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How to grow your career strategically?

Tired of stagnation in your career and hoping and praying that one day, some day your boss will realise what an asset you are? Or worse even, completely given up on your career and want to find joy elsewhere?

Then this episode is for you.

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Hi, I'm Sudeshna from The Abundance Psyche, and you are listening to the Not-so-Corporate podcast. Here we talk about all of the not-so-corporate things that we corporate entrepreneurs do within and outside our work.

And today I have with me, my friend, my colleague, my mentor, Monique Ruff-Bell. Monique, welcome to the show.


Oh, Sudeshna, thank you so much for having me. We are about to have a spicy conversation, I'm so excited,


We are going to have a conversation in the real unboring Money 20/20 way.


Yeah, it'll definitely be unboring, I don't do anything boring. So I'm looking forward to us really getting into the weeds of coaching and mentorship and things like that. So I'm happy to be here.


Monique, I have been a mentee of yours for some time. Now, you have, in fact, been an inspiration for me to talk about all of these things quite openly. I was to be fair, a bit afraid and reluctant of sharing my personal development piece alongside my very, very technical data science journey. So thank you for that. And thank you for agreeing to be on the show. How did you get interested in this space and how did you start coaching and mentoring people?


I think because I strive to be my authentic self, the Monique that I bring to work is the Monique that is around my family, is the Monique that I'm with my friends, it's the same personality.

And it was a journey to kind of get to that because everyone starts hiding bits of themselves or not necessarily being comfortable with sharing their full self. And that to me, that took a lot more energy to hide, because as you can see, I have a little bit of a boisterous personality, and I'm kind of a little bit out there and stuff like that.

So it took more work to keep that bottled up than it was to just be myself. So when I came to the realization, you're going to get all of me and you know, I'm going to be a very hard worker, I'm going to be very impactful with my job. But you're gonna have to deal with a little bit of this boisterous personality. And you know, it didn't stop anything, I just kept going. So I wanted to support other people, men, and women and then becoming more of their authentic selves because I really do feel that that's more of a motivator and helpful to their career growth than it is a hindrance. And so thank you for saying all those wonderful things. You know, I've seen your growth, I'm super happy that you're starting to feel more comfortable. And bringing your authentic self more to work, because it's a good you. And so we should be able to see all of you.


I'm glad you like that. But Monique, the coachee becomes the coach, you are not boisterous. You're not. You are energetic.


I like that description. Okay, I'm energetic. I like that better. That's right, bringing some good energy to the table.


There you go. Tell me a bit more about what are the specific things that you help other mentees with?


Yeah, so I'm all about helping my mentees be more strategic about their career. I think people don't talk enough about that when you get out of school that you just don't let certain things happen to you. Or that you have these expectations that you're going to be like discovered, everyone is going to see this fabulous job that you do and promotions, and money is going to be raining down on you.

And you didn't put in any hard work other than just doing your regular day job and putting work, you weren't very thoughtful and mindful about certain strategic decisions that you need to make to move your career forward. And so that was a big mistake for me. And then one day, I pretty much realized, all of my hard work wasn't doing anything but getting me more work. To be honest. You know, it wasn't this utopia of people noticing how great I was doing and how much I cared and how many hours I was putting in extra in the day to do my job. Because all they saw was the results and great, good job. That's what you get paid for. So that's what you know, I was getting out of it.

And so once I decided that I needed to make certain power moves, build certain relationships, grow certain networks, have certain conversations, putting more stuff out there to the people who could help me move up within my career, that's when it clicked for me. That's when it happened. That's what started things started to move. I knew where I wanted to get to and I started to make decisions that support the goal for me. And when I say goal, it's the end goal for me now, but you know, I have the right to change my mind and have a different end goal eventually.

For me for right now, I have been very strategic about the positions, the decisions that I made, that are going to get me there. And so what I coach, other of my mentees to do is to think like that, don't think just because you got a college education, and you got a job, that's all you need to do. There are other things you need to think about- how are you going to create the best allies within your corporation, your organization, as well as outside of your organization? Who's going to be a part of your advisory board? Because you don't know what you don't know.

You're definitely going to need to have conversations with people to help you move forward in that and your thought process? What are you going to do with your next job? Like what's the goal that you're trying to get to? Are you just taking jobs to be having jobs? Are you going to be really focused on where you're trying to get to and making the right decisions that are going to help you get there? It's deeper than just showing up to work. And that's what I have my mentees think about- something that's deeper than just a job.


That's amazing. There's so much to unpack there. So I'll just start with one bit. How did the shift happen for you?


Such a good question. So I love to tell this story, because it's, to me, it's like a good story. It was a game-changer for me.

I've been in events, running events for over 20 years. In 2012. I was doing a bunch of jobs. So I was a marketing manager in events. I've been an operations manager, I've been a meeting planner, I've done content production. I was just doing a whole bunch of things within events working really hard, put in a lot of dedication and effort caring a lot. But I was still staying at one particular level, I wasn't really moving up.

And then I got this job where I went to one of our sister brands, which is Cannes Lions, actually with one of my previous jobs. I got to go there and put on a programme there for some clients. And when I got there, I was like, “Man, this is really... this is not like a regular event. This is fun, experiential, different, crazy, exciting, and large!!”

All of these people and I was like, man, I want to do this. And how do you get to do this? Because I didn't know how do I get a job doing this, because what I do is, you know, not on this particular level. And so then I took a step back, and I said, I can't do that. And I really thought about it.

And I started to do research and figuring out, looking at people because I think that's when LinkedIn started to really become like a thing- not a big thing, but a thing where you can kind of peek at other people's pages and see where they've been and what they were doing. And kind of seeing what type of jobs they had, what type of experience they had, or whatever. And I started putting, like a manifesto together for myself. And I was like, “Okay, I got that I don't have that. I need that, where I can get that.”

And so then I started to figure out, I need a sponsor because I don't have people who right currently can open those doors, introduce me, or get me into those organizations that are going to get that. So I started to become very conscious of figuring out who can be my sponsor and really figuring out how it was going to be a mutually beneficial relationship. Because remember, when you're looking for mentors or sponsors, they're investing a lot of time and you and you have to make it worth their while to do that. So I was looking for someone where I can make sure that I'm going to make that person’s life a little bit easier. And I can kind of help be helpful to them, in the same way, that they were going to be helpful to me. And that's exactly what I did in that. And I found a person who was a great sponsor for me. And he moved every time he moved to a different job. He would take me with him. And so he would take me with him every time he was going. I was like, “Okay, great. I'll go to that job. But I need to know, I need to be managing this and this, or I need to learn this and this, or I need to be more involved in this and this.”

And each job he would do that. And so I'm moving up in salary, I'm moving up in responsibility. I'm learning different things. I was nurtured. And you know, he definitely brought me to the table when he didn't have to when it was dealing with C-suite and senior management. And it just was a game-changer for me. Because I always asked for what I wanted.

I just didn't let it happen or thought “I’ll figure it out once I get there.” No, I knew what I wanted. And I was very clear and then I made sure that was mutually beneficial for you to be helpful with me for this. This is what I'm going to do to help make a programme better or help take off this responsibility of your back. You don't have to think about it, I'll think about it more in that way. And, you know, we'll play our positions correctly, and it works. And then, you know, when it was done with, he was moving on to another job. And I was like, “I don't need to do that anymore. I think I'm, I'm a whole person now. I can do what I really wanted to do.” And that's when Money 20/20 came up for me. So it worked out.


Awesome. So, when you talk about the next goal, I love that because it's so intentional, rather than, you know, hoping and praying that I get promoted. Sometimes a promotion is not the right thing for your career, either. Right? Like, if you get promoted into I talked about this often that if you get promoted into a Head of Sales role, but you actually wanted to be a data person, that's not going to good.


No, you're gonna be miserable.


Exactly, exactly! So how did you know where you wanted to go? Because when we talk about the end goal, it sounds very heavy and very, this is what I want to do by the end of my life. So how did you know what you wanted?


I knew what I wanted to do because I enjoyed the industry that I was in. So I knew I wanted to stay in the industry. I did not know what I didn't know until I went to that big event. And I saw what was kind of happening all around me. And I wanted to play a part in helping consumers and clients and stuff like that have that same experience within my industry.

So it was divine timing, that kind of helped me decide this is what I want to do. And then I paid attention to how I was going to get there. So that's the part where I knew I want to stay in the industry. I knew I wanted to run a large programme. And what does it take to get there?

Well, I had to go figure out who those people were doing that. And like I said, I was looking into their backgrounds, and I kind of created a checklist for myself. Because you know, if you're going to be running something of that size, you have to understand how P&Ls work, and P&L management of that size. Well, where I was at that time, I had never even seen a P&L. I had seen a P&L as in just from an Ops standpoint, but not like a whole, every part of a cost, revenue basis standpoint that I had to.

So I said, “I need to know what that looks like.”

And I didn't know how to speak to something like that. I knew that I was going to be dealing with a lot of clients that were from the top fortune 500 100, 1,000 companies and talking to C-suite. I needed to know how to talk to them, and figure out how to have those types of conversations that were going to move the needle.

I was also already sales and commercially minded in my other positions, but I needed to get way more involved in that because what drives the event programmes is sponsorship revenue. And if you're going to be doing an event of that size, you're going to have to be doing large deals. And so how could I play a part in that unless I knew what were the needs of that?

So I needed to figure out how to play with the big boys and understand the language. So it was very intentional that I think one of my skills that, I feel I have- a skill is, I can see a plan from A to Z, I'm just not a big picture person. I'm a detail-oriented task list type person.

So I can always say I'm trying to get to the yellow brick road, but I have to take all of these other steps before I can get there. And that's how my mind works anyway. And then I made sure that I put thought, effort, time, and energy into working those steps.


Right. I love it. And if I just go one step further with your corporate journey, it's been 20 years. You have been in Corporate for a long, long time. And I know we were talking about this the other day- Corporate Politics and how do you navigate that and still make sure that you are growing in the areas that you want to grow because politics is quite a loaded word. No one likes to talk about politics. Can I ask you, Monique, what does politics mean to you in Corporate life?


Well, it's a really good question. As a matter of fact, you know, I do mentor a lot of people and I started a YouTube channel called Everyday Career Coach on YouTube that you can go in and I just recorded a video on how to deal with office politics. So this is a timely topic.

So what I say is that in any corporate or work environment, even the smallest mom and pop shop, there is politics. Some people get noticed, there are people who have the ability to be influencers. Some people have the ability to be saboteurs. And there are certain things that unless you are in the know, you will be surprised instead of prepared for certain situations or issues that might come down the road. So for you to be prepared, instead of surprise, I always say, these are the three things you need to do in a corporate environment.

Because some people think, I don't want to do all of this, I just want to go to work, do my job, and then I get to go home. And that's it. And they're missing a whole lot of stuff that's happening around them, swirling around them, because they're not paying attention.

So I would say, listen, watch and learn.

First of all, understand the environment that you're in. Because if you see that there's always these particular go-to people, or you see that these people are the influencers or whatever, listen to what they're saying. Listen to how they're coming across. Watch when they decide to pop up out of the blue about something, or whatever. You have to pay attention, you have to see the type of conversations that are going around. And when people are listening to this person, what are they caring about? What are the questions that they're asking? Become that fly on the wall. Don't ignore- watch what's happening around you.

And then when I say learn, you have to, I'm not saying you have to 100% mimic what that person is doing. But you have to pull out the nuggets of what is happening and how are they becoming influencers to decision-makers? What are they doing that's in a positive way because I always say avoid negative politics. It never works out for people- even the people that you think it's going to work out for, they literally eventually will crash and burn. So don't do what they do. Don't feed in, don't become the gossiper, don't become the problem maker, the problem child in the organization. It's not worth it.

If you feel like you're in a space where it's more negative than positive, leave. Get another job, move on. You shouldn't be anywhere that's draining your energy. If it is, that's not the right space for you. And there are all the signs telling you that's not the right space for you. So listen and go about your business and leave.

But if you see that particular people do have influence, listen, watch and learn from them. And see what are those? How are they expressing things that are becoming very sticky with those bosses? Or those decision-makers? What are the topics that they continually love to bring up and talk about? How are they building relationships because you know, you might not be comfortable in reaching out to someone, but sometimes it's just making sure that they know you exist.

And it's like asking the question- people don't mind answering questions. So like, if you want to understand where the business is going and what's happening, you can just ask a simple question. And that person will appreciate that you actually look at them as some type of authority figure or the person that will have the answers, and they will probably share it with you. But that's a strategic mindset to say, I'm going to make sure I get on this person's radar.

I'm gonna make sure that quarterly or monthly or something like that, they're gonna see who I am. And they're going to want to connect with me and I'm going to do it. And I'm not going to be in your face about it, but I'm going to make sure that they knew who I am. And so that's how I look at office politics. That's how I learned a lot from watching other people and kind of being a fly on the wall at times because you know, some people are so involved in themselves, they don't even notice that you're right there. And I got a lot of great tips and tricks and techniques from listening, watching, and learning from those influencers.


Amazing. So Monique has a really really unique leadership style that I'm just amazed by. So quite a lot of people when they go to events, they don't realize how much work organizing a big event is. And if anyone has been to the Money 2020 Vegas show, you know what scale I'm talking about. But Monique has this unique way of keeping people the staff a bit engaged because when we are in the show we are just flat out. So, Monique, tell me a bit more about your leadership style... I used to, you know, wake up half an hour early used to be that for your...


Just for that part?


Just for that part.


Yes. So I'm all about motivation, right. And when you do anything of that scale, anything that takes a lot of your energy or whatever, you get less motivated, you get tired, you get drained. And then when you're dealing with people in the public, you know, everything is not always happy-go-lucky and people are nice and stuff like that.

And so you always have to put on your best smile, your best face to solve a problem that they're yelling at you for or they're upset about. So what I always thought about, what helps to keep me motivated when I'm going through something that is draining or is taking a lot of my energy, is music. And so what I started to do with the full staff, and I'm talking about 100 people in a room, when we're about to kick-off for the event, is I created something called the song of the day.

And so you know, I do my little speech to get everybody all pumped about tackling the day, it's like 6 o'clock in the morning, you've got to be doing stuff about 14 hours, you need something that's gonna keep you motivated. And so the music motivates me. There are certain songs where I just get really energized and upbeat. And I can keep going, even when it's just a lot of stuff coming at me.

And I wanted the staff to feel the same way I wanted the team to feel that same way. And so every day, I pick a song of the day. And I always say, if you feel like you need to go in the corner and cry, or you're just tired, or you need a break, put on your earphones, listen to this song, let it pump you up. And let's get back to killing it and doing well for our day and getting things accomplished and stuff like that. And so it's become a thing. People talk about it when they even leave after the event and they talk to their other team members, or then different brands or different departments and, and they loved it. And it really it does for them what it does for me, and that's just you have to use other tools, other than just your words to keep you motivated. And music is a great tool to kind of get you pumped up.


I love that. So you have this channel, Everyday Career Coach on YouTube. And then what is your plan with that? Do you coach other people? Do you mentor other people outside of Ascential? Tell us a bit more about that...


I do. And so you know, I've come across a lot of people and they see me either speak, they worked with me before they work with me now and they feel I have this confidence about myself. They want to know how they get to build that too and feel comfortable in their skin, and that they're making strategic decisions that are going to catapult them forward in their career. So I get people inside and outside of the company, who asked me to mentor and I do mentor people who are inside and outside of my organization. And I enjoy it.

But I'm not about wasting my time. So when I'm talking to them, I'm really trying to suss out if they're serious about putting in the time and effort that they want to put into their career, if they're willing to not necessarily Listen to me. But understand that there are other ways to think about things. And if they're open and flexible to listen to other advice.

I don't only just give him the advice, I say you need to build yourself a network of people. So I say, well, who are the people you're talking to from this? Who are your allies within the company that you're starting to build relationships with? What does your network look like?

There's work that needs to be done. And then I say, look, you have all of the right to change your mind about where you're trying to get to but who you are in the present, what does this the future look like now? Next week, you're going to be a different person and a new person with probably a different future. But right now, you need a little bit more clarity so that you know, at least you can make decisions that are going to set you on the right course.

So I need you to think things through and then I follow up with them about that and what they did and think about it. So it's not just about us having a friendly cup of coffee. It's really it's about us being strategic and having those conversations and then the mentee putting in the work and hopefully seeing the results which from everyone that I've been mentoring, they feel like they do see results. So something's happening.


You are great at what you do. And I do agree with the fact that you don't have to necessarily know where you are ultimately going to go. You just need to know the next step. Because you can change your mind and that is just so liberating. I remember an earlier conversation we had, when you said “Well, who knows 20 years down the line. I might want to be a shaman in the mountains.” And I was like, are you me? So totally, totally agree with you on that.


Yeah, because you know who you were at 21 is not who you are at 30. And it's not who you are at 40. Like, I thought my life would be different when I was 21. And now I'm 43, right? So it's different, but it's okay, I'm fine with it being different, I'm fine with growth. And I'm fine with understanding that as long as I'm putting positive steps in front of me and making positive moves for myself, I can't go wrong. No matter if I have to pivot in a whole new different direction, I'm enjoying the ride.

And that's what is the end game, really- is to enjoy the ride, while you're still here, you're still breathing, because everybody ain't able, and everybody else doesn’t stay around as long. So I'm going to try to enjoy this as long as I can.


Oh, my goodness, I love this, like, that is what people miss- we are so fixated on getting to the destination as fast as you can, that we miss the enjoyment in the ride. And what we're saying is, actually, it's about enjoying the ride, not really about getting to an end destination because I suppose for most of our listeners of this podcast, we are already in a good enough place, we are already lucky to have internet and you know, 3 meals a day. So here it is really being grateful and also enjoying the ride.


Yeah, because it's never gonna end. Because even if you reach the pinnacle of what you've been working 20 years to get to, then you're gonna retire. And then what's the next step? It's gonna always be another step. So you have to understand that it's never going to be done. It's never going to be static and over. And so if you know that, why are you going to get fixated on the end results? You have got to enjoy the pivots and the turns and stuff like that and making sure that they are positive experiences because then it doesn't matter when the end result comes. End result is that. That's the end result.


I am laughing because so many times I keep telling people, and I keep thinking to myself that, you know, I want to take the path of least regrets because there's one thing that’s certain- we can be morbid about it, but it's death. And the only way I can optimize and strategize for my life is knowing that I have taken the path of least regrets so that when I’m 80 I’m not like, “Oh my god, would life have been different if I did not take that job? What if I quit earlier or whatever, right?” Like whatever that decision is.


Like when you have spent money, you went to school to be an accountant, you spent your last 25 years being an accountant and you hate it every moment of it. But because you went to school, and you put all this money and you got these loans and stuff like that you stuck to it, and then you retire at 65, and then the next day you're done. Like your life is over. You're wasting all that time! Why? Who told you you have to do it that way?

You know so it's really like you got to make up your own destiny, your own path, your own mind. And you have to be comfortable with knowing that things are going to change and it's okay because life is about change. And so enjoy the ride since it's gonna be a bumpy one.


I love that. And exactly like you said, like you have if you have lost the money, you have lost the money. Don't lose the time.


Exactly. You're gonna build the money. You can rebuild it. You can come back from almost anything. But you can't come back from regret.


One last question for you Monique. Yes, what's your song of the day for our listeners?


Oh man, I wasn't prepared for this one...

Leave the Door Open” which is by Anderson. PaaK and Bruno Mars. It just came out. And you know you might not think that song necessarily should relate to people or whatever. But “Leave the Door Open” - I'm taking as leave the door open to great and wonderful and different and fun opportunities for you. So keep the door open in your mind. And look at it from that way. It is a killer song. I love that song. It's like it keeps you like wow, I love it. So that’s my song of the day for your listeners.


Amazing on that note if people Want to get in touch with you? Where can they find you?


Yes, find me on Youtube- Everyday Career Coach or find me on LinkedIn and send me a message Monique Ruff-Bell. I've built a great network of people because we've connected via different avenues and stuff like that. So I'm just open to it. But you know, care about yourself enough that you want to be strategic about how you live your life, but you're flexible about change.


Amazing. Love that insight. And for all of you who have been with us till now, thank you share this out with your friends because I think we dropped quite a few truth bombs there.


I think we did. A little bit more bit but we got back on track.


Yeah, share this out with your friends, like subscribe, and I'll see you the next time!

If you are here because you are looking for a career change or are interested in career strategy, download the Career Change Blueprint here to handhold you through your career journey.

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