Sophie had been feeling frustrated and stuck in her current position for a few years now. Yet, leaving behind the good salary and stable position for something unknown scared her, so she procrastined and did nothing. When company-wide restructuring was announced with cuts across all levels, she was caught off guard. In the state of panic, she is now frantically applying for any relevant position she can find.
Lisa, who’s known as one of the most conscientious and hardest-working managers by her colleagues, can’t understand why her boss chose an outsider for a new more senior role. She is upset, and is feeling discouraged and rejected.
Do either of the scenarios above sound familiar? What Sophie and Lisa could have done differently to avoid the mess, panic and the pain they are feeling now?
Strategic career management is one of the ‘secrets’ to thriving and being successful at workplace. Below are some of the most common blind spots that cost us, women, a lot:
1. We don’t have of a career vision. We don’t think of short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. Or let me re-phrase it: we don’t think in terms of goals, full stop.
Advice: Identify your big goals for the year and their desired outcomes. Consider what you would really like to do and what the organization might need you to learn to be able to promote or move you.
2. We are not clear on what’s our value to the organization, what we are doing to contribute to the bottom line. When we don’t know our value, we act and play small, we don’t speak out, neither do we fight for our teams.
Advice: Make a list of your top 5 skills/strengths/talents and expertise areas that you have received consistent positive feedback and compliments on. Make another list of your top 5 accomplishments, described in quantative and qualitative terms.
3. We immerse ourselves into our work and tasks at hand so deeply that we lose perspective as to why we are doing it what we do.
Advice: To regain perspective, challenge yourself to describe your role in one sentence that is clear to anyone you speak to. While delivering consistent quality results is important, keep a check on your ‘inner perfectionist’ – not all tasks are equally important. Learn to prioritize and delegate, and create space for laying foundation for your next role.
4. We make assumptions and tell ourselves self-diminishing stories. «I must be too old for that position» , «I never managed more than 2 people, so I don’t qualify for this vacancy», «If I change, the pay will be low, so I should stay put where I am». Each one of these stories will undermine your drive and self-confidence, holding you back from putting your best effort out. Don’t be surprised when you don’t get that promotion or job – you didn’t believe you’d get it to begin with!
Advice: Examine your assumptions and the stories you tell yourself. Choose to discard the self-limiting ones, and replace them with empowering ones.
5. Because of all the previous habits, we do not talk about our work to our bosses and don’t promote ourselves in general. We are so worried about coming off as immodest, arrogant and bragging, we need someone to stand there with a gun at our head before we’ll dare to talk about what we have accomplished.
Advice: Find that sweet spot between humility and bragging : you can still describe your work and your results without coming off as arrogant. For instance by adding description of the effort/work that was put into the result, you turn it into a story.
Remember, bosses are not fortune-readers. Neither are they your advocates. If you never talk about your aspirations, the value added you bring and your work, don’t be surprised if a more assertive colleague, often male, ‘steals’ a position you felt you were perfect for. You also want to ask your boss for feedback on how you’re doing regularly, to understand his perception and what you need to focus on.
6. We don’t know how to negotiate. We hope one day someone will recognise us for our good work and bump up that figure, but in the meantime we just get on by and try not to complain.
Advice: Empower yourself by learning how to negotiate effectively without burning important bridges.
7. We don’t invest in our professional and personal development regularly; we don’t ask for a special training or coaching, out of the same false humble state of under-valuing ourselves.
Advice: Once you’ve got clear on your career vision and goals, dentify any knowledge or skill gaps between where you are and where you want to be. Explore with HR about ways to fill in those gaps.
8. We neglect our LinkedIn profile until we’re in an emergency situation and desperate for a change. This is a big and costly mistake: Linkedin is the biggest and most rapidly expanding professional networking network online.
Advice: Spend a few minutes each morning or 10-15 min per week on your LinkedIn profile: get recommendations. Reconnect to people from previous jobs/industries: you never know when you’ll need them. Read my earlier blog post for specific LinkedIn tips.
9. We reach out to our contacts in an emergency mode – right at the time when we are applying for a new job or when we need something.
Advice: Master Network Intelligence, the art of nurturing and growing your existing network. You need others – within your organisation and outside – to achieve your goals. Schedule at least one lunch per week with someone new or a contact you haven’t seen in a while. Your boss is part of your network, too.
Choosing to become aware of some of these unconscious habits and start changing them around can make you feel a whole lot better and more in charge of your career. You might also be able to avoid ending up in situations similar to my clients, Sophie and Lisa.