Former executive offers career advice

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- We all ask ourselves questions at our jobs. Is this what I want? Is it all I can do? Can I ever get ahead? Shirley Weis, the former chief administrative officer of Mayo Clinic, wrote a book on the subject.
 
“You don't get where you need to go in life without a lot of grit and perseverance, without a lot of hard work,” Weis said.
 
Weis used the example of actors or professional athletes. She said they are so good at their jobs, they make it look easy. They are experts. And that is one key to moving up the ranks.
 
“Be an expert in something,” she said. “When people ask you what you do, you can be very clear that, 'I'm an expert in HMOs,' or 'I'm an expert in management,' or 'I'm an expert in TV,' or whatever it may be.”
 
Weis is an expert in the business of health care. And she knows something about hard work.

She was the first person in her family to graduate from college. She started her career as a nurse but later received a master's degree that propelled her into management. She was the first woman to run operations for Mayo Clinic.
 
In her new book, “Playing to Win in Business,” she compares business to a game. She said it's easy to learn the written rules, but to get ahead, you have to understand a company's culture.
 
“Often you'll be in a meeting and someone will say, ‘I really want to hear your input,’ ” she explained.  “And you have to figure out early on, is that person serious? Do they really want to hear what I have to say? Or is that just kind of lip service?”
 
Weis encourages people to observe and share information with their colleagues to figure out the company culture.
 
Figure out what winning means to you. Is it a greater work/life balance? Or the big promotion?
 
Respect yourself and others.
 
Accept the fact you will lose sometimes in your career, and manage those losses.
 
And don't be afraid to quit a job when it is time to play a new game.
 
“You know what you're capable of,” she said. “You know what your hopes and dreams are. You know where you'd like to go with your career. And when others put you in a box, and you're kind of pigeon-holed, then I think that's when it's important for you to do the assessment of, 'Can I be successful in this environment?' "