In my youth I was somewhat shy and reserved, this was often misinterpreted as ‘snooty or above herself’. I would always wait to be asked to do things i.e.. get up to sing or dance (both of which I love….) as I didn’t want to be seen as “pushy or a show-off”. I knew I could do these things it was just I didn’t know how to behave and I was scared of perception, I was a teenager and full of insecurities. I would get frustrated when I wasn’t praised, when things didn’t work or when I was passed over ‘. Couldn’t they see how wonderful I was?’.
I don’t remember exactly when my attitude and approach changed but I know it was in my early twenties when I was vying for promotion. I was working in the city of London when the proverbial ‘penny dropped’. In the city decisions are often made in a huddle and unless the huddle knows of your existence you are doomed to the ranks. I was passed over a couple of times and I was frustrated and thought life was unfair. Luckily around this time I had a ballsy female boss and I also started dealing with a senior female MD who became my mentor, both advised me to work hard, promote my successes, be approachable and become an expert in my field. I realised from them that you didn’t necessarily get recognised for doing excellent work. I had to advertise how good I was and push myself in front of groups of people. You have to be your own campaigner and promoter in life, others can help but nobody else can do it for you. In fairness everyone was run ragged so why would they be promoting my cause, especially if they didn’t even know I had one.
Changing my approach and attitude, reduced my frustrations and has changed my life in many ways. I realise if I want something I have to ask for it and have a clear case as to why I should get it. Sometimes I have a great case and at other times maybe not but the main thing is that I ask, you never know… . Where I think something is unfair or wrong, rather than stewing and getting emotional I discuss the matter directly. I always prepare, wait for the right time to make my play. In my professional career I followed-up on opportunities and was given more responsibility and respect and rose through the ranks as a direct result.
Since then I have coached and mentored girls on how to approach the city culture, work and at times life to get what you want and what you’re worth. I see many of them making the same early mistakes I made and not having support or confidence to push their case. I act as a sounding board, tell them not to whine or stew, to come up with a plan and to take action. I put their situations into context and tell them stories of things that happened in my career and life. I always find myself telling them ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’, it’s true in the city or when you’re negotiating your insurance, your broadband deal or a new kitchen. I always ask for more – are there any discounts or deals, I indicate that perhaps I could get a better deal at a competitor. It’s amazing by asking, that you do get and often more than you expect. So if there’s one thing you do this week if you are frustrated or think something is unfair or think you can do better…. just ASK ?