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Conversations With Leaders:  How to Build Your Career

Through our 15-year recruitment practice, we've had the privilege of supporting the careers of some truly talented and inspiring leaders.  

In our latest blog series, they share reflections about their careers, insights from leaders they've worked with, and they offer key lessons you may find helpful in your own career journey.

Danielle Jang – On Becoming Invaluable to Your Organization

When it comes to Communications leaders in our market, Danielle Jang, Manager of Strategic Communications at Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) stands out. Her vast experience and numerous accolades for her work in PR strategy, media relations, and corporate communications are testaments to her strong work ethic and keen willingness to learn. A bold, passionate professional, Danielle shares incredible advice that will prove to be enormously valuable – no matter what industry you’re in! 

You have been with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority for nearly four years. What has stood out to you about your experience and what keeps you there? 

Several things make working here such a great experience. The people are one of the key standouts. The people here are very keen and passionate about their work. They are always willing to take time out of their day to explain what they do, understanding how complex and diverse it can be. That is incredibly helpful for someone new coming on board. There’s also a solid understanding of the importance and value of good communications. That’s always nice and isn’t always the case!  

Solid leadership from the top makes an incredible difference in the culture, work-life balance, organizational vision, and employee experience. Especially during this time with the pandemic and general uncertainty, having a leadership team who is understanding, sympathetic, and communicative is incredibly important.  

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When you think about the most impactful leaders you’ve worked for, what have you learned from them?  

  •  Be accountable: The best leaders I’ve worked for have always emphasized and demonstrated through their actions, the importance of being accountable for your work, your actions, and your decisions. Be intentional with the decisions you make and stand by them as this builds trust with those around you and establishes your reputation as a confident leader. You will not always make the right decision – but whether the outcome is praised or a disaster, it’s important to always take accountability for what you do. 
  • Be bold: Go after what you want and ask others for help. Seek out a mentor and ask for their time to better understand their career progression as it may help you with yours. Ask to shadow someone who’s in a role you’re interested in and be persistent if there’s an opportunity you want. Don’t be afraid to be a nuisance to get the experience you’re after as long as you’re willing to put in the work. This could mean working evenings or weekends, doing the grunt work, and putting in extra hours. In the end, the better you are at your job and the faster you learn, the better it is for you and the organization. 
  • Be curious: Ask why and be persistent about getting an answer. We can all get complacent and fall into doing things because “that’s just the way we’ve always done it.” That’s not a good enough reason. Dig in, ask why and see if there’s a better solution you can propose.  
  • Be open to feedback: Seek feedback from people you respect who will give you constructive input. This is how you learn and grow. We can’t be afraid to face the mirror and see what may need to be changed or improved.  
  • Be solution-focused: Don’t be the person who only sees why something won’t work or why you can’t get something done. Be creative, be accountable, and figure it out. If one method doesn’t work, switch gears, try a different approach, ask someone for help or input. Be the person who will do everything to find a solution. There is always a way. 

 

When you reflect on your career, what advice you would give an earlier career stage self? 

Notice the values and characteristics of leaders you want to emulate, but also take note of those that you don’t and why. This will be important and can guide questions you ask an organization during an interview to understand the values and whether it’s a good fit for you.  

 

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If you knew then (about your career) what you know now, what would you do differently? 

Always look for where you can provide value. Work to really understand the bigger picture goals and vision of an organization and how your role fits into that larger picture. Use that to guide all of your decisions, actions, and recommendations. Put yourself in the shoes of your boss or the CEO and think about what would be helpful if you were in that position. If you can see and understand that bigger picture, you will be an invaluable member of an organization, regardless of your role.  

 

What tip you can share with individuals who are interested in pursuing a communications career? 

Be confident about the value you can provide as a communications professional. From when I started in this industry to now, I’ve seen the evolution of how organizations recognize the importance of communications to their reputation – both internally and externally. Communications need a seat at the table when strategy is being discussed. It cannot be an afterthought.  

 

What is the best career advice anyone has ever given you? 

When you have set a goal, tell everyone! This will help keep you accountable and on track.  

Never underestimate the value you have to offer – no matter your rank in an organization. Your perspective and experience is unique – no matter how green – so be bold, be confident, and share your ideas and viewpoints.  

 

What character trait do you most attribute to your success?  

My ability to remain calm and composed on the surface, especially during a crisis, has served me well throughout my career. If you can stay calm while others panic, ask the right questions to get the information you need and provide a well-thought-out strategy, you will be an invaluable member of any team or organization. 

 

What are you reading these days?  

 Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips and Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality – Bob Joseph 

 

Is there a quote that motivates/inspires you? 

“Be the kind of person that makes others want to up their game.” 

“Don’t take criticism from people you would never go to for advice.” 

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If you find yourself in a season of exploration or transition, we’d love the opportunity to partner with you in your journey. Please reach out to connect at info@smartsavvy.com.

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Conversations With Leaders: How to Build Your Career

Click to read more from our new blog series with industry leading Smart Savvy alum. 

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Jaylene CrickJaylene Crick  
Director of Recruitment

Jaylene is our lead recruitment consultant. She forged her experience with 15 years in tech marketing before making the transition to marketing recruitment. Jaylene brings energetic dedication, unstoppable work ethic, and her ability to consistently give 110%, proven by her hundreds of placements and innumerable close relationships with both candidates and clients.


Smart, Savvy + AssociatesSmart, Savvy + Associates are experts in helping marketing and communications leaders find people and develop teams that thrive and deliver inspiring results. As a people performance company, we specialize in finding marketing and communications talent in the Pacific North West. We also offer training programs for leaders and teams as well as options to become a certified coach or get coached.


 

Jaylene Crick

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