newhope360: As a woman, is climbing up the career ladder in the food industry any different than doing so in any other industry?
Jane Miller: I don’t believe the food industry is any different than other industries for women. Climbing the ladder is about knowing your stuff cold, creating a great network of supporters and being an empathic leader and team player.
nh360: What are some of the most common questions you've received on your career advice website JaneKnows.com and how do you answer them?
JM: While the questions I receive through the site are quite varied, the majority of them are actually about difficult work situations. Specifically, I get quite a few about being passed over for a promotion or an opportunity and trying to understand why that happened. My answer to that question is this: seek to understand what happened, but not in a confrontational way. The decision was made, so take this opportunity to be more clear on what the company was looking for, what you could do better or different, and develop a plan to address the issues at hand. You are in control of how you handle this bad news and your immediate actions will send a signal to the organization about how you handle rejection. In this case, the best advice is always take the high road!
nh360: What have been some of your most life-defining mistakes and how did you recover and learn from them?
JM: Personally, my biggest issue in my career was overreacting to circumstances that happened to me at work. I found early in my career that I took things entirely too personally and generally had a very emotional response when bad things happened. In other words, I cried a lot! As I gained more work experience, I began to look at situations from the other person’s perspective. By doing that, I could be more objective and not take every negative action as a personal assault!
nh360: What will you cover in your talk at Expo East?
JM: The concept of "creating your serendipity" is a key theme of my book. The idea here is that although luck happens to all of us, we actually can make our own luck; both good and bad! In my talk at Expo East, I will give tips for the audience on how they can be more effective in controlling the outcomes of their situations, whether it be internally within their company or externally, like trying to convince investors to invest. So many young companies may feel that they are not in control—whether that is about raising money, getting authorization at Whole Foods, or finding a quality co-packer. But in fact, there are many things they can do to enhance their chances for success, that is creating their serendipity!
Jane Miller has more than 30 years of experience in the food industry with positions at companies like PepsiCo, HJHeinz, Bestfoods and Hostess. Most recently, she was CEO of Rudi's Organic Bakery. Now she has turned her focus to sharing her wisdom with women navigating the throes of the business world. She recently published Sleep Your Way to the Top (and other myths about business success), a sassy, go-to guide about creating the business life that you want that she calls a "you can" guide, rather than a "how to" book. You can also read her advice and ask her questions directly at her website, janeknows.com.