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Pay it Forward…Advice from an ASPA Member

This article appeared in the Summer print issue of PA TIMES.

Phin Xaypangna

Being asked by ASPA to provide career advice in PA TIMES is such a wonderful honor. As I begin to think about the career advice that I would give to students and new professionals, I reflected back to the speech that I made several years on similar topic. I think that these comments can apply to men or women and for this situation. Below are a few things that I want to pass along to you.

Get a Mentor(s). Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by so many people who have supported me in my career growth. I have been fortunate to have mentors early in my career. I remembered several people who took me under their wings and showed me the ropes. They opened a lot of doors for me and provided me with so many opportunities. The mentors that I have were mostly informal mentors, not formal.

Remember that there are a lot of people who would be honored to be your mentor. You just need to ask. Also, they should be as diverse as possible so that it doesn’t limit you to certain professions.

Network Anytime, Anywhere and with Anyone. Knowing people is especially important today. You will find that the more people you know, the more opportunities will come your way. The bigger your network gets, the more it will multiply and the more valuable it will become. To me, networking is about building relationships with people that you don’t know well. Networking is a lot easier if you take the work out of it. So, everyone is a potential contact and resource if you are open and receptive to others.

You need a lot of different types of people on your road to success. Different people bring different influences and abilities. The information from a book called UR A Brand by Catherine Kaputa has been helpful to me. The book talks about the list of people who can play a role in your professional network into these groups:

  • Core group–these are your friends, family or business colleagues- who knows you well and can help further your success. They lack in power, but they make up for the support that they provide.
  • Ruler–these are high executives at your company and elsewhere.
  • Connectors–these are people who know everyone. They may or may not have powerful jobs.
  • Promoters–these are people who sing your praises and can help to promote you.
  • Gurus–these are people such as mentors or professors whom you can call on for advice or strategy sessions. They know a lot and enjoy sharing what they know.
  • Weak links–these are people you don’t know well, but who could be consulted for advice or help. Don’t ignore them because they are often the source of a job lead.

So, if you are one of those that don’t like to network, you need to commit to it today. If you are good at networking, don’t stop, instead increase your network.

Don’t Stop Learning. Over the years, I truly believe that learning is part of life. Learning can happen at any given time, whether you are reading a book, watching a movie, taking a class, talking to someone or even watching a reality television show. If you don’t know sometime, find out more information on it in order for you to be more educated about the topic. At your current position, ask to serve on a committee or lead a project or take on something that no one wants to do because it is part of your learning and growth.

Don’t be Complacent. It is also important to remember that when situations change, you must also change if you want to succeed. You will growth and learn throughout the process. Be open-minded and expect the unexpected. You must be ready for change. I have learned this the hard way because at one point in my career I had a manager who valued me and my expertise. Several years later, this individual left the organization and I had a new manager. The new manager didn’t really see the value I bring to the organization. Working for this individual was such a challenge. My word of advice is Don’t Be Complacent at your current career. Always have a Plan B in mind because you don’t know what will happen, especially during these economic times.

Be Authentic–Know Who You Are. Be different. When you copy others, you are not authentic. Capitalize on what’s different about you. You should build your identity around your authenticity–that is who you are and what you are good at. Find your passion. If you don’t know what you are good at or what your passion is, you need to figure that out because it will set you apart from everyone else. I have found that this has led me to so many new opportunities.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Good luck in your career endeavors!

ASPA member Phin Xaypangna is diversity manager/organizational development consultant, Office of Organizational Development, Mecklenburg County Government. She is also a member of ASPA’s National Council. Email: [email protected]

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