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Leaning In Won’t Actually Get You Ahead at Work

February 15, 2017, 2:30 AM UTC
Female architects collaborating on project
Group of female architects collaborating on project at workstation in office
Photograph by Thomas Barwick—Getty Images

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, “How can you find career support outside of your friends and family?” is written by Keri Gohman, Xero Americas president.

Many leaders, myself included, wouldn’t be where they are today without their support networks. Friends and family provide the essential foundation, but it doesn’t start and end with them.

Seeking guidance and help from people outside of your inner circle will set you up for career success. Here’s how you can find those people:

Be bold and create your own mentors
Mentorship is an important piece of your support network. For me, the mentors that inspired and motivated me the most were tough, but fair. They stretched me, challenged me to take risks, and believed in my ideas. They offered me new and challenging roles before I knew I was ready, knowing that if I failed, it was an opportunity to learn and grow.

Finding a mentor may seem like a tough task, but if you’re willing to take that first step by reaching out, you’ll never believe how generous people can be with their time. Start by spending some time researching your industry and scope out the influencers and experts who would potentially be good sounding boards and have insightful perspectives. People who you never thought would be willing to meet with you will. Be bold—reach out and ask if they want to have lunch or coffee sometime. People like to be able to share their wisdom, so don’t be afraid to capitalize.

See also: The One Thing That Works Better Than Mentors for Career Support

Remember to give
It’s said that most of the world’s population will spend one-third of their adult lives at work (we also spend about a third in bed— just for context). For this reason, seeking support in the workplace, where we spend so much of our time, is hugely necessary. This sense of support will stem from building high-functioning teams around you comprised of the best talent. Ensure you’re all aligned on your purpose as a team and you’ll all stay energized, which, in turn, will keep you focused on your opportunity.

My method of leadership is to lead with passion, purpose, and empowerment. Give your teams the resources they need to grow and you’ll all be able to do your best work. With a team or teams comprised of people who are believers and are willing to dream big, you’ll be motivated knowing that you aren’t alone.

That said, it’s important to remember to give your time, resources, and support to other people—both inside and outside of your workplace. The ones who give, especially at work, get ahead. Lift people up, and they will do the same.


Define what you want to be
People will be very quick to define you, but if you want to be a part of something, be aggressive and decide what you want to do and who you want to be. If you want to be a part of something, you have to make it your platform. I, like many leaders, have been pigeonholed in the past, but I eventually decided I wanted to be something else, and so I did.

Having self-confidence is equally, if not more, important as getting support from others. You need support from within. This sense of self-worth may not grow overnight, but you should always try to bolster yourself when the opportunity arises.

For example, whether or not you are new to an industry, know that your fresh perspective has value. Ask questions and be courageous. The right people will start to take notice if you make your voice heard, and you’ll likely positively influence your organization doing so.

To find career support past just your friends and family, it’s not about leaning in. It’s about taking control and getting to the table.