Ideas make the world go ’round — and in the business world, one innovative thought can spark lasting change in an organization, increase productivity and effectiveness, and even land you a job opportunity! For some bright members of the labor force, all it took was one idea to take them from the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder to being a major player in the organization’s success.
Examining these remarkable examples of everyday women who weren’t afraid to share their bright ideas and were eventually placed or considered for job major roles at the CEO, president, and director levels shows that often all you need is one epiphany moment to supercharge your career.
Laura Alber, CEO Williams-Sonoma
One remarkable example of an everyday person turned CEO is the current director and president of home furnishings brand Williams-Sonoma. After earning a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, Laura Alber spent several years working with major retail brands such as GAP and Contempo Casuals.
How does one go from working in retail merchandising to being ranked ten on Fortune’s list of the “25 Highest-Paid Women” of 2011? By combining dedication and fearlessness with great ideas. While working as a senior buyer for Williams-Sonoma’s Pottery Barn brand, she penned a strategic proposal that honed her innovative ideas and used them to grow the company and expand its reach globally.
According to Laura’s executive profile on Businessweek, “She has been the visionary leader behind several of Williams-Sonoma’s most impressive growth strategies, including the multi-channel expansion of the Pottery Barn brand and the creation of the Pottery Barn Kids, Pottery Barn Bed+Bath, and PBteen brand.” Laura built a remarkable career with Williams-Sonoma by demonstrating her dedication to the company’s mission. In addition to carrying out her job functions, Laura saw room for improvement in the way things were done and shared her ideas with key executives, as well as created a pragmatic strategy for accomplishing the corporate mission.
Lindsay Blackwell, Extreme Job Hunting
Another phenomenal example of the career-nurturing power of innovation is one graduate of the class of 2011. After hearing about a Social Media director position at her alma mater, the University of Michigan, she took to the web to create a viral campaign that would capture the attention of the hiring manager. Instead of solely applying to an open position and taking the chance of going unnoticed amongst thousands of applicants, Lindsay took a divergent approach and built a website and social media campaign that landed her a job interview for the position. Although she did not get specific job that she wanted, she was offered a position by Ingenex Digital Marketing as their Social Media Director due to the exposure she received.
This story has implications for people at every level in their career. The major takeaway point is that you must take a strategic approach to standing out from the crowd. Anyone can submit a job application and resume, but it takes a truly innovative thinker to find a meaningful way to stand out and showcase talent and skills necessary to do the job right.
Both anecdotes above showcase the importance of sticking to your goals and being flexible. Taking an innovative approach may be just what you need to get your foot in the door and make great strides in your profession. In the July issue of Marie Claire, four women were featured and provided tips on how they successfully worked their way to the top:
Introduce yourself to company leadership. Kate Gutmann, President of Worldwide Sales at UPS, says candidates should, “Make sure the decision makers know your name and what you do.” She did just that when vying for a promotion to a vice president position. She says, “the person making the decision didn’t know me at all, which can happen in a big company. So I wrote a memo–’Why Kate Gutmann?’–explaining who I was and why I should at least get an interview. It was a little courageous and scary at the time, but it worked. I got the interview and eventually landed the job.”
Avoid job hopping. “When I look at a resume and see a lot of jobs, I can’t be sure of the person’s success,” said Mellody Hobson, President at Ariel Investments. Many employers value loyalty and believe it shows you’re dedicated when you grow with one company for a portion of your career.
Find a solution. A tip you’ve probably heard from your parents before: “don’t whine–fix the problem,” came from Julie Greenwald, Chairman and Chief Operating Officer at Atlantic Records. Consider how you can solve issues you — or your co-workers face — each and every day.
Break out of your comfort zone. Ask for additional things to do and go beyond your job description. “The best advice I can give in a situation like mine is to know what you don’t know and seek out those who do,” said Tina Schiel, Executive Vice President of Stores at Target.
The key is to throw your reservations to the wayside and be vocal when you see opportunities for changing the way things are done. Through observing fallacies in the current methods of doing things, and by offering practical solutions, your great idea can take you from obscurity to gainful employment.
Do you know of other people who proposed great ideas and advanced their careers? Share them in the comments!
Joanna Riley Weidenmiller is the CEO and co-founder of The One-Page Company and is responsible for executing the company’s strategic development plan. Prior to launching One-Page, Joanna was the CEO of Performance Advertising. Joanna earned her B.A. in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and lives between Beijing, China, and San Francisco. Connect with Joanna and The One-Page Company on Twitter @1pageproposal and Facebook.