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WHO’S SUPPORTING YOU AND YOUR CAREER GROWTH?

It’s really common to feel alone. The pandemic has fuelled this even further. We all relate to the saying “we’re all in the same storm, but in very different boats”.

The feeling that everyone is struggling has become normal.

This is unfortunate because it leads to the feeling we should be able to “get on with things” even when life feels more difficult. Maybe you feel afraid to “bother” someone else with your struggle, when the person you are “bothering” is in their own storm too?

As mums many of us have experienced feeling like this before. When someone asks “how are you” and you answer “I’m fine” when the honest answer is that you’re not?

Is this the approach you take in your career too? Answer this question more honestly….

What are we afraid of when it comes to career growth?

Does sharing we are struggling make us weak?

Are we scared we’ll be perceived as not coping at work, if we share that we don’t know how to navigate the next step in our working world? Could others perceive we’re not juggling family and work life successfully enough?

I had a coaching call with a highly intelligent, extremely compassionate and successful woman last week.

This woman is under a lot of pressure at work, as are all of her team. She has spoken to “the powers that be” about her teams stress levels and the impact to their wellbeing. Also she is putting as much as she can in place to alleviate things for them.

I asked “what about you”?

It materialised, she’d been doing the “well it’s busy of course, but I’m fine” approach. She wasn’t “fine” at all. Admitting she wasn’t fine would feel like she was failing: letting people down and giving the impression she can’t cope. She did recognise that if, in three months she breaks down, she’ll be asked, “why didn’t you say something”?

Of course, our conversation was much bigger than this and I truly hope the work we did together has helped her gain a new perspective and understand that honesty is important.

Who’s supporting you and your career growth?

McKinsey found, 18 months after the start of the pandemic, women on average felt more burnt out than men.

Given that the stats show women picked up more of the home-school slack and continued to bare more (on average) of the ‘mental load’ at home, this isn’t a surprise.

McKinsey also found that women are doing more to rise to the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) challenges and contributing to wellbeing agendas in the workplace, more than ever before. (click here for the full McKinsey article)

They are taking on more work at home and in the office. With this comes a higher risk of burnout. Which in turn may mean many women will remove themselves from leadership opportunities in the future.

This is hardly helping to change the status quo and reduce the gender pay gap.

This got me thinking about how us women work.

It’s clear what we do is nothing short of fantastic.

But are we engaging with others to support us?

If we have the “I’m here to support people and look after their wellbeing, but not my own” approach, that is fast-track to total burnout and exhaustion. It’s evident that fear of failure and perception from others that we aren’t coping, traps many of us into staying stuck in this inefficient work mentality.

If you’re reading this and thinking “Rebecca is literally talking about me” – what may help you?

Allies. Get lots of them to support your career growth.

In different shapes and sizes.

Allies add more value to your career and life in general than you can ever imagine.

Allies may help you

  • talk things through
  • bring new perspective
  • encourage you
  • introduce you to new people or areas
  • advocate for you into areas you may otherwise not have access…

Through all of these connections, your confidence will be boosted, you’ll gain new evidence to show you CAN do things you thought you couldn’t.

You may even realise you’re only human and it is ok to be honest, vulnerable and successful – all at once. Nobody is good at everything and there is no such thing as “Superwoman”.

Where can you find allies?

Whilst I strongly believe employers hold responsibility for taking care of their employees, we also need to take some initiative and responsibility ourselves. If we are to grow in our careers, it’s down to us to seek out our own allies. They can help us develop in a range of ways. So who might they be?

Here’s some examples:

Sponsors

Sponsors will help you build credibility. They can use their position of privilege to sponsor your cause or goal.

They can help position you where you want to be and support your career growth.

So, if you’re striving for the next step but finding it hard to access the right people or places, you probably need a sponsor.

The feeling of going it alone and all the self-doubt that can creep in can quickly push you down. Having a sponsor to elevate you and talk things over with and who can help position you, can work wonders.

>>WHERE TO GET ONE?

Maybe you can find someone more senior in your workplace to mentor you who can act as a sponsor? Think also about people outside of your workplace, who do you know that is successful in the area you are striving to reach who can be your sponsor elsewhere?

Amplifiers

Amplifiers are able to “shout” for you in a crowded space, where you may not ordinarily be heard. They will help you have a voice. So if you’re struggling to get your message to the right people, who may be an amplifier for you?

>> WHERE TO GET ONE:

The Find Your Flex team can definitely help you find employers who are open to conversations around all modes of flexible employment opportunities.

Maybe you feel like every time you apply to a job you are just another faceless applicant in a crowded market. Who do you know – or could get to know – that works there already? They can be your amplifier!

Advocates

Advocates are able to use their power, influence, status or seniority to bring you into their circle.

This can be helpful in a multitude of circumstance. Whether that’s the next career step, or simply needing someone to tell you the pressure you are putting yourself under is too much.

Rather than feeling like you are demonstrating your inability to cope (highly unlikely to be true by the way!), who can help advocate for you and your team?

Using a more senior or experienced voice may be the key to being heard and finding better ways of working.

>> WHERE TO GET THIS?

To find your advocate you must be honest and even a little vulnerable. Find that person who already has a “seat at the table” that you want to be sitting at. Share with them what you are trying to achieve so they can be your voice in their already existing circle of trust and influence.

Scholars

Scholars are ready to listen and learn about things that impact your ability to reach your goals and can help to act or influence change. Are you working on what feels like an impossible task because one thing in your organization persistently gets in the way? Who could that scholar be that is ready to listen and understand and help remove that?

>>WHERE TO GET THIS:

This will really depend on your struggle. For example, maybe everyone else is physically present in a meeting at 4pm that you simply cannot be in due to childcare commitments. This may impact your ability to reach a certain goal as you never hear the important stuff first hand. Who may be willing to hear and learn from this and influence change? Maybe you feel there is a diversity & Inclusion issue that stops you reaching your goals due to unconscious bias. Will increasing your network and raising awareness help?

Confidant

A confidant will create a safe space to express your fears, frustrations and needs – and help you navigate through them. This is that person you can be truly honest and vulnerable with. I put myself in this category as a career coach. In the example I shared above with my client, I was acting as her confidant. Nobody in her organization will ever hear that conversation, but they will, hopefully, see the results. The results will enable her to approach things in a slightly different way but gain a positive impact for her and her team.

Connector

A connector is willing and able to share useful connections to help you towards your goals.

We all know them. That person who always says “oh, I should put you in touch with X! You two would really get along / they could really help you with that / they know all about that”. These people are great for so many reasons – especially when you’re struggling, can’t see the next steps and don’t have the right connections.

SO TAKE ACTION!

You are not an island.

Nobody wins when you hit burnout or stay struggling in a job that is no longer right for you.

So let me leave you with this:

  • What is your struggle?
  • What is the one (or two & THREE!) thing that feels hardest right now?
  • What would you like it to look like instead?

With that in mind, what type of ally (or allies) could help you with that?

Who are they and what needs to happen for you to start that conversation? Think outside the box –allies could be peers, mentors, previous colleagues, mentors, coaches…

Engaging and building ally-ships can take some time – which you may say you don’t have. However, one thing I can guarantee is, by shifting your mind-set this way and taking time to do so, you’ll always find new ways to do things you never thought were possible. There are no prizes for doing everything alone.

So – who will you connect with today?

Cheney Hamilton

The Find Your Flex Group

Helen Miller

Rebecca Amin

Rebecca Amin
Rebecca Amin is a Career Coach who helps parents feeling stuck in their careers find their path back to happiness.
Categories
Careers Advice Diversity and Inclusion

WHEN IT COMES TO APPLYING FOR JOBS, BE MORE MAN

Women need to be more like men. There I said it. I am not talking about moulding ourselves to fit a “man’s world”. I am talking about applying to jobs. Why? Because recent research by Hewlett Packard has shown men are more likely to apply to a job where they meet around 60% of the stated requirements. Women? When we meet close to 100% of stated criteria.

Is anyone really perfect?

100%!!!! So women feel they need to be the perfect match? It has been proven organisations almost never hire someone who fits the original job advert perfectly. So that means men are more likely to be offered a job than women… Because they apply when women don’t – and stand a good chance of being hired.

This throws up all sorts of questions for me! Firstly, Why do females think they “can’t” apply unless they are the perfect match? Secondly, how are women continuing to be treated in society and the workplace that reinforces the belief they wouldn’t be good enough? That they shouldn’t take risks? That they are likely to fail?

My challenge to any woman (and the few men that also feel this way) is this. If you only apply for jobs that are an exact match for your expertise today, how will you grow? Where is the stretch and development for you?

Taking the plunge when applying for Jobs!

It’s all too familiar – you see that job advertised. You’re excited “Yes! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I could do all those things!” Then the person requirements. The criteria you don’t have. What next? Ignore and carry on looking, or this time, go for it?!

Let’s forget experience for a moment. Remember many companies hire for culture fit, not just hard skills. According to Forbes Coaching Council, there will be many “requirements” in a job ad that are actually “nice-to-haves”. “How on earth do I show my culture fit in an application?” I hear you cry! The best way? Personal connections.

Steve Cohen on Meyvn Global has said you need to “leverage your network big time when job seeking”. Have conversations with Hiring Managers, Recruiters, people already working for the organisations you are interested in – ideally before applying or immediately after (especially given it is thought (Career Horizons) as many as 70-80% of jobs offered are never actually advertised but offered via personal connections).

Do your research. Look at language used in job descriptions and on websites. Understand the company’s values. Weave in all you can that matches the culture into your CV and cover letter. Maybe even submit a video snippet of you alongside the CV if it feels fitting?

An employer is more likely to overlook one or two of their criteria if you can really convey your strong interest and enthusiasm. Create the impression of; ‘this person doesn’t quite have the skills or level of experience I was looking for, but I really like their passion and willingness to learn’.

“Yeah right!” you may be thinking. Believe me, this is true. Not every single time, but it does happen. I know this because it happens for my Career Coaching clients. Just last week one of them text me to say she had been offered a role as an Assistant Project Manager that she applied for, not meeting all the criteria. The reason they offered her? Her attitude and passion, alongside her transferable skills from the events and hospitality industry.

First Impressions Count!

Does your Cover Letter or approach to interviews involve apologising and highlighting your lack of experience? If so, this is the exact first impression you are giving. Seeds of doubt are planted from the off. All those positive you may eventually get to, aren’t really heard. You need to believe you can to talk like you can!

Whilst I started out saying women need to be more like men, do we? Do women not apply for jobs simply because women we are less confident in our abilities?

Tara Mohr, an expert on women’s leadership, found a major barrier for men and women when applying for a role was not because they thought they couldn’t do the job well. She found people weren’t applying as they believed they needed the qualifications stated, but not to do the job well, but to simply be hired in the first place. They assumed the stated required qualifications were…well, required qualifications. They didn’t see the hiring process as one where advocacy, relationships, or a creative approach to framing expertise could overcome not having the all the skills and experiences outlined in the job qualifications.

What held them back from applying was not mistaken perception about themselves, but a mistaken perception about the hiring process.

What does this tell us? To me this shows women don’t need to try and find that elusive “confidence,” in their ability, but they need better information about how hiring processes work.

In applying for jobs, no Risk equals no Reward.

Maybe this goes to show women are more inclined to believe (on-paper) “rules” about who jobs are for. Concerned more about the cost of applying and the risk of failure. This is understandable when evidence exists that women’s failures are remembered longer (Stanford University) than men’s. So have we landed in a place where that bias leads us to become too afraid of failure? Avoiding situations more than is needed, meaning we don’t reach for our career goals?

There are so many biases women are victims of that are more than likely contributing to caution in applying for jobs:

  • The fact girls are more socialized to follow rules (Tara Mohr found “following the guidelines” of a job spec was a more significant barrier to applying for jobs women than men).
  • Men are often hired or promoted based on potential, where as women for their experience and track record (McKinsey). If women have watched that occur in their workplaces, it makes perfect sense they’d be less likely to apply for a job for which they didn’t meet the qualifications.
  • Certifications and degrees play a different role for women than men. The 20th century saw women break into professional life – but only if they had the right training and accreditations. Qualifications were our ticket in, our way of proving we could do the job. We weren’t part of an old boys club in which gave us the benefit of the doubt. Has this history led to women seeing the workplace as more orderly and meritocratic than it really is?

The upshot I believe is we do, when it comes to applying for jobs, we need to think more like men. Believe less in what appears to be the rules and go for it!

To read more from Rebecca and barriers for professional women that need overcoming, check out her post on Impostor Syndrome – Fix Bias, Not Women!