Being the best 'real you'– not the 'expected you' – is liberating and is the best value proposition one has to offer.
My career was off to a fabulous start. I joined my company on a fast-track program and moved up quickly for the first decade. I changed jobs frequently, taking on additional responsibilities at every step. I developed a good reputation, had sponsors and mentors who cared about my future, and was looking forward to continued increased responsibility. Life was good.
Then I hit a brick wall. For reasons I couldn’t understand, I’d been stuck at the same level for several years. It was soul-searching time and the beginning of a journey to re-ignite my career. While not natural for me, I developed an orchestrated plan to increase my network of sponsors and mentors. And even though I landed what I believe was the best job in the company for my level, my aspirations were still to move up.
When faced with the opportunity to lean in and ask for what I wanted, I went for it. I wish I could say the outcome was what I expected; instead, it was what I needed. In this process I learned – albeit painfully – the answers to why I’d hit the brick wall. I will never forget that day I had that hard conversation with my boss. But I walked away determined to go all in and do what had to be done to continue growing my career in ways that made me – and my company – stronger. I’d confront my fears, be myself and not hold back when tensions arose. There was, after all, nothing to lose.
It was really tough at first. I was in a position where leaders shared with me their viewpoints on important matters, and I had to reconcile those viewpoints with the senior executive team. I had to identify gaps in understanding or direction at the leadership level, and get everyone on the same page. I had to lead – fearlessly.
Doing so was amazingly liberating! I realized when I trusted myself and others, the results were better; respect was earned; and experience was gained. I realized that being me was a lot easier than not.
Shortly thereafter, without expectation, the tap on the shoulder came: I had been promoted.
I matured a lot through this journey. I’ve always believed my career is mine to manage, but somewhere along the way I became complacent. I started believing if I just do good work, people will notice. I learned that personal growth requires personal introspection. Being the best “real you”– not the “expected you” – is liberating and is the best value proposition one has to offer.