Sukhinder Singh Cassidy has a career that many of us dream about. She’s been named to the Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list after serving as Google’s President of Asia-Pacific and Latin America, the CEO-in-Residence at the global venture capital firm, Accel Partners, and then as CEO of Polyvore.
And then… she started her own business.
Sukhinder’s latest venture, Joyus, is a brand new online shopping experience that brings you the latest trends in fashion, beauty, home decor and food via video. Each week, Joyus experts are filmed sharing their unique lifestyle finds and showing you how to make each item work for you. All you have to do is watch + shop!
This week in Office Hours, Sukhinder shared 5 Key Strategies for the first 5 Years of Your career.
1. Know your trademark strength.
Each of us is uniquely great at something and uniquely known for something. When you think about your innate quality, something about who you are uniquely is what makes you successful. Do you know what that is?
When you carry yourself into an interview or the workforce, you are bringing with you this trademark strength. You will know what it is by asking your friends, family, people you work with, people you volunteer with.
What is your trademark strength? You’ll be betting your career on it.
2. Put your head down and work your tail off. Literally.
If you want to be great at anything, it comes with a lot of hard work. The time you put in early on in your career yields so much flexibility later on and the ability to call the shots in your own career more than you would ever think possible.
In my 30s, when I was at Google, I had just gotten married and got pregnant with my first child and I was in this very big job that required me to travel from China all the way to Brazil. I went to my Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, and I said “I’d like to stay in this job but I’d like for you to pay for my nanny and for my daughter, when she is born and is 6 months old, from that point on, to travel with me business class around the world.” And they did it.
I made it work because I asked for what I wanted. But I had the right to ask for what I wanted because by that point I had proven myself. I worked my tail off for the first 10-12 years of my career building my reputation to ask for the kind of flexibility I needed when I was starting a family.
3. Work for exceptional people.
Work your tail off with people that you find exceptional. Do great work for great people. It almost doesn’t matter what you are doing. If you do those two things in combination you’re going to have success.
The reason it matters to work for exceptional people is because they’re the people who push you further and inspire you. I mean truly exceptional people at what they do. It’s almost guaranteed you’re going to learn by osmosis. And that you’re going to get to be better at what you do by shadowing someone who is brilliant or unique or outstanding in one key thing. You’re going to learn at an accelerated rate.
4. Don’t be afraid of being a specialist.
Lots of people ask me “how do you get to be CEO?” I built my reputation in a functional area – business development and financial analysis. I got really really good at [it].
My entire career in the valley, I was a partnership lead. Because when you get very good at something, people will come to you for your fountain of knowledge on that one thing and people will hire you for that one thing. Malcolm Gladwell talks in outliers about the path to greatness being expertise. And I think the key to creating a great reputation to yourself is expertise. Yes, people think of me (I hope!) as a good CEO, but they come to be predominantly for biz dev advice because I spent the first 10 years of my career really doing deals, driving revenue, and understanding how to do partnerships deeply.
5. For whom are you in the top 1-5% of people they have ever worked with?
A lot of people think that networking is about going to cocktail parties and meeting smart and interesting people and impressing them in a minute with your great intellect or your wittiness and handing them a business card. I spent very little of my career doing that kind of networking.
When I look back on my best network, it is people who I did outstanding work for, the people who know me the best. Both my strengths and my weaknesses.
Often, people ask me to be a reference for them. The most uncomfortable thing for me is when someone who I don’t know well asks me to be a reference for them. [I prefer] someone who worked for me or with me, deeply in the trenches who I know inside and out. For that person, I will do a lot. And I want to give back in that way by making them successful. Think about the people who are closest to you in your life, not those who are far away.
For whom are you in the top 1-5% of people they have ever worked with? Therein are your greatest advocates for your career.
Leslie is the color-coding, post-it loving Director of Business Development at The Levo League. Before joining the Levo dream team, she was a management consultant in Washington DC. She is a connoisseur of nachos, a politics junkie/student government nerd, and a diehard University of Michigan fan.
read other articles by Leslie Zaikis