These are stories of fear and self-doubt, and I don’t want any of my friends to think I’m sharing something here that they shared with me in confidence. So, to be very clear: these are my own stories.
I want to share with you examples of nowhere-near-perfect situations, when I was presented with opportunities, for which I didn’t have enough time to prepare. That’s life. That’s business. You’re never ready for it.
After the luxury of ten months of maternity leave, I decided to start looking at options for going back to work. I had not made arrangements to return to the job I had before I had my baby, because I knew that my schedule would be different than it had been. I had a family now, and a new set of priorities, beyond my career.
One of my previous employers had offered to help me find something flexible when I was ready to return to work. So, I left him a voice-mail message. He called me back within minutes, discussed a few options with me, and before the end of the day, he had set up an in-person interview with a hiring manager.
He asked me: “Can you interview in person tomorrow morning?”
I said: “Of course. I’ll be there.”
Then, I realized, I hadn’t had a haircut in over a year, and after the miracle of breastfeeding, I was actually too thin for any of my own business clothes, even the ones from before my maternity dresses days. I had a pair of gray slacks I could hold up with a belt, and a nice black blazer. That’s what I wore to the interview. I got the job.
I’m ever so grateful I didn’t listen to any of the excuses that were starting to form in my head. This job led to many years of flexible work options. I was able to work from home, while advancing my career and caring for my family.
The Big Test
I’ve spent the last decade blogging and designing training for internal and external stakeholders on the advantages of the collaboration economy. Our new reality is one where we can be appreciated for our intellectual capital, and perform at our peak no matter where we live. Global teams are becoming the norm in multinational corporations. You simply hire the best people in the world. Give them the technology to do their jobs, and reward them for being the best knowledge workers you could find.
And now, the next step in my career requires travel.
It would be very easy for me to choose to sacrifice career advancement. I can always use my family as an excuse. Guess what? My family doesn’t want me to use them as an excuse. For starters, my husband is a better cook than I am, so I don’t have to worry about what they eat while I’m gone. Additionally, doing interesting work sets a good example for my son, and his perception of working women. I dare say he’s even proud of me. So, after many years of being the mom who never missed an opportunity to supervise a field trip, I am packing my bags for field trips of my own.
This story made possible by YOU. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/h3jS1fN1vc
— Silvia K. Spiva (@silviakspiva) April 30, 2015
I wish I could say that this tale is about being surprised with a big increase in salary, but really it’s a reminder of two back-to-back mistakes I made very early in my career. If you’re a student, pay special attention now. Many people will tell you that you should be grateful for any work you can get related to your field of study. That’s what all the mentors in my life told me as I was approaching graduation from University. They were wrong. Even young professionals should value their education and expertise. And yes, this should have applied to me even in the middle of the .com bust. Oops! I just dated myself.
One semester before graduation, I was fortunate to be invited to interview for a prestigious position within a global firm. After the expected round of interviews, I was offered the job! Then, I was asked to state my desired salary.
I should have asked: “What is the salary range?”
Instead, I named a figure which I thought was high, but was actually below the salary range. Big mistake! This affected my salary increases going forward, and I made a similar mistake in naming a desired percentage increase during my first annual performance review. At least I learned early in my career to do better research, and to know my own professional worth. After some time, I left that company, and did a much better job at negotiating a starting salary with my next employer.
These stories were not told in chronological order. Naturally, I’m keeping some of it private. Hopefully, they will provide you with easy to remember examples that you can recall the next time you are given a golden opportunity. I want you to get your wish.
If you would like to help others, please add your own story in the comments section. There’s nothing to be afraid of.