Episode #6

25 Oct 2019 | Tales of the C-Suite

Didn’t get the promotion? Wondering what more you can possibly do? Questioning whether you really belong in your career? Read the 3 sure-fire signs that you are in your perfect career.

There are plenty of external factors that can derail your career progress and leave you questioning whether you really belong in your career.

How you respond to being passed over for a promotion, and the professional and personal choices you make along the way, do make the difference.

Because a working career is not Instagram perfect – it has its ups and downs. There will be inevitable setbacks and disappointments, lessons to be learnt, and acceptance that we are human.

So if you’re…

  • worried that your “peak moment” will come and go and you’ll be passed over for that “perfect” promotion…
  • scared of applying for more roles and not landing them and having to deal with the disappointment yet again, all the while blitzing your KPIs with a smile on your face…
  • frustrated and a little confused by the apparent upward movement of people who have less qualifications and experience than you do…

You are not alone.

I’m in a privileged position because my work allows me to have conversations with woman who have walked this path before.

For an awfully long time most of the women I know thought that if they worked really hard, were loyal to the company, performed and delivered, they would get promoted.

Yet, more often than not, for the most successful and well-respected women in senior management today, the journey to the C-Suite hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a very senior leader in the public sector.  Following a merger of two large departments she was invited by the departmental head, whom she reported to, to attend a staff briefing. She stood next to him on the podium with the other five members of the newly formed executive team, while he introduced another male as the new general manager for the combined department – publicly usurping her and re-assigning her role in front of several hundred of her staff. She maintained her composure, smiled, clapped.

She had a later closed-door meeting with him. “I was not a lady in this meeting. The F word was thrown around.”

Six months down the track the person who had been placed in the role didn’t cut it and left. Our protagonist continued her stellar career within the department for many years. She says: “There will be a pivotal moment in your career, where you need to decide if you are in it for the long haul and prepared to be strategic about your career. Looking back, you will see that you ended up in a far more influential role than the one you missed out on.”

The opposite of confidence is not lack of confidence but lack of belief that you belong in that role. Let’s face it – you got to where you are today because you can confidently present to the senior leadership team, negotiate a contract, devise a strategy and bring your team on board with it, and engage with external stakeholders.

When I think of this story, and one of my own surprisingly similar experiences, I see women that have confidence in themselves, that don’t sway to others just because it’s easier. Yes, they may need to swallow their pride on occasion, but not at the cost of compromising their value. This is likely to be a big part of the reason why they have stayed the course. They also project a sense of being measured, being in control.

If you didn’t get the promotion and you are questioning if you really belong in your career, here are three sure-fire signs that you are in your perfect career:

  1. The naysayers lose their grip on your psyche. You become less concerned about the negativity/fears/doubts/criticisms of those who believe they have the right to give counsel. You become more comfortable with moving away from conformity, stepping up and following your own path. The negativity, fear, doubt and criticism may still be present in those around you – yet you are not impacted by it to the same extent; it no longer makes you hesitate and falter.
  2. At times you experience fear, loneliness, self-doubt; you diminish your accomplishments and second-guess your decisions; you occasionally wake at 3 a.m. with the weight of the world on your shoulders – yet, you keep doing the work you do, and it feels good to be absorbed and to lose yourself in your work.
  3. You can candidly audit and assess your core skills and competencies and see where you need to make some changes, to find a way to become the obvious choice when the next opportunity came along. You are willing to re-think how you are turning up in your career… and make the time and headspace to invest in those areas that you know will give you the edge.

How you show up and navigate through the day, every day, in the face of this disappointment is what will make the difference 365 days from now. Because a working career is not Instagram perfect.

Be the obvious choice to the C-Suite.

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