In my experience, there are a few things to keep in mind when trying to getting ahead in business and in life. One is knowing that things aren’t going to happen unless you make them happen. Oftentimes, people in the early part of their career think that promotions are just going to happen. Well, there isn’t any promotion fairy that flies in and says, “I pick you.” You have to demonstrate clearly your ability and your desire to move to the next level in the organization. You have to make it clear that you want it and then demonstrate that you can do it and even push a little bit to get there. Generally, it is not just handed out.
Another way to get ahead is having the ability to be flexible. You must keep yourself well-educated and learn new things all the time. You have to have that thirst for knowledge.
How you present yourself is also critical. Does your behavior in meetings with company executives demonstrate that you have leadership ability, that you can handle things? One thing people have always said about me is that even when I’m in the middle of a very stressful project, I come across as not being nervous or stressed over it. As a manager of other people, you need that outward calm in order to keep them understanding that the project is not as overwhelming as it seems; you have to be the calming force and the leader. Sometimes people get flustered, and you have to take a step back and talk through the best way to move ahead and get the project completed.
I think, for women especially, demonstrating that calm and that leadership ability is a key to moving ahead. Within UnitedHealth Group and Ovations, we have such strong female leadership examples in Lois Quam and Jackie Kosecoff. In addition, we have the Women in Corporate Leadership mentoring program here, so it’s a good place for women to get the kinds of opportunity and the kinds of support that will really help them on a long term basis.