When I first started my career, everything was relatively easygoing from a political standpoint. In other words, I didn’t have to deal with too much office politics because colleagues and supervisors seemed happy with my work ethic and positive attitude. If I ever struggled with anything, someone was always there to help me out and get me back on track. Consequently, I grew accustomed to thinking of the workplace as being supportive overall.
Then I got promoted to mid-level, and everything changed.
While my new title and salary suggested otherwise, not everything changed upon my promotion. My job responsibilities were the same, at least initially. (In the Foreign Service, pay grade is linked to the individual rather than the position.) I was still with all of my existing skills. The only difference was that politics now played a role in my work.
I first had to change my perspective. I no longer wanted to be seen as inexperienced, and instead desired to be known as experienced. And whenever someone called me “young,” it bothered me. Maybe I was right in being bothered, but my go-to response of trying to downplay my age or constantly reminding people of my rank only made me look insecure–which leads us to mistake number one: letting myself get defensive about how much professional experience I have.
The second issue I had was that there was a discrepancy between how I perceived myself and how a handful of other individuals saw me. Jobs that I once considered opportunities to learn were now mundane to me. Yes, I was still okay with completing menial labor but when my manager tried to sell these easy tasks as prospects for development, I could see right through him–and let him know. This was my second mistake: Having little patience for those who view me as inexperienced.
The third shift was more demanding than the past two. My colleagues had higher expectations of me because they knew me as a capable mid-level officer. They would never refer to new challenges lightly as “learning opportunities” and expected me to take charge rather than view them that way myself. I understood their perspective but, still worried about messing up, constantly asked senior officers to sign off on smaller choices. This turned out to be a mistake though: by not trusting my skills, I only delayed progress.
I’m not the only one experiencing this almost every 30-something professional woman I have interviewed for my book has mentioned how her youth is seen as a negative. Whether it’s struggling to get out from under their organization’s dirty work or having difficulty communicating with supervisors, there is no easy solution for questions to ask your supervisor throughout a project.
Being prepared for the more covert changes that happen during promotion can be very beneficial. If my story of warning isn’t enough, here are some tips from professional career coaches on how best to navigate these alterations.
New managers are often caught off-guard by how much their bosses expect them to handle on their own. After all, part of the reason they were promoted was to take some weight off of their superiors’ shoulders. Yasmine Khater, small business coach at Transpiral, has this advice for anyone in a new management position: “Your bosses just expect you to figure things out.” So go forth and use your newfound authority to its fullest potential.
Don’t Take Things Personally
Do not let the naysayers get to you- there will always be people who question your every move, no matter how qualified you are. Shari Goldsmith, life coach for women says that it is important to just brush off the haters and move on. “Owning” your position in the company shows doubters that their words hold no weight concerning your ability to do well in this role.
Protect Your Spark
It may seem like you need to put away your childish things and become an “adult” when you move up the totem pole at work, but that’s not always the case. The most successful leaders are those who remember what motivated them in their younger days. Keep expressing your passion for your work – it’s one of your best career tools!
In what ways have your promotions changed you?
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