Andrea Pozzi: Five Messages to My Younger Self About Career Advancement
By Andrea Pozzi, LatAm Regional Head, Enterprise Risk Management, Citi March 08, 2013 05:21 PM
I started my career as a junior futures and options analyst at an exchange. I never dreamed that many years later I would be based in Mexico working for Citi as the LatAm Regional Head of Enterprise Risk Management, managing the operational risk of all our businesses in the entire region. At the time I didn't even know what operational risk was or that it even existed. The risk management I knew was based on hedging positions with derivatives, and the derivatives at that time weren't very complicated.
In honor of International Women's Day, I was asked to think about what advice I would give to myself at the beginning of my career. Below are five messages I would tell my younger self around career advancement.
1. Don't focus so much on a particular job but rather on the characteristics of the job: identify the aspects that are important to you, what gives you energy, what interests you. Do you like projects or do you prefer to have structured tasks? What skills and strengths do you want to leverage and use? Ten years ago, I was struggling with what direction I wanted my career to take. I had spent several years focused on trying to get a specific job and then when I had that job I found I was completely bored. I knew I had to make a move, but to what? That was when I started to evaluate not specific job titles or positions but rather all the pieces that make up a job--what did I want those pieces to be? Once you have those pieces identified, recognize opportunity, seize it and be true to yourself. As women, we frequently make decisions because we feel an obligation or a commitment, even though what we decide may not be best for us. One of my best career decisions was based on what was right for me even though I had another commitment at the time.
2. Decide on your own personal definition of success. Don't focus on titles or levels but rather are you passionate about your job? Does it give you meaning and purpose? Have patience--experience is rich and it all adds value. Even jobs that are unrelated and not part of a set career path will combine into a unique experience, knowledge and skill set that you can draw upon throughout your career. Make sure you apply lessons learned, especially from the jobs that were difficult or not that good of a fit.
3. Being good at your job requires much more than just being smart. Success in any career, job, or even task requires more than mere intelligence. Certainly book smarts can help but career advancement requires many things such as perseverance, good communication skills, flexibility, adaptability, and most of all, experience. From my perspective nothing can replace experience and good judgment. Maybe it's because I'm a risk manager. The best risk managers don't just rely on quantitative models but draw upon their experience and differentiate themselves through their judgment.
4. Don't be afraid to ask for help. This was a tough one for me to learn: ever since I was a child I had an "I'll do it myself" mentality. However, over time I began to discover that teamwork was important to me, that I got my best ideas and was my most creative when brainstorming with others. I realized that it's much better to raise your hand than to fail and, more important, that your boss doesn't want you to fail and will not think any less of you if you ask for support. It's not a weakness to ask for help, it's a strength and no one has ever turned me down when I requested help. I do have admit that in times of extreme stress, I sometimes still struggle with this. It's my default behavior, so I always have to be careful not to revert to it.
5. Feedback is not personal and it is under your control. You can decide to act upon it or you can decide that it is incorrect. If it is incorrect, then you need to determine if it is a perception issue and what behavior is leading to that perception. Feedback helps you to become more self-aware, which then enables you to make the necessary changes for you to succeed.