Keeping The Leader Inside You From Getting Lost
You’ve jumped through the hoops that conventional wisdom said were necessary to create a great future. You’ve even landed a job with a great company that should have all the potential for your career that you wanted. Yet you can’t help but feel there’s something holding you back. What is it you’re not seeing?
Unfortunately, we still live in a world where women have to do more than a little more to prove themselves and compete with the Boys Club that typically runs the show. But there are those who have figured out the way to navigate your way to what you seek and have earned. In The Politics of Promotion: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead, author Bonnie Marcus lays out some pretty clear answers.
In addition to what she discusses in her book, we had the chance to get her responses to a few questions. Here are her insightful responses:
Q. Does the woman who begins with a company at entry level vs. a lateral entry at mid-level have a different set of challenges, and if so what are they?
The woman who begins with a company at entry level has a couple of years to prove herself as someone who has leadership potential. For her to do that, she must make sure that she works hard, has great performance, and builds credibility and visibility for herself across the organization. In addition, paying attention to the dynamics and politics is important in order for her to understand how to best position herself in a competitive environment. She needs to create a network of allies and champions, and communicate her career aspirations with key decision makers and influencers early to line up support and resources.
When a woman enters a company at mid-level, she faces many of the same challenges but must prove herself immediately if she is interested in advancing her career. There is more pressure to demonstrate competence, talent, and initiative from the start. It is vitally important when she comes into an organization at a mid-level to immediately size up the politics and identify key players and align herself with those people who have influence over her career.
The danger for all aspiring women is getting stuck in a mid-level position and not being able to advance. Early discussions with your manager about your career goals to determine the best path to achieve those goals is critical. Advice from a mentor or sponsor can help you to circumvent any obstacles and stay on track.
Q. For female professionals in a setting where there are multiple peers at similar management levels, what do you suggest she do to overcome the (unfortunate) advantage that some others have just because they’re males?
The biggest advantage men have is access to networks with decision makers and influencers. These informal networks often meet on the golf course or for drinks after work, and it’s challenging for women to be included. Despite the fact these are often informal meetings, work is discussed and decisions are influenced and it is a disadvantage when women aren’t present to participate in the conversations or build the necessary rapport to be on the radar for promotions and special opportunities with decision makers. It requires a deliberate effort for women to build the relationships they need to get recognized and rewarded. Therefore, it is critical for women to identify the people who have control over their career and find ways to build relationships one on one, understanding that they may never be invited to the informal get-togethers.
One of my clients worked in financial services and was the only woman in her department. She had a great rapport with her boss but one day she discovered that everyone was invited on a fishing trip hosted by her boss and she wasn’t invited. She approached him about it and asked him, “If you knew I liked to fish, would you have included me?” He responded, “No. It’s a guy thing.” So there you are! Make it your intention to build strong relationships and don’t count on being included in the network or “boy’s club”.
Q. If we stay attentive and intuitive, we can usually see what’s coming at us, the “handwriting on the wall” if you will. When we recognize that, is it worth fighting or does it make more sense to start planning a strategic next career move?
I’ve had many clients who face what seems like a no-win situation where they feel the cards are stacked against them for a variety of reasons due to politics, gender bias, or perhaps sabotage by a colleague or manager. Depending on the situation, I usually recommend managing the existing situation and relationships with the intention of repairing or improving them, and at the same time look for your next position or company. You can do both. Sometimes the current situation can be improved with some effort. If you determine that your present situation is not going to get better, you can make an easy exit. Even without a new position, at least you’re on your way to networking and getting information about possible opportunities.
About Bonnie Marcus
Award-winning entrepreneur and Forbes and Business Insider contributing writer Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed., has real conversations for real women in the workplace today. The President of Women’s Success Coaching, she assists women to navigate the workplace and advance their careers.
With 20+ years of sales and management experience, Bonnie’s background includes CEO and VP of Sales at three national companies. She has held executive positions in both start-up and Fortune 500 companies.
Bonnie started her career at an entry level position and worked up to the top of a national company using her savvy promotion and relational skills. Her passion is to help other women learn to be sensitive to the culture of their organizations, embrace the politics, and actively move their careers forward.
Image credits: Main.