There have been many satisfying moments in my career. I have achieved almost everything that I have planned to during the past 29 years. But still the most rewarding conversations are those that I have with the next generation of female leaders.
A week ago I was contacted by a young woman requesting a meeting. I receive requests like this on a regular basis. Where possible I agree to meet because it’s how generational links are formed, knowledge is passed on and change happens.
This particular woman told me she had been following my career for some time. She liked the way I was able to move from editorial to management. It was something she also aspires to. She saw similarities in our beginnings and was now at the stage where the path to the next level is a little unclear. Her words reminded me so much of my thoughts at the same age and career stage. But I didn’t have a role model or mentor I could speak to about them.
She asked me what I did when I bumped my head in a role. I explained that I didn’t hesitate to move sideways in order to move up. You can either stay, complain and become bitter or take control of your progression. If it was clear that I would get nowhere due to culture or leadership style of my organisation, I would be prepared to move on. The young woman sitting opposite me sharing coffee and a career chat laughed. She accused me of being like Gen-Y.
What a compliment it is to be described as being ahead of my time. She meant it as a positive statement and I took it that way. Gen-Yers are notoriously free of the strictures of conformity. There were many times in my career where older and wiser counsel told me to stick with it: the equivalent of closing my eyes and thinking of Britain. I have never been able to bury my head in the sand or simply hope that things will change or that opportunities will magically open up. I have instead taken responsibility for my own next steps.
I was impressed that this bright and ambitious woman had taken the initiative to approach me. And that she was very sure of what she wanted next. The options before her are many and varied. I was thrilled to be the one to walk her through some of that and offer her my opinion as to what she should do next, based entirely on my experiences and my knowledge of the current operating environment.
The future looks bright for this generation of women if they can remain focused on their goals while life throws them curve balls. The more I meet with one-on-one, the more convinced I become of that.
Do you have someone you can speak with about your next career stage?