Career Woman

Focus on yourself: Why it’s time to shed labels and hit your true potential

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Why let yourself be held back by the labels other people put on you? It’s time to shake off those labels and focus on yourself.

We know barriers still exist in the workplace, but how many are real and how many are perceived? My belief is that you are a businessperson first and must focus on how to get from A to B in your career as an individual, not a label. This isn’t easy, but we need greater focus on who we each uniquely are and all that we offer.

Focus on yourself: Why it’s time to shed the labels

When I started my career journey, I didn’t walk into my first role thinking, I’m a female. People will discriminate against me and I will not be promoted. I was fortunate to have strong female and male role models who encouraged me, and I was taught to think of myself as an individual – someone who has something to offer. (Unfortunately, not everyone has had good role models or any role models in their upbringing or in their career journey. If you don’t have mentors in your corner now, start seeking them out. They will be instrumental in helping you focus on yourself to see yourself as a capable individual.)

I ran my own executive search firm for 25 years and placed thousands of managers and executives within the financial services industry. In addition, I founded Financial Executive Women (FEW) and worked with hundreds of women. One thing I noticed at all levels was that the female candidates and members I spoke to would put labels on themselves. The most common labels included ‘the lack of experience’ label and ‘the company will only hire their mate’s’ label.

For example:

  • I don’t have enough experience and only tick a few boxes, so I am not applying for the role.
  • They will hire a guy anyway – so I haven’t got a chance.

One of the main reason’s women thought this way and still do, is because they do not have people in their corner (like the guys do) to encourage them to go for it. Mentors are so important in your career journey as they will take away the labels you are putting on yourself and help you see yourself for your capabilities – what you can do and the value you will bring.

A typical example was when I contacted a potential candidate to highlight a management position in her organisation that would be a promotion for her. Her first reaction was – ‘No, they always hire external candidates, so why bother’. It was a management position and she also felt because she didn’t have people management experience, it would go against her. I told her no argument, you are applying, and we will help you!

We helped her prepare for the interview by getting her to focus on her capabilities. Encouraging her to go into the process highlighting what she would bring to the table. For her to talk about her achievements and the type of manager she could be because of what she had learnt so far.

Inexperience is not a reason to give up an opportunity. Don’t put a barrier up that may not be there; learn to focus on yourself and get what you want. Most of my clients wanted the candidates who would grow into the role as the ones that tick every box may get bored and not be as passionate. So change your view and don’t think about what you can’t do, think about what you can do.

During the interview process her boss’s boss said to her that he was pleased she applied as he didn’t realise she was interested in managing teams.

The result was that the company never went external and she was one of two candidates short-listed. The role was put on hold due to an economic downturn, however because of that process, she got a promotion to another division. If you don’t make it clear to management what your goals are how will they know? If you see an internal role that you are interested in, you should apply. The company will tell you if you are not suited, but at least you have signalled to your employer that you are interested in advancing your career with the company.

One thing that was very clear to me was the importance of advocates who you respect and have the experience in the industry you want to build your career in. People outside your organisation who will guide you to focus on yourself and give you honest feedback and advice. The guys have had this advantage for years, it is time for women to even out the playing field.

It’s time for you to step up, shed the labels you or others are putting on you, and focus on yourself. How are you going to succeed if you don’t believe in yourself and you take on a label someone else gave you that has nothing to do with your abilities? Get the help you need and surround yourself with people you respect, but ultimately, It’s up to you.

About Judith Beck

Judith Beck is the author of No Sex at Work (Major Street Publishing), which shares the do’s and don’ts from her experience as founder of executive search firm, Financial Recruitment Group. Over her career, Judith has successfully placed thousands of candidates at senior to managing director level with some of Australia’s most successful financial institutions. Judith also founded Financial Executive Women (FEW) and is a sought-after speaker and media commentator. For more information visit www.judithbeck.com.au

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