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Inspiration from an Xplore Associate
Marie O’Brien

Sometimes when we hear that we need to be more courageous in our career it turns to the thought of asking for what we want into something scary! Instead of thinking that you need courage to ask, try thinking of it a different way… I like to think of it as not keeping secrets. If you keep secrets and don’t tell people what you want from your career they will never know, and so sharing your secrets is very important.

Don’t put barriers up for yourself and think that you need to be brave to ask for opportunities because it is likely that you will never ask. If you talk to the people around you about what you want to do with your career and your goals, when an opportunity arises it’s likely they’ll come to you because they are aware that it’s something you are willing to pursue. Keeping secrets about your aspirations also prevents you from having conversations where you’ll find out where the opportunities are.

Don’t forget, good leaders love helping people and are always looking for talent, if you’re having the right conversations and your leaders know your aspirations then they can recommend you for opportunities that they know you’re interested in and capable of. It also builds their profile! Of course sometimes you might find it very difficult to talk to your manager(s), in this situation I would recommend talking to your mentor. They can guide you to find a way to have the conversations that might be difficult.

So an opportunity comes your way and no matter whether it is way above your perceived skill level you take it, right? In the case of most women unfortunately the answer is usually no. So why are you not backing yourself for every opportunity that comes your way? It is usually because of a lack of self-confidence and an underestimation of your capacity to adapt.

The reason you are successful in your career is because you deliver great work, but you may have a very unrealistic definition of what success looks like. I guess that most of the time you underplay your successes for fear of looking boastful. You go to work every day and just ‘do your job’ without recognising that whilst going about your job you have many successes, every day, every week. You don’t need just that one huge success that comes about perhaps once a year to carry you through to the next level, you’ll find that you’re having many successes every day that can be translated into achievements you can use to ‘sell yourself’. I’m not saying that you should lower your standards but you need to rethink what you class as a success.

There are things that you are doing every day/every week that add value to your organisation and should be classed as successes. Don’t just lump those everyday wins into the category of ‘it’s just my job,’ embrace them as confidence builders. If you have a pool of examples on hand of where you have added value then you will be more confident in going for something that might seem out of your depth. You can back yourself to achieve your goals more easily. Also remember that if you’re not recognising the value that you add then why will anybody else, they’ll just think the same as you, that you’re just ‘doing your job’.

My advice would be to practice this exercise every day: When you shut off your computer in the afternoon, ask yourself “what is the best thing I did today?” This builds confidence and recognition of the value that you add. It’s very important that you use those words and not “did I do anything good today?”

This will also help you to build up a career journal of all that you have achieved. When an opportunity arises then you can say, “These are all the things I’ve done, I’m successful, I’ll be able to do that.” If you are hesitant about an opportunity then ask yourself “If my boss appointed me to that role tomorrow,could I do that job?” and back yourself. You can adapt, and although it might not be exactly what you’ve done in the past, from your experience you will have the transferable skills to succeed.


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