If you’ve read any of my content, this title may surprise you. I’m literally the most impatient person in the world (I have my PI and DISC assessments to prove it!), especially when it comes to careers.
In fact, the entire premise of #GirlsClub could be summed up in the following sentence:
“Quit WAITING to be noticed and make your career happen!”
Luckily, I work with people more graceful and eloquent than I. But yes, you’ll often hear me advising women to raise their hands sooner than when they feel 100% ready. It’s the only way to move up this century (because we’ll never feel 100% until it’s too late). I’ve seen hundreds of women vote themselves off the island for being passed over, but if they had spoken up sooner, they’d already be half-way up the ladder.
As an impatient and ambitious young career woman in early 2000, I was often frustrated at my lack of recognition. I mean, who WERE those idiots winning awards and getting promotions ahead of ME!?
C’mon, admit it. You’ve felt that way at LEAST once, right? This blog is for anyone who’s found themselves frustrated at their lack of attention, opportunity, rewards, awards, money, stature, title, or parking spot.
First, take a deep breath. I got you. You aren’t wrong! You’re FABULOUS! I wish they could see it because you really deserve to be seen. It WILL happen, I promise. We just have to work together to get there.
OK, now let’s fix it. I have three pearls of wisdom to help advance your career from old, wise Lauren that I wish young Lauren had known. Hope they help.
Wisdom Pearl #1: Be Careful Who You Compare Yourself To.
My “work husband” Mike shared this with me circa 2002 when I couldn’t BELIEVE “Evan” got promoted before me (names changed to protect the guilty). I mean this guy was a joke! Nobody worked harder than I did. But he was best friends with the VP. And yeah, he wasn’t really well thought of. But Mike’s point was valid. There’s always somebody representing the bottom 10% and be clear: THEY ARE NOT YOUR BAR. Work with the top 10%. Get someone you admire and be happy when they grasp the gold instead of feeling bitter when the bottom does. In fact, don’t let the bottom-feeders even enter your consciousness, because all you’ll get is frustration and jealousy – and nobody likes that person (or promotes them).
This happened again later in my career, but I was the leader not promoting someone. A woman on my team wanted to be director, but frankly she didn’t deserve it. It was true even though she was an AMAZING employee and incredibly hard worker! In fact, other members of the team had the title, and she was busier and more reliable than they were (they were in a different department that required the title for attention). She also carried all the duties of the title. It’s easy to see her frustration, right? So why didn’t I give it to her? Because she was about 40% of where she could be. She did a lot of tasks and duties, but hadn’t mastered any of them. She did good work but consistently struggled to manage projects and think strategically. She wasn’t upper leadership material yet. I really wanted her to get there, but she needed to grow more, earn it and feel great when she did. Unfortunately, once she focused on what she didn’t have instead of the opportunities to grow into the title, things started to go south. My uber-engaged employee disengaged, and we parted ways soon after. I still miss her!
Wisdom Pearl #2: Speak Up Immediately.
Evan, the bottom feeder, was vying for a promotion for a while. Everyone knew it. Only Mike knew that I, too, was looking for a promotion. Because we’re hard-wired to wait until we’re perfect at our current role to ask for the next, we have to lean into uncertainty here. If you think you MIGHT be interested in the next level, speak up immediately. Ask for input, paths, feedback, and development. Make sure your boss, their boss, your mentor, and your peers know you’re open and working toward it. Then repeat this at least twice a year and get OK with “learning out loud.” This means taking on learning opportunities you might mess up. Try mentoring newbies, running the huddle, doing skip-level meetings. Listen, everyone loves a success story. Your company watching you work toward something with an open heart and mind will absolutely speed your attainment. Speaking up doesn’t mean you think you’re ready. It just puts you on the consideration list down the road.
You should also know (brace yourself), that leadership has almost always decided their short list and maybe even their candidate before something gets posted. Where do they get these names? The consideration list of people who have already spoken up! When you finally raise your hand and apply 2 years from now, realize you’re a brand new possibility running against 5 people who raised their hands and started working toward it years ago. You may be better in every single way, but they’ve been pictured in the role, tried on some assignments, been “socialized” in meetings, and the execs have already blessed the move. You are an unknown. Fair? Maybe not. But now you’ve been warned.
Wisdom Pearl #3: Wait For It Just A Little Bit Longer.
In 2001 and 2002 I created brand new departments in my company. I built value from the ground up and churned out some incredible deliverables used at all levels of our company and our clients. I was flown around the world to work with other teams, and there was a waiting list for my content and meetings. In neither year was I nominated for “Manager of the Year” nor was I promoted. That happened in 2003 and 2004, respectively. It took TWO FREAKING YEARS for my work and reputation to catch up to me and reward me with what I thought I deserved. Remember, I did cop to being impatient.
In retrospect, old and wise Lauren understands that organizations move slowly. It takes time to go from being known as “that new girl” to “that incredible leader.” Even if you’re getting it done every single day. This can be especially hard for us women who resist tooting our own horns. After publishing a manual to our internal proprietary system that the company had been using and selling for over a decade with no documentation, I decided to throw a little celebration. In truth it was to thank all the people who helped me – I gave out awards, ordered a cake, bought some soda… and, I learned later, it was THAT move that got me noticed. I was finally tooting a horn! OK, it wasn’t mine, but I was the project leader and so I got recognition nonetheless.
So don’t give up if you’ve been killing it for 6 months, 12 months, or even longer. Do, however, make sure you’re documenting your wins and finding ways to spread the word to speed things up. Had I not thrown the party, I would have missed the company award trips to Whistler, Hawaii, and Tahiti (oh yeah, once they finally catch on, stand back and watch it RAIN!).
From one overachiever to the next, I hope these pearls can guide you. Aim high. Speak up. And don’t give up too soon.