How to Network Your Way to the Top and Grow Professionally: Advice From Adrienne Lofton-Shaw
Marketing Executive Adrienne Lofton-Shaw Gives Tools for Success
What are some networking strategies that you utilize?
I look at networking informally because I believe in building relationships. Going to a conference and handing out business cards is the opposite of networking. For me, it’s having meaningful relationships with people who can help you become a better professional. Keep up with your personal and professional networks with constant communication. When you make a great contact, don’t just make it for contact’s sake, use that contact to help you in whatever your endeavor is. I am constantly touching base, whether it’s coffee, lunch, calls or emails, just to check in. I make sure it’s not a one-sided relationship and that we’re both maximizing the relationship. Attend key industry events and conferences that help you get better, meet people and hone your experience in your trade. Don’t go to every conference; choose the right ones where the keynote address and workshops teach something that you need.
How do you challenge yourself to grow professionally and socially?
Professionally, I am always looking for the next challenge. Being at Under Armour for four years, working on women’s brands is something that I am passionate about, as a female athlete. To ensure that I operate outside of the norm and choose other categories that I know I need experience in, for example, I will work on a men’s training or footwear project. Working in the automotive industry was huge for me. I am not passionate necessarily about cars, but I am passionate about the industry. Every step that I have made in my career has been about the challenge to get to the next level and knowing what I need to do to get there. That’s how I chose the brands that I worked for, and the roles that I played at each.
Socially, I have a ton of friends that I have gained at my different jobs and in college. I work hard at maintaining those relationships because it’s really easy to get wrapped up in work. I literally have appointments on my calendar to call, send an email or write a letter to a friend that I haven’t spoken to in a while. It’s a goal that I work at constantly.
Why should a business professional have a mentor?
Mentors are critical for success. I have a personal board of directors that can help me to develop, grow, mature and become the professional that I ultimately want to be. It’s a diverse group of individuals that spans from personal friends to my very first boss at the Gap to a woman who is the CEO of a company who has seen and done it all. It is a diverse panel of people who are very candid and honest – they’re the sounding board that helps me to look at things rationally and help me to make the right decisions at every step of my career. I have them for general wisdom; it’s critical. They challenge me. I may get comfortable in a situation or on a particular project, but it could be that I am not looking at it holistically. They are great at helping you to turn your weaknesses into strengths. You can’t always evaluate on your own and need a perspective to help you develop. There are tough moments and political challenges at every company. You need someone who’s seasoned and can guide you along those steps so you don’t hit the landmines. Also, they can provide guidance to help you set your path and help you determine your next steps, career wise or personal. For example, I am newly married and now juggling husband family, career, and friends.
How do you press reset and move to the next level?
I take 10 steps back and really evaluate my personal career plan: where do I want to be and what steps do I literally have to take to get from A to Z? I look at life in my five-year increments and design my plan based on the goals that I have set for myself. I set those goals, hit them and set a plan to move to the next. I make sure I have the right stakeholders to get there and then build that plan. I don’t reset until I achieve every goal that I’ve set.
Adrienne Lofton-Shaw is the senior marketing director at Under Armour.