accompanies change and seek assignments that take you out of your comfort zone. Moving around in an organization and learning all aspects of company operations help provide broad perspective. In my career, I have been very fortunate to work in a wide range of management positions, from finance and human resources to customer service and external affairs. These different roles helped me better understand all aspects of our business. To the degree that you can broaden your work experience, it is essential to get financial, operations, governance and marketing experience. Also, the more connected you are, the more others will see your skills being applied. When taking on a new position, be a team player, express your ideas constructively and be solution-driven.
Cultivate a mentor
Learning from a good mentor is like getting a company M.B.A. During most of my career, serving in a broad range of management roles, I learned a great deal from mentors who provided exceptional guidance and inspiration. For example, one mentor counseled me to try to be more intuitive in decision making – not all problems have a distinctly right or wrong solution. While I was serving as senior vice president for SoCalGas, another mentor encouraged me to accept an outside board assignment. As a result,I learned new ways to generate ideas and witnessed how other companies handle similar issues. These experiences were critical to my professional growth. They also helped prepare me to assume responsibilities as Sempra Energy’s chairman and CEO.
Also, when the opportunity arises, don’t hesitate to become a mentor. Sharing your knowledge and experience with others can be very rewarding. It also provides some insight into the skills, work habits and talents that you, and your company, value.
Recognizing and promoting diversity in the workplace is critical. There is no question that my company, Sempra Energy, has prospered because it has encouraged employees to apply their diverse array of skills and perspectives on the job. The bottom line: We make better decisions when we challenge ourselves to listen to different points of view.
Make your mark
As your responsibilities expand, try not to take yourself too seriously. Displaying a sense of humor makes you more approachable and helps keep matters in perspective during both the good times and the challenging times.
As you chart your career path, don’t lose sight of the fact that your supervisors, employees and customers are always watching. How you approach the challenges of each job assignment and team with others to achieve the organization’s goals is what will leave the most distinguishing mark on your career.