The ambitious women in the City that I often talk to tell me the reason that they don’t have the career success they want is because they don’t have the right experience or they didn’t go to the right University or they tell me that they only got that promotion because they happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Nonsense. Complete nonsense.
I get so cross and frustrated when I see women playing down their experience, their education and their achievements. Sometimes they are not even aware that they’re doing it.
This reminds me of a woman I talked to from the pharmaceutical sector. She had 26 years of experience and eight weeks earlier, she’d changed employer. She works in a very process driven industry and was experiencing a real knock to her confidence. The new employer’s processes and way of working was very different:
“It’s like a military operation. So many labels and KPIs; I must be failing them all.”
She started to doubt if she was even cut out for this industry:
“I don’t really know what I’m doing and I don’t even know if I’m doing it right“.
“Hang on a sec … you’ve got 26 years of experience and you’re telling me that you’re not doing it right?“
Now it’s obvious to you (and to me), that this woman is very capable; and yet her confidence was being eroded despite her 26 years of experience. Because she hadn’t been able to march in and feel right at home straight away. She wasn’t giving herself time to ‘settle in’ or get used to a different way of working.
Instead, she immediately jumped to the conclusion that “she” was at fault and that “she” was not good enough.
The thing is, I often talk to women who feel that they are not good enough despite years of experience; arm fulls of certificates and qualifications; promotion after promotion; invitations to speak at industry events; achievement awards – you name it, they’ve got it. Except they haven’t. They haven’t got the career confidence they want and deserve.
From the outside looking in, you might not be able to tell. Even some of the most senior women I have worked with have this feeling that one day they’ll get found out. Or somebody will realise they’re not really as good as they thought. Or that the promotion was a lucky fluke.
Lucky fluke aka the imposter syndrome
If any of this resonates, it might be you are experiencing what’s known as the imposter syndrome. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. Loads of women experience this. Even me.
When I was made Global Head of IT Service in that City law firm, I used to tell people “I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time“.
Yes it’s true, I was in the right place at the right time. But who put me there in that right place at that right time? I did. Me. On my ownsome. Me and my experience. Me and my talents. Me and my ‘go big go home‘ attitude. Me and my ‘get stuck in‘ approach.
I don’t have a fancy degree or gold embossed certificates to my name that qualified me for that role. I had knowledge. I had experience. I had talent. I had energy.
By the way, it took me 11 years to recognise that I was absolutely THE best candidate for that role. I applied for the job in December 2004, went on maternity leave at Christmas, and started the new job in September 2005. No CIO waits 9 months for a ‘lucky fluke’ candidate. But like I say, it took me 11 years to figure that out, and only then after my interview with Rebecca Pintre last year.
The thing is … in today’s economy, if you are invited to apply for promotion, if you are invited for interview, if somebody recommends you for that role because it seems a good fit, GO FOR IT. People don’t invite or apply or recommend without good reason. The good reason being YOU.
It is SO easy to let your thoughts and beliefs about who you are, what you do and what you deserve, get in the way of your career confidence.
Very often what is stopping us from getting the career we really want …. it’s our own thoughts and beliefs. These are not always helpful beliefs. In coaching jargon, we refer to them as ‘limiting’ beliefs because they are limiting you and your career success.
What are limiting beliefs?
Limiting or unhelpful beliefs are the beliefs that you hold that are limiting you in some way. Often these beliefs and thoughts are at a subconscious level i.e. you’re not even aware of them. They might be based on something you’ve been told or read as a child, an experience you’ve had, or the values that are important to you. Our limiting beliefs may be based on family values, our upbringing, schooling or cultural expectations.
For example many people today believe that cigarettes and smoking are bad for you. Think back to 50 years ago, and smoking was seen as cool and hip. Over time, our beliefs about smoking have changed. And so have our feelings.
Your beliefs affect your career success
Even though you might not be fully aware of your beliefs, your beliefs are the basis for your feelings and emotions. How you feel affects what you do and say. How you respond to situations and how you communicate. In other words, your behaviour.
In turn, your behaviour and your actions affect the outcome. The results that you get. The career that you have. The promotion. The interview.
If, deep down, you believe that you went to the ‘wrong’ university, you might feel that you are ‘not good enough‘ or that you don’t deserve that success. Therefore you are less likely to apply for promotion. Less likely to network with the more senior people. Less likely to express your ambitions.
When you don’t even apply for a promotion, you’re not going to get appointed.
How to stop your beliefs getting in the way of your career success
Maybe you want to go back to work or you want to apply for that promotion or you want to change the direction of your business and work with a different market sector. Perhaps it’s something you’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s really important and yet you haven’t done it yet. Or even started. And you’re not really sure why. You’re procrastinating and putting things off.
If you sometimes notice yourself saying or thinking “I can’t do that, I’m not good enough”, or maybe your story is “I’m not experienced enough”, “I’m not clever enough”, “I don’t know enough people”, or “I don’t have enough time”, you can CHANGE YOUR BELIEFS.
Change your limiting beliefs
First start by noticing what you notice about what you think and belief. Every time you catch yourself thinking “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good enough” (in this example ‘good’ is interchangeable with old, young, experienced, clever etc), notice what you notice about what is happening at the time.
Now here are some simple questions to ask yourself to explore whether you too have some limiting beliefs getting in the way of the career that you really want:
- What is the evidence for that belief? i.e. what evidence do you have that you are ‘not good enough’?
- How old is the evidence?
- How could others see that you are ‘not good enough’ or ‘not experienced enough’?
- What is the counter evidence i.e. proving the opposite of that belief?
- If you have the evidence for the story or belief, what could another interpretation be for that story or for those actions?
- What else could those actions mean?
- How do you benefit from staying that way i.e. staying ‘not good enough’ or ‘not clever enough’?
If the belief is about experience, ask “How much or what experience exactly do I need to get that promotion“?
These are not easy questions to answer. You might not always have the courage to be honest and truthful with yourself. And that’s ok. Sometimes it helps to do this with a trusted friend or work colleague. Or talk to a coach. Often that’s why women come to me for one-to-one coaching in the first place.
What stopped me …
For a long time, I held myself back in my business. I suspected that deep down there was a limiting belief. Being a coach, I’d tried self-coaching but it wasn’t coming out. The belief was so deeply buried and my mind wanted to protect me and keep me safe.
I didn’t feel good enough. I believed that I didn’t deserve to be loved. The day that I figured that out was an incredible turning point for my coaching practice. The images I created that day are still powerfully vivid in my mind.
Even now, I have to remind myself daily that I AM good enough; that I AM experienced enough; that I AM clever enough; that I deserve to be successful; and that I deserve to be loved to the ends of the earth. It’s not always easy.
Don’t let your limiting beliefs stop you from getting career success
Very often our career confidence is all wrapped up around our beliefs. Sometimes those beliefs are unhelpful and are limiting our career success.
I am passionate about supporting and working with ambitious women to help them get the career that they really want. Whether that’s a full-time Head Honcho type role or a part-time job that fits in around family.
It’s true, I do get cross and frustrated when I see women playing down their experience, their education and their achievements. Because I have this fabulous gift to see what you can’t. I’m not pretending it’s easy. It can be hard.
Get honest with yourself and your beliefs. Face the truth (I’ll even hold your hand) and explore your beliefs and what might be holding you back. Change those beliefs and this will affect how you feel. How you feel with change your behaviour and then you will get the career you want.