5 Tips For Women Feeling Stuck in Their Careers
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We missed the Thanksgiving publishing window to go camping in Joshua Tree, but we wanted to say thank you to all of our readers. We’re grateful you take the time out of your day to visit our humble blog.
Now back to regular programming.
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We've all got goals - whether it's personal or work-related, but the simple act of setting a goal doesn't equal success. Goals take action and commitment. You also have to have the perseverance to stick through the toughest days, even when it feels like nothing you do matters.
Challenges: Working In Tech As A Female Millennial
Two years ago, I was the first marketing hire for a tech start-up. It was challenging but I was excited by the opportunity to build an entire marketing program from scratch. As we hired more people, however, and I had to “let go of my legos (responsibilities)”, I’ve found it difficult to pivot from a generalist (someone who has a hand in every project) to a more specialized leadership role (AKA “an expert”).
Even though I’ve done the right things (e.g. made myself valuable, delivered quality work, pitched ideas, took risks, spoke up at meetings, etc.), for the past year, I felt like I’d trapped myself in some sort of “career limbo.”
Here are the challenges I faced moving up in my company:
My company’s culture is heavily (alpha) male-centric. Currently, women only account for 17% of my organization. Frankly, I’ve found it difficult to overcome this “cultural fit” simply because I couldn’t relate to the casual conversations going on around me (i.e. sports or the latest fantasy football rankings). By contrast, a more recently hired male colleague on my team (perfectly nice guy, btw) quickly gained favor with the group that I’d been desperately trying to connect with - simply because they could relate to each other better.
People weren’t taking me seriously due to early perceptions. I came on as the catch-all person for marketing; I learned everything from scratch from lead generation to social campaigns to SEO and messaging. But I quickly realized (and confirmed) that in the eyes of my colleagues, I was seen as some glorified admin. I was always the go-to for logistical or tactical problems. The perception was that there was no way I could "handle" a leadership role.
Over the past month, I’ve been thinking through and processing how to push through these barriers. Maybe it’s just stubbornness on my part, but no matter how “unfair” a situation seems, or how heavily the odds seem stacked against me, I refuse to think of myself as a victim.
5 Ways To Get Back On Track
With Your Career & Goals
For anyone else feeling like they’re stuck in “career limbo”, here are the steps that got me out of my slump:
First, take a step back and breath. The world isn't going to end. Truthfully, reality just hasn't caught up to your expectations yet. In most cases, moving up within an organization takes time because you can’t just expect that you’ll gain immediate respect or forge new relationships overnight. It takes time.
Make a list of all the things you've accomplished (that you're proud of) so far - this calendar year. The reason why is because we don't cut ourselves enough slack. When you map out everything you've achieved, you'll start to see that you've been making incremental progress all along.
When you're feeling discouraged, do something to get you re-engaged and excited. I was losing confidence in my work and in myself because I felt stagnant. And what got me back on track was working on projects (e.g. freelancing) outside of my workplace. It helped bring a lot of perspective and confidence back into my life because I knew that I had a lot of skills to offer. The engagement also got me excited about other ideas for how I could improve at work. What gets you excited about your work and life?
When it feels tough, let your emotions out. I'm not sure about anyone else, but sometimes I like to “cry it out” because it feels cathartic. I'm not saying you should do this in front of anyone - only someone you trust. When I'm at my lowest points (e.g. late nights after a long work day), I always have Ivan. He listens and offers rational (read: cold-blooded) advice because he’s not as emotionally invested in the situation. Those moments helped me stay sane and allow me to vent - without burning bridges at work.
Get back on track by mapping out every single step. This is a little tedious but when you get frustrated, you should take a step back and write out every single step to get to your desired goal. Get into the nitty gritty and map out every minute detail. In my case, I had to think about all the ways I could re-engage with my co-workers and make a list of who to take out for coffee. I made a plan for how to present myself in meetings and drafted potential projects I wanted to pitch to my boss. I even thought about my next steps for a promotion and ways I could justify it.
I haven’t achieved my goals yet, but at least now I know what things are in my control. All of these steps help to bring some perspective back into my life. At the end of the day, I know I’m not saving the world. I’m just developing a different way of looking at personal obstacles that felt insurmountable yesterday.
This makes me feel grateful for today, while looking forward to tomorrow.