And I thought being declined for 22 jobs was being patient!”

Part of a conversation I had with my VP early in my career after many failed attempts to secure a new opportunity within RBC Financial Group.

I was enjoying great start to my career. In less than 10 years I had been promoted numerous times having excelled in a number of roles in Personal Banking and Business Banking, including leading a team of account managers to great success in a highly competitive market. As a result of the success, and a fortuitus introduction to an influential executive, I was promoted to a community manager role at age 29 responsible for the bank branches and the personal and commercial needs of a growing market east of Toronto.

Looking to leverage my continued success, and broadening skill set, I began to search out new opportunities. More senior roles in Head Office, bigger markets, and even different lines of business. RBC Financial Group is so broad, and has so many businesses, that opportunities are plentiful and available, or at least I thought so.

I began applying for job after job. Different businesses, roles that I thought I was well qualified for ,and others that would broaden my skill set further. But no success. For some I received generic feedback – “Thanks for applying”, “Another candidate had more relevant experience” – And an equal number I didn’t even receive a reply! Very few interviews were granted and very little valuable feedback was provided.

But how could this be? I was told I was “top talent”. That my career would be managed “differently”. That unique opportunities would be provided to grow my skills and organizational knowledge.

Shortly after the conversation with my VP there was an senior executive meeting where part of the agenda was a talent review and discussion. Like many great organizations RBC does a very good job managing their talent pipeline to ensure it includes a solid mix of skills, experiences, diversity, and diversity of thought.

After the meeting my VP provided me with some great feedback. While she, and other leaders in our region, had a very positive view of my potential when they polled executive leaders from across the full geography I was virtually unknown. A few people “heard good things about me from my boss” but I was frankly anonymous, much to my surprise and dismay.

The experience yielded many valuable lessons, led to a lot of soul searching and personal reflection, and motivated my to me changing my approach to career development. Four specific lessons guided my approach for the rest of my career:

💡 You need people to sponsor and represent you but you can’t rely on them alone, you need to be proactive and passionate about communicating your value and impact.

💡 You need multiple sponsors and mentors to confirm and validate your strengths and opportunities. One is good but not enough.

💡 You need to build relationships with leaders and help them understand the value you bring and the problems you solve. Get good at telling your story with confidence.

💡 You need to always be networking. Not when a job is up. Not when you need something. All the time.

I guarantee that if you take this approach that when new opportunities arise you will be the first person they think about. The first person they want to talk to. And it will significantly increase your success. It worked for me!

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