Top Five Takeaways from Catalyst Connects, Pittsburgh Edition

October 27, 2014Ever hit a roadblock in your career and weren’t sure how to bounce back? Want to know how to set boundaries between work and play? Looking to make the most out of your mentor relationship?

These were just some of the topics discussed at the October 14thCatalyst Connects session in Pittsburgh. The candid conversation was moderated by Catalyst’s Emily V. Troiano, Senior Director, Information Center, and included Laurel K. Rutledge, Vice President, Human Resources, Bayer MaterialScience LLC and Diana Perreiah, President, Alcoa Building and Construction Systems.

The two dished on mentor relationships, staying open to career changes, and how gaining experience can be just as valuable as improving your title.

Check out my five takeaways below!

Find your passion and be open to change throughout your journey.

As we navigate our careers, we often encounter unexpected left turns, road blocks, and detours. Whether you’re relocating to a new city for work or you discover that what you were once passionate about doesn’t ignite the spark within you anymore, career changes can be scary. It’s essential to look at these changes from a different perspective and embrace them as steps in the right direction. “Finding what you love to do and being really successful with it is a wonderful combination,” said Alcoa’s Diana Perreiah. For Bayer MaterialScience’s Laurel K. Rutledge, “Being open to the uncomfortable opened up doors for me.”

It’s vital to create a strong brand for yourself within your workplace.

Although you might not be at the helm of your company, you are the CEO of your personal brand. Both Rutledge and Perreiah shared the importance of defining who you are at work in order to evolve. “You have to know who you are and how you want to be perceived in the environment that you work in,” said Ms. Rutledge. "If you can show how you are beneficial to the business, then your gender and age become irrelevant." Ms. Perreiah stressed the importance of advocating for yourself: "Generally, women are far less comfortable with being self-promoters. It’s important to be confident.”

Experience matters as much as title.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the title on our business cards that we dismiss opportunities we assume are beneath us in order to maintain a powerful façade. What we fail to realize is that our value doesn’t always lie in the title that we hold, but in the experience we’re getting. “When you solely focus on moving up the ladder you might miss out on valuable experiences that you can get at other levels,” said Ms. Perreiah. Being closed-minded can hinder your advancement.

Your mentor isn’t meant to be your bestie.

We often think of mentors as our career confidants; after all, they’re the first people we call when we’re contemplating a major career move. But no matter how close we are to our mentors, we have to remember that they are there to guide us—which sometimes means dishing out tough love. "Don’t look for your mentor to be your best friend. A mentor needs to be candid with you," said Ms. Rutledge. Despite the common belief that it’s best to seek a mentor within your company, it can actually be more valuable to get an outsider’s perspective: "External mentors can give you a lens that someone in your own company won’t have.”

Sometimes you have to shut it all off.

In this digital era, we’re connected to our jobs even when we’re not supposed to be. Have you ever found yourself trying to relax at the beach when an urgent work e-mail hits your inbox? Although it feels good to get stuff done, it’s crucial to set boundaries and occasionally disconnect from technology to avoid burnout. Work-life balance is an evolving concept. At the end of the day you have to define what freedom means to you.




The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.