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How to Custom-design Your Next Role or Get on the Executive Fast-Track

Can Lead A Horse To Water But T Make Him Drink

How to Custom-design your Next Role or Get on the Executive Fast-Track

If you’re not networking internally within your company (as explained in the last post) then you are minimizing your opportunities to grow in an organization. A record-breaking number of people are now just deciding to jump ship for better opportunities and pay. In a way, this is working for them if their career path stays linear and conventional. However, if you want to jump on the executive-fast-track or need to move laterally in order to get on an executive fast-track, then networking internally is a must-do.

Last week we talked about the process of laying the groundwork and building the reputation that will enable you to establish yourself as an influential change agent. This week, we will focus on how to actually enact the change, which will help you propel your career forward, or over, depending on what you want to do.

Here are 4 questions to ask your internal network that will enable you to identify gaps and propose solutions:

  1. What are the biggest challenges to delivering quality on time
  2. What do you see as being potential solutions?
  3. Have you already shared both the challenges and solutions and, if so, what occurred as a result?
  4. What are the potential costs, logistics, and objections of the solutions? (Validate with other stakeholders)

Instead of identifying problems that are solvable in your internal networking efforts, you may be discouraged by what you learn and determine that your company is a sinking ship (subscribe and watch for my future post: Signs Your Company Is A Sinking Ship).

So, you have a decision to make: do you abandon ship at the first possible opportunity or do you try to save the passengers still onboard, some of whom are completely oblivious?

I have to warn you that after you spend some time getting to know the people who will be impacted far after you find a new role, you may feel a sense of obligation to help them in some way. This could be by stepping up as a change agent, which means sticking your neck out and risking your own job, but enabling you to go down in a blaze of glory, or you could just vow to help other people land into something new, perhaps your new company. Either way, understand all the risks – you face resistance, and the level of resistance you face is commensurate with the strength of the system that wants to maintain the status quo. Also, companies have reacted negatively, and sometimes litigiously, to talent poaching.

You may or may not find an outspoken internal sponsor, which is always preferred. This process is applicable whether you do or do not.

The problems that seem insurmountable are usually people-related, not process, systems or resources related. Unless you have training and experience as a transformative coach or therapist, you probably don’t want to touch the people problems. Also, when you are impacted directly by those people problems, it can be that much more challenging to be an objective solution provider. If you find that the organization has people problems, you can anonymously nominate them for an engagement audit to a transformational coach.

If, however, you find that the issues are related to systems, processes, technologies, culture, communication, or policies, and you are inspired and prepared to assume ownership, below is the way to make a business case. Owning the issue doesn’t mean being solely responsible for execution, but it does mean being accountable for results. You have to know in these cases what your strengths are and to understand how you can compensate where you are not strong and delegate. You also need to understand all of the costs associated with additional resources, whether internal or external. If other people want to be a part of the solution, they also have to be able to complete their primary responsibilities with the same quality and would need buy-in from their immediate supervisors. Some of these supervisors you would have wanted to also meet with, because if you knew first hand about their struggles to deliver with limited resources, you will understand that they will object to sacrificing any of their resources.

If there are any potential objections NOT addressed yet, ask the people most impacted by a lack of change to help determine if there is a way to address the objection, either in a work-around or in a way that makes the potential benefit worth the potential risks.

Let’s assume you have worked out a solution that accommodates the needs of many and resolves potential objections to adoption of the solution.

Schedule a meeting and make sure you get as many stakeholders in attendance at the same time. Make the invitation sizzle by making it relevant and critical to everyone. Make sure that you are as judicious with the time as possible so that you can minimize the time it takes to make your case, but allow for ample time to discuss adoption. The subject could be, “I need 15-20 minutes of your time to reveal an issue I discovered that stands to cost us $500K, but if resolved will earn us an increased market share.”

Every won argument starts with first presenting what all parties agree is true, whether these are facts or stories (e.g. of a story – Employees are lazy; vs facts – Projects are delivered 3 months late 85% of the time.) Establish from the get go that you are on the same side. “We all agree that we want our company to be known for its premium products and world-class customer service. Right?” State a few more, and then ask them to confirm their agreement.

Instead of saying, “Kathy from Accounts Payable doesn’t understand why we are paying premium prices for subpar vendor performance, but that’s procurement’s department, so she feels powerless,” share new insights in as measurable, concrete terms as possible without divulging the identity of your sources.

Let each one sink in before you move on to the next.

For example –

“Did you know…

  • The #1 customer complaint is failure to deliver on time.
  • In fact, 65% of the customer service issues tracked are related to this issue.
  • 95% of the people I met with over the past 3 months attribute bugs in 3rd party software to the inability to deliver on time.
  • There were 2,000 bugs over the past 3 months, which took an average of 1 hour to resolve each, for a total of 2,000 hours of lost productivity.
  • 35% of these people are actively seeking a new position right now, because no one has pulled the trigger on a new vendor nor has anyone held the vendor accountable, and they don’t feel they can properly meet their performance metrics and often have to stay extra hours to complete their deliverable.
  • If we lose even only 25% of those people, our current project portfolio will be stalled by 6 months or more, and we will lose $35K on service-level agreement shortcomings, $300K in lost revenue, and can anticipate losing $75K on lost productivity while we stretch the remaining staff, and $25K-50K on higher salaries for new hires who will demand more, and also risk further turnover, which will bump these numbers up even higher.”

Then propose solutions in as straightforward terms as possible.

For example –

  • “Immediate actions that will prevent these losses:
    • 1st level – Assign a new point of contact for the vendor and partner with legal to evaluate the service-level agreement and determine if there is a breach of contract.
    • 2nd level- Liaise with business, technology and users to determine software requirements and evaluate additional vendors
    • etc.”

Put all known objections on the table, so that you can outline how you already thought of a way to work around the objection, or why the cost-benefit of the solution outweighs potential losses.

Connect the dots back to what you all agree on and why the solutions proposed are the best (cheapest, fastest, etc.) way to achieve what you want.

Specify YOUR role and what for what results you will be accountable. Make it look like a job description. You will have to address if you plan on taking this on a special project above and beyond your current duties, or if you plan on fully exiting your role and if/how you will backfill your own position.

My former client success assistant, MJ, called this a roleposal. I knew I wanted to hire her, and knew her personality and networking efforts had potential value to my brand, but I was too in the midst of business development and client delivery to put the dots together. She knew she wanted to work for me, too, and took on the task of outlining what she would do to take some business development and client delivery and follow-up off my hands, the timeline and volume of delivery success, and how she would be compensated based on what I explained to her about my budget. She even outlined how she would get on-boarded with minimal hands-on training. It was an easy yet.

Yes, this outline does put simply what can be a huge, complex investment of time. It’s true – the executive fast-track is not an overnight success method. If you really read the stories of “overnight successes,” you’ll find that one big break may have launched that person into the spotlight, but it was years of effort that helped them be in the right place at the right time.

If you aren’t willing to do this work, you may want to rethink an executive career.

If you are excited by the prospect of making a large contribution to your company, its people and its customers/clients, but you want a partner, mentor, and coach for the long-haul, book a free consultation with me so that we can determine if we are a match to work together. Not only can we coach you through the challenges (even people challenges) that occur, but we can also set you up with a mentor who has already achieved what you hope to in a relevant industry/business.

Gavin DeGraw – Everything Will Change (Audio)

Music video by Gavin DeGraw performing Everything Will Change. (C) 2013 RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (, is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.

Another Key Habit to Turbo Boost Your Career Growth


Last week I shared how you can make a habit of taking regular, strategic action to build and sustain accelerated momentum in your career growth, and I did a live FB broadcast in which I shared how often to evaluate your desired and actual career growth if you want to stay in control of your career.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also share this key habit that my most successful change agent clients attribute to their ability to catapult their careers and influence.

The book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi was released in 2005, just when I was developing my chops in networking. Honestly, I haven’t read the book. My boss at the time did, and he reinforced the primary message of the book, which is inherent in its title.

While I didn’t necessarily follow the advice of never eating alone, since I worked through many lunches and, as an ambivert who doesn’t like to talk when I eat, nor do I enjoy watching or hearing other people eat, it would sap my energy. I did start inviting more people to sit down for meals (or drinks), and it was transformative.

The clients who have been able to realize the greatest transformations in their organizations attribute their success to the time that they invested getting to know people in the organization and the efforts that they made to learn from others’ perspectives.

A Harvard Business Review IdeaCast with Julia Kirby from 2010 stated that women are over mentored and under sponsored. Sheryl Sandberg’s top-seller, Lean In, promoted mentorship and sponsorship, but let’s focus on sponsorship because it is a relationship with so much more potential to elevate you and your influence.

Much like finding a mentor, you have to let the relationship lead. Inspiring someone to sponsor you may be an objective, and it doesn’t hurt to have a wish list of people in your organization or a target organization that you’d like to have as a sponsor. However, the outcome you want is more achievable when you approach it relationally vs. transactionally > nurture the relationship to evolve to that level.

Thinking transactionally vs. relationally is a mistake many people make when it comes to networking. People on the job may limit their internal networking to their department, thinking these are the only people who are relevant to job performance. Job seekers sometimes only want to talk with you if you have a job to offer, and it fits XYZ criteria. Recruiters and employers sometimes only want to talk with you if you fit an open job requirement. Deciding that a job isn’t a match doesn’t have to be the end of a relationship, however. It can be the start of something completely new and unexpected.

The key word here, however, is growth! Expansion. Think openness. I’m not just talking about engaging one person as a sponsor who can influence your career, but to engage people across the organization as supporters and advocates by being their champion.

I get that we all have constraints on time. I also see being judicious with your time is a wise practice. We can’t possibly meet with everyone we’d like to, or who would like to meet with us.

Let me propose a structure that is amenable for the busy and/or introverted professional that still enables you to expand your network and influence, learn what can be leveraged, and discover magical synergy with unexpected people.

The first step is always to make a list. Start with those you know are impacted by your role and vice versa. Eventually, you may need to use a company directory, organizational chart, or LinkedIn. Consider other divisions, and, of course, higher ups. Work in a small company? Just think a bit outside the box. Consider meeting with vendors and customers/clients. You just may need to get the okay and authorization from the points of contact, and have met with them first.

Prioritize the list

  1. First meet with centers of influence. These may be leaders, but they also may not be visible leaders, as in executives. Sometimes they are appointed to lead special projects or to liaise on critical or failing initiatives. These are people whose opinions matter to others. They most likely achieved this station by doing exactly what is outlined here. You’ll greatly accelerate your own path to this station by learning first what they know. By meeting with these individuals, you can also better develop a list of questions to ask the next audience about why things are the way they are, even if a center of influence clued you in. Get right to the source. Put yourself on their radar and check in with them on what they are working on. Ask them what they need to move things forward faster, and then do some leg work to source possible resources or solutions.
  2. Meet with the higher-ups to better understand their vision. Yes, ideally, leadership would be doing a great job of relaying the vision to each and every employee. You and I both know there are too many companies in which there is a huge gap here. When you take control of your own career, you own your understanding of the company’s vision, too. Now, when you ask why things are done the way that they are done, you are doing so with the critical context of their desired outcomes.
  3. Intentionally diversify your list to meet with people at all levels and across departments, including those whose efforts may not get their fair share of accolades or visibility. Of course, your intelligence will have that much more integrity if you are also mindful of ethnic, age, and gender diversity as well.

If you are working full-time, allocate two hours each week for 1-on-1 networking. One meeting will be an hour, so break bread, even if, like me, you prefer eating alone.

The next hour of time you can break up into four 15-minute follow up conversations, similar to a scrum meeting, where you check in on challenges, problems or initiatives you learned about in a prior conversation to see what progress was made or how a resource you offered worked out.

You can also break it up into three 20-minute tele-coffees. These are discovery meetings. You’re getting to know someone and their perspective on a less superficial level. You may determine through these discoveries that more time is necessary and schedule a follow-up meal.

Make sure at least one of these meetings each week is with someone with whom you wouldn’t normally interface.

If you are unemployed, allocate five hours per week for 1-on-1 networking. Three of those hours will be 1-hour meetings. Then you can use one hour for 15-minute follow-ups and another for 20-minute tele-coffees. If you are just starting, then use the first week for just tele-coffees or setting up meetings/tele-coffees for the next week.

Keep in mind that it will take an additional 30-60 minutes each week to send invitations and that you’ll need to send about 10x more invitations than you can accept to make sure that your networking card is full. Over time, you will get better at sending invitations that get accepted, and your momentum will compound, so it won’t take quite as much time to fill your networking card.

What do I mean by networking card? Well, you can take it figuratively, like a dance card. At one time there was such a thing as a physical dance card, but now it’s really just meant to imply that there is so much time for dancing, so many songs played, and so many chances to have a different dance partner. You can also make it literal, and this is recommended. Allocate time on your calendar every week for this activity.

How exactly does this practice lead to growth? Put simply:

Perspective > Root Cause Identification > Solution Development

Relationships > Trust > Influence > Buy-in

Consider everything you wish other people (leaders, people in other departments, or customers) understood about the challenges of your job that would enable smarter, better solutions to emerge.

Now, think of the corporate ladder as a physical ladder. The higher up you go, the more you can see the bigger picture. The pieces may look smaller, but you can see better how they all interconnect or fail to interconnect.

The higher up you go in an organization, the more you see the bigger picture, understand the overall vision of what the organization is intended to achieve and make decisions that leverage and orchestrate the smaller pieces to work toward the vision.

By meeting with and learning from people at all levels, you can better assess what gaps need filling, what needs to be done first before an initiative can move forward successfully, and what are leaderships’ blind spots that stand to sabotage the realization of the organization’s ultimate vision. You don’t necessarily have to come up with an end-to-end solution. This is more about learning and sharing insight.

In regards to relationships, there’s a saying I quote often: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Even though in the traditional office place, emotions were considered taboo to express, they still existed. Some emotions, such as fear and anger, were actually leveraged. Good thing we are evolving, because history and science have proven that is not the way to garner the best performance from your workforce. Now we can make clear, fact-based cases for acknowledging in the workplace that people are human, have emotions, and that if more positive emotions are leveraged, more positive performances will present.

People like to be heard, as I shared in a previous video. Many companies recognize and attempt to fill communication gaps, but still fall short on listening. Rather, not so much listening, but listening AND taking action. If you choose to be a champion for the workforce and solutions that help them, you will earn respect, admiration and loyalty.

Words of warning: Be mindful of how you present your own challenges and how you share what you learn about others’ challenges. Someone may tell you something in confidence that they don’t want to be revealed. You will only build trust that leads to future buy-in if you only share what you have permission to share.

Next week I will share how you can use internal intelligence to create your own ideal role in the organization with minimized risk for you and those who confided in you.

If you want a partner who can contribute strategy, guidance, tools, and accountability in your sponsorship initiatives, let’s talk.

U2 – Elevation

U2’s new album, “Songs of Experience” out now. Listen to the album: Explore more music from U2: Follow U2: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram: Music video by U2 performing Elevation. (C) 2006 Universal-Island Records Ltd.

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (, is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.


It takes courage to follow your dream. How courageous are you?

Dream by EvelynGiggles on Flickr

Last month for our podcast, Epic Career Tales, my assistant, Syndie, interviewed a professional artist, Jessica Serran, who has successfully made not just a great career of being an artist, but a great living. Truly epic, right?

Many of my clients have Epic, yet very conventional corporate careers, in that they started out as an entry-level employee and worked their way up the corporate ladder.

Then there are those who ventured off the corporate ladder. Of those clients, some of them really hedged their risk, and saved up 18 months of income as their safety net before they jumped off. Yet others answered the call to adventure in a moment. That moment could have been inspired by a straw that broke the camel’s back, which is the more common. But there are a couple of clients, I recall vividly, who just had an epiphany inspired by something that they witnessed, or watched, or learned, or read. Those clients inspired the idea for the Epic Career Tales podcast.

I wanted to nudge, or even catapult, people toward their dreams by telling the stories of people who successfully climbed the ladder, jumped off the ladder, or never bothered to climb in the first place, even though it seems that the infrastructure of our world promotes a corporate career as the ultimate path to financial security.

That was not my point of view, actually. My dad’s corporate career provided a good stable living for my family and I when I was young, but the divorce decimated financial resources, and when I was in 9th grade, my dad was forced into early retirement and he had to sell the home I grew up in. While my mom’s job in a small company (it was small then, but grew tremendously during her time there and since) provided her with enough for us to live, eat, and stay clothed, but there never seemed to be enough for anything extra, or extra nice. Plus, she was pretty miserable and complained a lot about her job. She came home exhausted. Her pay raises, even after 10 years, were less than a dollar an hour. I was getting better pay raises at my food service job at 15 years old.

For me, the safer path to financial security seemed to be achieving semi-celebrity status in media. When I realized a year into that career that I really wasn’t willing to do what it took to get to semicelebrity status in media, because it wasn’t really what I wanted, it took courage to realize that I really loved my temp assignment in a corporate recruiting office. And, it took courage to follow that path in consideration of the fact that I was going to take a door-to-door job first to learn sales, and in spite of how I thought it probably would wind up – giving more to a company than they were giving back to me and resenting them for that.

Wow, my outlook was pretty bleak back then.

I know there is a population of people who do not see a corporate career as one that will be financially fulfilling. These people are entrepreneurial and usually seek out multiple streams of income. Some people don’t believe corporations have any honest employees or leaders. Certainly our beliefs shape our decisions, for better or worse and whether they are based on truths or not.

It doesn’t really matter what your dreams are. I don’t see a large percentage of the population following dreams. Why is that?

One revelation that I have stated before was that there is an epidemic, a very pervasive belief among people that we are not worthy of our dreams – that happiness is for other people.

People think they are protecting themselves by not pursuing their dreams; they’ll never have to find out if they weren’t good enough. They’ll never have to fail at making their dream come true. They’ll never have to mourn their dream.

This is tragic because they also never get to find out how brilliant they have the potential to be and how beautiful life can be when you are aligned in your career with your purpose, talent, and interests.

We all have to decide for ourselves what level of risk we are willing to take in order to have what we really want. In a lot of cases people decide what they really want, over having a career that makes them happy, is financial stability.

If that is your empowered choice, I have no qualms. Even though, I still believe that you have disqualified the idea that you can have a career that you love and that provides you with financial stability. That bothers me, and it bothers me more when people decide that what they really wanted to do wasn’t viable for them because they felt unworthy. They may not even realize that this belief was influential in their decision.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

I believe that if you decided that anything was more important than having a career that you love, then you never even tasted what it’s like to have a career that you love. You don’t know what you’re missing. You don’t know how incredible and meaningful life can be when you have a career that feeds your soul.

We interview these Epic Career Tales guests because we want listeners and readers to awaken to their own potential to have a similar tale. I want them to be clear that no career path is going to be without its challenges, and we wouldn’t want that, because then we wouldn’t grow. There are ways to overcome these challenges, and these peoples’ stories demonstrate what it took as well as how amazing it is to be on the other side of those challenges, and to be in a place of knowing you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing.

It’s OK to be afraid, and it’s OK to be terrified.

According to Jack Canfield, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

And according to Will Smith, “God placed the best things in life on the other side of terror.

And FDR said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”

If a professional goal scares and excites you, it probably represents your highest probability of having an epic career and life. Commit to it; give it everything that you got. If you do find out that it’s not the right goal, or that you don’t want it enough to overcome the challenges, it won’t kill you, but I promise you, you are more capable and worthy than you realize!

Shoot for something Epic






Aaliyah – Journey To The Past

ATLANTIC RECORDS 1997. “Anastasia” Soundtrack.

David Brennan’s Epic Career Tale

Listen to David Brennan’s Epic Career Tale

David Brennan was CEO of AstraZeneca. He took a very unconventional path in comparison to his counterparts. He retired years ago, but was recently engaged to be an interim CEO for Alexion Pharmaceuticals, while also helping them find their “permanent” CEO. Once he did, he was asked to become Chairman of the Board.