My train was late again. Whenever I had to attend an important meeting, it always seemed to take the train a half hour longer to creep its way across the 60-odd miles of track connecting me and countless other commuters to our jobs in New York City. On this day, however, I could not be late: I was meeting with my boss to tell her I needed a change.
I had been working in business affairs at a media company for ten years and – while I had been promoted to senior vice president during that time – I felt like I had settled for being a member of the team without ever becoming a leader of the team. I worked hard, was well-liked by my clients and had a senior title, but my daily routine had become rather unremarkable. Somewhere along the way I had become too comfortable.
When I joined the company in 1997, I had one child; by 2003, my family had exploded from a cozy party of three to a super-sized party of six. The most daunting aspect of this evolution was that three of our children were under the age of three. That dynamic alone could cause anyone to feel over-extended, but add a three-hour round-trip commute, and career planning quickly sinks to the bottom of the priorities.
All around me friends were opting out of their careers by either blissfully surrendering to the lure of home or by accepting positions with abbreviated schedules. I was happy for them, but I knew that was not my path. After a decade at the company, I felt like I still had a second act. I just wasn’t sure if anyone else thought so.
Earlier that year, a departmental reorganization resulted in my boss assuming more responsibilities. I saw this as an opportunity for me to inquire about a larger and more challenging role, but I was plagued with self-doubt. What would this mean for my family? Would the company consider a woman with four children and a monster commute for job advancement?
When I shared my thoughts with my husband he listened patiently before saying: “Get out of your own way.” I was stunned. If I stopped coming up with excuses and sabotaging myself, I would see I was not asking my boss for something – I was offering something. In her time of transition I was right there, well-trained and smart, loyal and ambitious and ready to lend my considerable skills to make her job easier. All of this was right under her nose.
So I went in, asked for what I wanted, and got it.
It has been five years since I was given new and expanded responsibilities. I keep growing and looking for greater challenges. Even though I have been at the same company for 15 years, my colleagues know that I am not complacent. I am flexible, curious and always looking to learn more. It is amazing what I was able to accomplish once I got out of my own way.