A new CFO visited my office for a run down. After I walked him through our business and budget, he smiled and declared in a surprised tone “You’re not just a pretty face. You really know your business.”
As far as backhanded compliments go, it wasn’t terrible I suppose. He was nearly twice my age, male and white. I, on the other hand, am a chubby, glasses-wearing, non-make-up wearing Asian girl. I was running one of the biggest units. I responded “Thanks, I’ll take that as a compliment. Although, I don’t know if I would consider myself pretty. Cute, maybe, but not pretty. Yes, I do know my business. I’ve been doing this for 6 years. In any case, what I need from you is…”
It was only at that moment that I realized I was facing sexism and ageism in a way that I had never thought existed in my life. That experience caused me to think about the training manual we receive as we move into managerial positions. (Or lack thereof…) See below for the Secrets to Getting On with It!
KNOW YOUR WORTH: Don’t sell yourself short. If you are doing the work, get the pay, get the title. Negotiate for what you’re worth. At least ask. Don’t just assume that people are going to pay you what you are worth.
NOT THE SECRETARY: Just because you are the most organized or the fastest typist, don’t do the grunt work for the group unless you have a strategic reason for doing so. Sometimes I like taking minutes because I get to influence the To Do List.
SEEK OUT MENTORS: Find higher ups you look up to. Identify successful people who possess similar values. You aren’t going to succeed trying to emulate styles that are not authentic to who you are. Learn from them. Seek guidance. Get coaching.
FEELING DISRESPECTED: When someone is going out of their way to disrespect you, determine the value of the relationship. If it is one you cannot afford to lose, overcome them with professionalism, competency and lack of response. (Bullies like the response.)
MANAGE UP, DOWN AND ALL AROUND: All relationships require nurturing. When managing up, make them look good. When managing down, help them succeed. When managing around, be useful. A team player should be good at leading as well as following.
IGNORE THE JOB DESCRIPTION: A job description is out of date as soon as it is posted. Furthermore, each person will make the specific position unique based on their strengths and weaknesses. Get the core work done, then flex your muscles and show your strengths.
FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT: It’s never a good time. You’re never really ready. You don’t have all the answers. Things are never perfect. But you have to go for it, do your best, and learn while you are doing until it comes together. Just do it.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF: If you have a tendency to be a perfectionist, you know that this trait is part of the reason why you are successful. But if you are self-aware, you will also know that it will be the death of you. Be as nice to yourself as you are to others.
The world can be a dog eat dog world, but you don’t have to be a dog. You just have to understand who you want to be and figure out how to succeed while being yourself.