Jaime Paris Boisvert | Crain's San Francisco

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jaime Paris Boisvert

Background:  

Siemens Building Technologies is a division of German engineering company Siemens AG, which specializes in building automation systems, fire safety, building security and building power generation.

The Mistake:

I assumed that if I did a good job, then someone would ask me to apply for a higher-up job. I was lucky in that I ultimately didn't miss the opportunity, but I would have been passed over had I not had a mentor who stepped in and said, “I thought you were interested in going into sales management. Why are you not raising your hand and doing something outside that to demonstrate your leadership skills?”

I started out my career as a salesperson when I was in college, and I found that being a good salesperson was kind of like being in the academic world—if you are a good student, you're recognized for that. So I kind of took that into my professional career, assuming that if I'm a top salesperson, I'm going to be recognized, and not only recognized as a salesperson but tapped for advancement.

That was really my mistake ... I expected that if I just did a good job as a salesperson that naturally people would look at me and say, “We should ask her to be sales manager.”

Thankfully I found a good mentor who told me, “You can't just expect that doing a good job will lead you to the next step in your professional career. You need to raise your hand and ask for the job.” And also I realized I needed to ask for assignments along the way that would stretch me and show the folks making that decision that I had all the right things that they would need to say, “Yes, this is the right candidate for the position.”

So the mistake I was making was not taking ownership or being mindful of taking that next step. Now I see other people making that mistake, but at the moment I would have entirely missed it, and probably gotten frustrated and looked for a job with another company, had I not realized that it was my job to make my interests known.

Put yourself in the driver's seat for your own career.

The Lesson

Siemens has a phrase called “ownership culture,” and this is a prime example of that. Put yourself in the driver's seat for your own career. You have to be responsible not only for picking the next step in your career, but for your own professional development. Don't wait until the annual review and ask what the company is going to do for you next. Every employee is responsible for making their aspirations known. You have to ask.

Now that I have teams of managers managing other people, I try to make sure everybody has ownership of their own development, and that they're thinking of what their next step should be.

Follow Jaime Paris Boisvert on Twitter at @JPBoisey

Photo courtesy of Siemens Building Technologies