Becky O’Loughlin, Vice President HR US Business & Corporate Shared Services, QVC, Inc.
“Twice in my career, I took a step backwards to move forward,” says Becky O’Loughlin, Vice President HR US Business & Corporate Shared Services at West Chester, PA-based QVC, Inc., the world’s leading video and ecommerce retailer. “I believe that the best way to achieve longevity in a career is to follow your passion, even if that means making a lateral or backwards move.”
Becky was working with a major consulting firm in a recruiting function when she decided that she wanted to expand her role and pursue a position in the consulting business. “I realized that everything I liked about my job didn’t have anything to do with my core responsibilities,” she says. Taking that leap meant accepting a demotion to entry level. She made a successful transition, and after putting in time and effort, she was promoted back to a managerial level.
Not long after, she received a call to consider a position with QVC in the Organization Development Group. “The change meant a temporary step backwards, but I believed it was the right path forward, because QVC was a better fit where I could align my values and be my best self.”
Becky started her career at QVC in 2004 as a Project Manager, and four years later was elevated to Director of HR Client Services. Today she oversees the human resource functions of more than 9,000 employees in the US.
“When you move laterally, you can gain a broader perspective than you would from one vertical tract. Sometimes you must put learning and growth opportunities ahead of the promotion and title; otherwise, you handcuff yourself to your current situation,” she says.
Mary Campbell, who has enjoyed nearly 20 years at QVC, has similarly made a number of zigs and zags throughout her career.
Early in her career, she joined QVC as an associate buyer and stayed in that position for five years, before moving to another retailer. After five years, she took a lateral move to return to QVC as a buyer in the home division. Soon after, she was promoted to Director of Home and then made a lateral move to Director in the Jewelry division. After a promotion to Vice President in Fashion and Beauty Merchandising and a lateral move to the Home division, she was named Senior Vice President of Planning and Inventory Management. Mary’s biggest shift was made in 2012 when she was named to her current role as Senior Vice President of Commerce Platforms.
“For me, lateral moves made sense for our integrated business strategy as well as for my career development,” says Mary. “I’m a curious person by nature and a constant student of the business, so I was excited by the learning experience and the chance to gain a deeper perspective.
Navigating a Career Path for the Long-term
“You have to be willing to take risks,” says Mary, “not only into roles that are familiar, but into those that aren’t. The more you are able to experience, and the more leaders and associates with whom you interact, the more you get to learn! You can also build credibility and trust through your interactions and the willingness to support others in their roles.”
“You are responsible for your own career development,” says Becky, “so it’s your job to make it known that you want to make a change. Start with an open dialogue with your manager, and let her or him know what you are willing to do and what your aspirations are. It’s helpful to have an advocate or mentor to help you get where you want to go and give you honest advice.
“Maintain a realistic understanding of where you are in your growth and readiness to move on to new opportunities. Just because you have the desire to move, you may not have the skill set that makes a good match. Manage your expectations as you assess the opportunity from your perspective and the manager’s.
“When a setback occurs, seek feedback from team members, peers and senior leaders. Follow up on the interview process to understand what dynamics led to the outcome. Your path to success is based on your attitude, effort, processing feedback, and how you leverage it.”
“Remember that career development is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Mary. “It’s okay to be exploratory and deviate from your initial plan. While your career may take twists and turns, if you stay relevant, grounded, curious and passionate, you will be on the right path to enjoy a successful, fulfilling, long-term career.”
More Tips to Navigate Your Long-term Career
- Understand your business beyond your role and function. By having a complete grasp of the roles that support you and those that you support, you can recognize opportunities.
- Identify what you are passionate about, what motivates you, and what dynamics contribute to making you your best.
- Seek ways to round out your experience and expertise that build muscle in areas that could use improvement.
- Stay relevant by constantly learning about your industry.
- Develop relationships and build a broad network within your organization.
- Maintain an external network to provide fresh perspectives.
- Understand what others see in you that you can’t recognize about yourself. Your perception of yourself may differ from others’ perception of you.
- Reflect on your learnings from a project, or when changing positions.