Hitting your head on a ceiling of any kind will leave a bump. I learned early in my career that it is not worth sticking around a company that refuses to crack its glass ceiling for you. Take matters into your own hands and take a chance at an alternate route. In other words, move out to move up.
When I started my career, I hit my head on the glass ceiling hard while working at a successful company that was dominated by men at the executive level. Realizing that the company would not change its ways anytime soon, I moved on to a new company that embraced women more. I took the initiative and changed my path. The move was not made blindly, it was calculated and measured, and I switched to a company that not only welcomed women but also had a position for me that would advance my career. As the years went by, I became a Senior Vice President on an executive team of all women. Here a new glass ceiling appeared along with the realization that there was one thing that I hated more than men vs. women, women vs. women. The infighting and ostracizing, built into many of us at an early age, that can occur when ambitious women work together is so sad to me. As women, we should be endeavoring to lift each other up not tear each other down. Since I refuse to step on anyone or act without integrity to advance my career, I moved on. Once again, my career, and any move made for it, has always been calculated and planned. I didn’t move out of any of my previous companies just to get out. I made sure that not only would I leave the place better than I found it, but that the move would always benefit me and be working towards my career goals. It is true that the longer you are at a company, the harder it becomes to move on, but if the company has a glass ceiling that you can’t, or don’t want to, punch through, do what is best for you and move on.
Confidence is Key
A lot of this comes down to confidence. I am generalizing when I say that typically women have less confidence than men, especially at work. I consistently see women stuck at junctions in their careers and not knowing how to, or afraid to, ask for help, a raise, or guidance. Men tend to jump in feet first. Women worry about their value and whether or not they are credible enough. Let me give you an example. An old boss of mine was asked to give a speech about a topic he didn’t know much about. Given the perks and the exposure he would gain, he immediately said yes and spent the time he had researching and learning about the topic. When he shared this story with his audience, many of the women gasped in disbelief. Women, again in general, need to become better at taking on assignments or projects that they may not feel comfortable with and asking for help. This means that instead of saying, “Yes” to opportunities say, “Yes and.” Have faith in your own abilities but at the same time make sure that you are using every tool at your disposal to be prepared.
Set People Up for Success
I believe that it is the duty of leaders, mentors, and coaches to help people become more confident in themselves and their abilities. A saying has followed me through my 24-year career, “highly effective leaders help ordinary people do extraordinary things.” If people are convinced of their value and their strengths, their work exponentially increases. I have my own company now, but even when I was in the corporate world, I always resonated with people and tried to guide them to the best versions of themselves. When you give people a shot to be great with just a little bit of guidance, amazing things happen. Great leaders, coaches, and mentors see potential in others before the people realize it themselves. The task then is to help those people understand that potential in themselves. Everyone has a different method about how to go about this. For me, it starts with Strengths Finder. I have found, with previous employees and current coaching clients, that the results from this assessment are easy to understand and grasp for both the coach and the aspiring client. I have developed a method that helps anyone I coach or mentor easily apply their strengths to their daily lives holistically, beyond just their career.
3 Key Tips
There are many ways to “move up to move out” and each way will vary from circumstance to circumstance. There are, however, three key points to keep in mind as you crusade through your career:
Act “As If.” Do the role that you are passionate about no matter what. People who just go for what they are great at perform better and are happier. Win-win. Collaboration is key. If you shut yourself into a vacuum and work alone, you will hinder yourself. I know it’s cliché but two heads really are better than one and you will find yourself much more innovative if you have someone to bounce ideas off. If you find yourself hitting a glass ceiling with no permeations, or breaking through it would cost too much, leave and start somewhere new. Always have an end goal and when you make the move, make sure that it is in the direction you want to go.
I expand more on this topic in my podcast with Helen Chao here.