Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to work, to take on additional responsibility and be accountable.
That played out in the groups I joined in high school and college. If there was a need, I raised my hand. I didn’t consciously think that what I was doing would lead me into an executive role someday. I just gravitated toward opportunities where I could be part of a team, organize work, and lead people to accomplish a goal.
In college I thought I’d earn a chemistry degree. Then my dad helped me realize how my math skills and science acumen could coalesce in engineering.
My technical career and now my leadership roles have been a combination of intent, hard work, resiliency, timing and luck.
Early in my career, a job opened up that I wanted. I raised my hand. Everyone was surprised that I was interviewing because other people vying for the role had at least 10 more years of experience than I did.
Here’s what I see so many women do (and the Harvard Business Journal backs me up on this): They wait to apply for a role until they are 100% qualified. Men will apply when they have 60% of the requirements.
It’s not a lack of confidence. Many women say that they didn’t apply since they didn’t have all of the requirements and they assumed they wouldn’t be hired.
Instead of telling me to wait, my manager encouraged me to try.
The experience of going for a job that was a stretch for me helped me build my interview skills and become more confident in talking about my accomplishments. It showed me what I needed to learn and do to eventually qualify for the role. It introduced me to future advocates who could see how my skills and abilities could contribute to the business right now and in the future.
I didn’t get the job. But I learned. I built a network. I became intentional about my skill and experience development. I created a future career path.
Not Ready? Try Anyway.
That process solidified a strategy I’ve used ever since – raise your hand. Even if – or especially if – the role or the responsibility feels like a stretch, do it.
Every time I’ve raised my hand, something great has happened. That doesn’t mean I got the next job I was seeking. But always, I would meet someone on the journey who would shape my next role or be part of an experience that was crucial for my development.
It’s Time to Be Bold
Careers rarely are straight lines but rather can move forward, backward and sideways. Whether your career is technical, leadership or a combination, there are a few things that matter:
- Ready or not, raise your hand. Rarely are we 100% certain of anything, so why wait? If you want to do something, if you believe you have something to offer, try.
- There’s a lesson in success and there’s a lesson in failure. If you do not get the job, assignment or opportunity, ask why. Listen to the answers. Then find a way to close the gaps and get the experience you need so next time, you are ready.
- Be resilient. Sometimes things aren’t going to work the way you thought they would. That doesn’t mean you failed. Be open to what the experience is offering you and learn from it.
Every time I went for a job that I did not get, there was a lesson for me.
You can see those times as a setback, or you can see them as an opportunity. Everything – and I mean every experience – contributes to your career and your personal and professional growth in some way. Do not underestimate the power of disappointment in getting you ready for what’s next.