Cambia Employee Shares Lessons in Leadership from Sharp Heels

October 18, 2018

By Eleanor Escafi, Assistant Director of Strategy & Execution, Cambia Health Solutions

I graduated from college in 2009, at the peak of the Great Recession. I was one of many thousands of new graduates faced with the prospect of a panicked job market and tumbling economy. I learned pretty quickly that I wasn’t likely to have the same job pathway as my parents, both of whom walked into 30+ year careers with one organization straight out of undergrad. Instead, I would have to be creative, nimble, and patient. Those next couple of years forged in me a drive to look for any and every opportunity to learn professionally. So, when I was selected by the Cambia Women’s Employee Resource Group to attend the SharpHeels Career Summit in Portland, I jumped at the chance. It was a day full of pearls of wisdom, but the portion of the day which impacted me the most: a panel moderated by Cambia’s own Janet Campbell, VP and Chief Administrative Officer, on overcoming career obstacles.

Women thought leaders in our community discussed how they’ve managed to identify and address obstacles in their careers and workplace culture. I was inspired by the way panelists drew upon bravery to face conflict head on, trust themselves to correctly assess a situation, and equanimity to make these interactions productive and mutually beneficial.

In addition to personal stories, the panelists shared tactics for overcoming career obstacles which have served them well again and again.

Recognizing ‘bells’

There will always be ‘bells’ in an organization: situations in which the right decision is to bring your best skills to a situation, and do the best you can, even when your heart’s not in it. Naming these ‘bells’ can help you to accept bells when they come along and do their best work despite not being 100% behind the idea. Bells contrast the work initiatives and tasks which do give us joy, and win our enthusiasm.

Asking for help

Both panelists mentioned time in their careers when they’ve had to ask for help. They shared the importance of spreading the message that asking for help when you need it is a good thing. They offered these tips:

  • Praise it. Recognize in colleagues and employees when they are willing to be vulnerable and request help.
  • Do it yourself. Lead by example, and recognize when you can benefit from the assistance and insight of others.

Before and after this panel, we got to hear from many women with fascinating careers. Based on ideas I heard throughout the day, here are some concrete steps I plan to take after this conference:

  • Do the ‘100 Cups of Coffee’ challenge: seeking out 100 people to have a chat and a coffee with. These informal meetings are not structured information interviews, but just chances to talk. Take notes and don’t ask for anything—the conversation is the value of the meeting.
  • Schedule time for LinkedIn: put time on your calendar at the end of every week to spend time on LinkedIn making new connections, answering messages, liking articles, and sharing interesting content.
  • Make a ‘Career Portfolio’: this can be a digital folder or a literal scrapbook, but should include including past performance reviews, your resume, lists of past jobs applied to, cover letters, lists of accomplishments, personality assessments relevant to the workplace, and letters of recommendation or appreciation.

Cambia was named one of the Best Places to Work for Women by Forbes in 2018. Learn more about our commitment to diversity and inclusion