Beth Hill knows it’s strange that she likes yard work.
But she does.
“I love gardening, I love planting flowers, I love mowing the grass,” she says, laughing. The Senior Manager of Professional Services at IT solution company CDW even has a friendly competition with her neighbors about who has the greenest, thickest yard.
But Beth has always been a fan of hard work, and she recognizes the importance of putting in the effort to build something worthwhile, whether that’s a beautiful lawn for her wife and daughter to play on or a satisfying career in tech.
We sat down with Beth to hear about how she’s worked to find and nurture the right professional opportunities for her, and what advice she has for others who want to build a career they’re proud of.
Beth grew up in a small town, and her high school curriculum didn’t include exposure to computer science. She did like the hard sciences, so when she got to college, she pursued a biology degree.
“I graduated and thought, ‘What in the world am I going to do with this?’ Feel free to quote that,” Beth tells us, laughing again. She started looking for jobs, and a family member referred her to Best Buy, where she got an offer as a salesperson after successfully “selling” the hiring manager a stapler.
As it turns out, Beth was great at talking to people and helping them solve their problems. She was promoted from home theater salesperson to supervisor of computer sales, which required her to learn about a whole new type of technology.
“I enjoyed it so much that I then decided to go back and pursue a two-year degree in computer science,” she says.
Beth learned about CDW at a career fair. The company was hiring for their Associate Consulting Engineer program, which would allow her to use her people skills while also helping her apply and build on her technical understanding.
She was hired, and quickly became a full Consulting Engineer. Along the way, Beth continued to identify what she liked doing and what she was good at, which included mentoring and training others on her team. That set her up well to go for a technical lead position when it opened up.
“I knew I wasn’t the most technical, but I knew to position myself and say, ‘Here’s why I think I’m the best person for this role,’” says Beth.
That positioning paid off, thanks to Beth’s thoughtful approach. And now we’ve asked her to share that approach with you.
9 Tips for Finding and Earning Career Opportunities
As Beth has grown from that first promotion to technical lead to her current Senior Manager role, she’s followed a version of the same approach:
- Make sure your organization believes in supporting employee growth. Companies that show up at career fairs are companies that are willing to invest in brand-new, green college grads. That’s a good indicator that they’ll have space for you to keep growing, says Beth. “Companies that are willing to invest in you from the start, those are the types of companies you should say, ‘Yes, I want to work for them.’”
- Identify your strengths and interests. Beth knew she wanted to go down the technical lead route because she loved working with other engineers. Start by figuring out what you want to do more of, and then look for roles or careers that align.
- Be strategic: see all the possible ins. Beth knew she was never going to be the most technical, but she also knew she could distinguish herself via a long-term strength: her hard work. “I decided to step up to a new challenge. There was a whole new technology within our Microsoft solution space that no one else had been delivering on yet. So I went and learned it and became the best at that, and created all the documentation and collateral to be able to present it to customers and deliver on it,” recounts Beth. “That helped me position myself well for the next role, because we really needed people who could show others how to do that sort of engagement with our customers.”
- See your manager as a resource. As a manager herself now, Beth knows she can help her direct reports get their dream role a lot more easily if she knows what exactly that dream role is. “Ask your manager, ‘Where do you see my strengths that maybe I don’t see?’” she says.
- Ask to shadow people in the role you’re interested in. “The more you can ask questions about the role, the more you’ll know whether or not that role is the right role for you—and the better prepared you’ll be going into an interview,” says Beth. She provides some questions to start with:
- What do they enjoy about their job?
- What skill sets do they need to possess to be in that position?
- What are the challenges that they face every day?
- What does the future look like in their eyes for that type of role?
- Offer your expertise. If you’ve identified the role you want, see what you can do about getting hands-on experience in it right away. “Ask, ‘Hey manager, I’m noticing you’re really busy right now. What can I take off your plate to be able to assist you and give you some breathing room?’ By doing that, you’re stepping into the role, and you can later say it’s an example of something you’ve already done that’s required for the role,” says Beth.
- Sell yourself and sell your vision. Once you’ve created a solid case for yourself, figure out how you’re going to deliver it to your manager or to other senior leaders. “Ask yourself what you’ve done to move into this new role, and remember it’s got to be more than doing the same that everyone else has done,” she says. “Share your vision and mission for the role or the team. How are you going to make the team better? What differences are you going to bring to that role to make it better than what it was yesterday?”
- Leverage internal affinity groups. Beth joined CDW’s Women’s Opportunity Network early in her career there. “It’s a great way to build your network and get to know your coworkers,” she says. She ended up joining a committee, and being in that smaller group gave her even more opportunities to learn from her peers. “I heard stories about how these women have grown, what challenges they faced, how they overcame those hurdles. That opportunity to network with other women really helped shape who I wanted to be and who I was going to be,” says Beth.
- Pay it forward. Beth loves that she could email anyone at CDW—even VPs with chock-full calendars—and ask for mentorship, and that they’d respond and happily make the time. She encourages people to offer their help and assistance to others when they can, as well as to approach others with an initial sense of empathy. “Assume good intent, be empathetic, and be kind, and you’ll be in a good position,” she says.
Are you in the market for a company you can grow with? Check out CDW’s open roles!