BY: Yvelette Stines
When it comes to being successful in the corporate space, it takes more than a degree and hard work. Many of us follow the traditional path of going to school, getting an internship or two, and working through the ranks of numerous companies. There are also some key elements to consider that will help you walk down the corporate hallway and gain the success that you have always desired.
We sat down with two women who have navigated the corporate hallways successfully.
Mary Palkovich is the Vice President of Gas Engineering and Supply at Consumers Energy. Palkovich has been in the industryfor 36 years. “I started out after I graduated from Michigan Tech working in Colorado.
That led to increasing responsibility, and that led to leadership,” says Palkovich. She then went on to work for a couple different companies throughout the nation and landed back home, in Michigan, with Consumers Energy.
For Kandia Johnson, Communications and Visibility Strategist, her 15-year experience in corporate America working in management consulting, helped her launch her business Kandid Conversations LLC., and She Deserves More, a mentor matching masterclass series for women. With conducting workshops both nationally and internationally her most sought-after presentations are executive presence, public speaking, and teaching attendees how to pitch and present ideas. Recently there is demand for her emotional intelligence workshop which teaches corporate individuals to manage their emotions and organization can work effectively as a whole. She has presented to organizations and companies such as Terumo, Williams Sonoma, The Puerto Rican Association of Human Development, and more.
When it comes to navigating the corporate hallways both Palkovich and Johnson share their expertise.
Have a strong sense of self-awareness.
“When I was in corporate I had a manager tell me that I needed to be more empathetic and approachable,” she reminisces. With this advice, Johnson took note and adjusted. This helped her relate and understand herself and others more through this process she realized how much of a positive impact it had on her interaction and work. For someone who wants to have an executive position, Palkovich emphasizes becoming an enterprise leader. “If you want to be an executive at a large company, you have to be an enterprise leader. You can’t stay inside of your own area of expertise. You must help the company succeed in all other aspects. If there is a component, colleague, or peer in another place that is struggling, you are responsible as an enterprise leader to help them,” she explains.
Build diverse and functional relationships.
“The power of building a team is important,” Johnson says. Palkovich also understands the importance of building relationships and mentoring. “Don’t underestimate how important your network is. Keep strong
relationships, keep the respect, and work at it. It doesn’t come easy,” Palkovich advises. “You have to maintain the relationship and reach out to people,” she continues. Just as your network is important, so is the mentor and mentee relationship. “I am only successful if
I have a team around me that is capable and successful. Mentoring not just my own team, but mentor across the whole entire company of people need to be at their best. Mentoring is critical for everyone,” says Palkovich. She explains that “it is her responsibility to give back and pass on lessons that I’ve learned through my career.” Mentorship is a key element to success. Johnson shares that it
is necessary to have a few mentors. “One mentor is not enough, you need a whole team of people who can help you level up. Some [can help] with life and career and others who are industry specific. Have at least four to five people on your team that can speak to four to five areas in your development not only to your career, but your life as well,” Johnson advises.
Proper negotiating skills are essential when it comes to moving up corporate latter or securing clients for your business. Knowing your worth and numbers are important. The first offer is just the beginning.
One should understand that we all communicate differently, listen differently, and with that understanding you have to approach people and situations different. “There are different learning, communication, and management styles,” explains Johnson. With that being said, “it is about having the courage to ask the right questions for clarification,” she continues. Terms like, “can you help me understand” is a great way to start a conversation to bring everything to the table so people have the expectations understood and clear up any misunderstandings.
When you are moving through the corporate hallways, it is our responsibility to continue to grow and learn. “Be careful that you don’t get caught in trap of thinking you know everything. There are always things to be learned. I’ve been in industry since 1982 and I can tell you I am still learning things to this day,” Says Palkovich. With career growth, personal growth is just as important.
“There is a big misconception that your job should make you happy. Your job is not responsible for your happiness,” declares Johnson. She reflects on this realization, “looking where I am now and where I was,
I put way too much responsibility on a job to make me happy.” People want to put “full responsibility on a job and person to make them happy. I was once that person. You have personal responsibility over each area of your life. You have to make and be the change.”
The corporate hallways can have some locked doors, bumpy steps, and smooth sailing. It is all included in the journey. If you work and move on purpose and implement some of these tips, it make some steps easier.
For those who are looking to take the step out of corporate into entrepreneurship, Johnson leaves us with this advice.” Many people want to pursue their passion and that is great, but people don’t pay you for your passion, they pay you to solve their problems. Make sure you have your financial, systems on how you will run your business, and adequate knowledge in place before you leave your job.”