The Most Important Discussions About Your Career Happen When You’re Not In The Room

Of all the career gurus out there, there is one woman whose advice I keep coming back to over and over again.  Her name is Carla Harris and she is currently Vice Chair and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, as well as the author of two career advice books.  Ms. Harris came to speak at my workplace last year and wowed the audience with her ‘pearls of wisdom’. 

One of the most powerful pearls for me was the idea that there are two currencies in the workplace: performance currency and relationship currency.  In the beginning of your career, performance currency is worth its weight in gold as you work hard to prove your ability and competence.  However, once you set that gold standard in performance, relationship currency starts to be worth a whole lot more.  As you want to grow your career and impact, your relationship with others across the firm starts to matter more and that is where you should be investing your time. 

Why? Because the most important discussions about your career are happening when you are not in the room.  And no one is going to advocate or expend their precious political capital on your behalf unless they know you and are willing to go to bat for you.  Many women tend to overinvest in performance currency relative to (and sometimes to the exclusion of) relationship currency, while men often start building relationships from the beginning (and even concurrently with their performance currency).  If you want to get to a senior level, start to leverage your strong work product (the performance currency you have accumulated) into building stronger relationships as soon as possible. 

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