Feel like a fraud? Back yourself for the next big career move - Women's Agenda

Feel like a fraud? Back yourself for the next big career move

You have to “back yourself”: It’s the one piece of advice I hear over again from women who talk about how they’ve managed a significant career transition.

It’s not easy and it doesn’t always come naturally. Many of us – and I’ve heard women in the early stages of their career express this numerous times – have a natural inclination to question our right to our current position. Some feel like a fraud waiting to be found out. It can take a while before we realise that the person above us is also relying on their own self-judgment and making it up as they go.

But a little bit of self-confidence – no matter how artificial it feels – can make all the difference. Insert that self-confidence when discussing where you want to go during your conversations with others, and the right opportunity may just come up.

Last week, Nicki Bowman told me how she’s managed to transition from private practice to corporate counsel (working at BHP) and board director. It was her never-abating ability to back herself that really stood out – a personal push that came in the form of telling others what she wanted to do and snapping up opportunities as they came along.

“I told everybody who would listen that I was interested in getting out of pure legal activity and interested in more business activity,” she says in a video with Women’s Agenda following a Women On Boards roundtable discussion.

“Through that I came to the attention of a particular executive and was able to demonstrate to him that I did have a broader reach. I had a career planning conversation with him and it went from there.”

It’s a situation that shows every conversation counts – especially when we’re telling others just what we believe we can do and where we want to head with our career. “He sought me out three months later and said ‘we’ve found an opportunity for you’.”

It followed similar advice I heard from Tharani Jegatheeswaran, who explained just how she found her career confidence.

Six years into her career with a major accounting firm, Jegatheeswaran quit her job to take on a new role elsewhere. Months later, she requested her old job back – with a few adjustments that would allow her to pursue her passion, as part of her full-time career.

Now, the Deloitte Australia client director heads up the firm’s not-for-profit specialist group. It’s a role she came into after requesting the firm find a fit for her that would work for both parties. It’s a request she could only have made by taking a risk and backing herself.

“I had no idea who I was. I didn’t know what I wanted from career, nor my life,” Jegatheeswaran says of her thoughts when joining Deloitte in 2004, during an interview with Women’s Agenda late last year. By 2010, she realised she wanted a change. But after spending a couple of months with a smaller firm, she realised she was not pursuing her passion – and that she missed her old workplace.

Jegatheeswaran asked if she could return in a capacity that would see her work with not-for-profit organisations and build a business unit within the firm that could seek to drive change. The answer was yes.

Like Bowan, such a request took confidence. It was a new role in a new capacity and she needed to back her own abilities to achieve the necessary results.

But by explaining just what she believed she could and should do with her career, opportunities presented themselves.

So back yourself. You never know what might come up.


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