Actress Jessica Alba became an entrepreneur by co-founding a company that made $150 million in revenue last year. Lawyer Marci Alboher leveraged her successful career to become an author and life coach.
Nowadays, more and more women are making these types of broad career shifts. And in becoming “broads,” they affirm their statuses as successful businesswomen and reap many associated benefits.
But some critics question a woman’s workplace commitment when she explores multiple career opportunities. I think these naysayers fail to realize that challenging yourself with new endeavors is a positive thing—not a sign of weakness or indecisiveness.
A broad background doesn’t have to mean that you’ve jumped around a lot in your career. It could also mean that you’re so excellent at your job that you’ve been recruited for other opportunities. Or it could mean that you’ve made the conscious decision to continuously expand your skill set across a wide trajectory.
1. Broad Work Experience = Deep Understanding
Here are some major benefits of being a woman who has held multiple positions in multiple industries:
You’re a [business] model citizen.
Broad vertical experiences expose you to the full spectrum of business models. This is important because this knowledge allows you to sustainably deliver value to customers, regardless of the type of business you’re in. It gives you a firm handle on how to operate different types of enterprises.
After all, every industry has its own unique set of quirks. When you work across multiple verticals, your diverse insight is invaluable to companies’ strategic decision-making.
In addition, women add valuable perspective to typically male-dominated executive teams. We’re notoriously good diplomats, astute at effectively juggling multiple deadlines, and skilled at balancing the left and right sides of our brains.
You understand the full spectrum of customers.
Versatile, well-rounded women understand how to successfully cater to different customer audiences. When you’ve worked across the customer spectrum—in businesses whose audiences have vastly different socioeconomic, gender, and age ranges—you develop a deep understanding of the different consumer archetypes. This ability to effectively communicate with a host of target audiences makes you an invaluable part of any team.
Having a diverse background means you’ve worked with stakeholders of all shapes and sizes. You can deftly navigate different corporate and executive structures and know the best ways to achieve buy-in.
See? Just because you’ve worked a bunch of jobs doesn’t mean you’re a dilettante. Now, use this to your advantage!
2. Horizontal Work Experience Leads to Vertical Movement
Leverage your knowledge to seek new opportunities or move up the ladder at your current job. These four techniques will help you along the way.
Get to know people.
Your networking skills are absolutely crucial. Build relationships across your entire organization. Take the time to learn what everyone’s job entails and discover how your roles are connected. This will not only make you better at your job, but it will also help you identify potential career trajectories.
I also strongly recommend connecting with women’s organizations. Women are open-minded, can relate to what you’re going through, and typically want to help one another. Your current employer may even have a women’s group within its corporate ecosystem. GE, for example, has a network specifically dedicated to advancing women’s careers within the company. Other great women’s networks include Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, NAWBO, Women Network, and Ellevate.
Don’t work too hard.
This might seem like bad advice. But I think women tend to overextend themselves. They want so badly to prove themselves that they excessively deliver and burn out. Sure, overexertion results in positive short-term gain. But over the long term, you’re likely to exhaust yourself and lose momentum.
It’s still important to produce great work. But don’t be obsessive about it. Reserve some brain bandwidth for expanding your skill set, taking on ancillary innovation projects, and furthering your education.
Create and embrace change.
Establishing your identity as a successful, well-rounded businesswoman will undoubtedly present you with new opportunities and alternative work options. Keep an open mind when they come your way. The spark for your next professional adventure could come from unexpected sources. Always be on the lookout and receptive.
Believe in yourself.
Some women are afraid to show bravado in the workplace, and many careers are stunted due to this lack of outward confidence. In order to be considered for leadership roles, you must be able to show that you can lead. Don’t be afraid to speak with confidence, walk tall, and make your opinions known.
Granted, one of the most beautiful things that women bring to the workplace is humility. But we must temper it with a strong sense of self-worth and confidence.
There’s no shame in being a broad. Reflect on your diverse work experience, identify your strongest qualities, and capitalize on your experience. Be a broad in every sense of the word!