Beth Comstock says 3 kinds of people can help your career

By Matt Dallisson, 06/11/2018

It’s hard to climb the ladder to success all on your own.

Former General Electric executive Beth Comstock spent 27 years at GE and former NBC properties, eventually rising to the level of vice chair. She recently wrote a memoir and career guide “Imagine It Forward.”

On an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “This Is Success,” Comstock said she learned throughout her career at GE that there are three types of people who can help push your career forward: A champion, a mentor, and a coach.

A champion is comparable to an agent, she said, because they know your story and promote your strengths. A mentor is someone who is invested in your career and encourages you to move forward, while still pointing out weaknesses. And a coach helps fix those weaknesses, she said.

Most importantly, Comstock said, you need to pay attention to feedback from your team and other leaders.

“One of the most defining sort of leadership lessons was I got one of those 360 reviews and at GE, boy they, it was like a Ph.D.,” she said. At GE, Comstock was in line for a promotion and received a full coverage review that involved interviewing 30 people close to her about her job performance. She said the feedback was a mix of good and bad.

“It was basically, ‘Your team, they liked working with you, but they think you leave them out of ideas. You don’t ask for help. You’re abrupt,'” Comstock said. “Oh my gosh, I remember just feeling devastated, because there were some nice things, but I went right to the defects.”

The HR reviewer became a coach for Comstock. He told her to let her team know she received and understood their feedback and asked to be alerted if and when she was being abrupt.

Comstock said: “That’s really hard to do that, but I’m so glad that somebody coached me through that. It was a defining moment for me.”