• Women’s Money Week: Overcoming impostor syndrome – how a virtual stranger opened my eyes to my real worth

    How I learned my true professional worth

    One of my fears about taking half of 2013 off to travel was that my fill-in at work would totally outshine me.

    Fortunately it did the opposite – highlighting how much I juggle every day and how well I do it. It wasn’t just the people I work with every day who noticed but people externally who noticed the difference. That really struck home for me when I was chatting to someone – a person I don’t have much personal, frequent contact with but really respect – who went as far as to say our team had been obviously “screwed” in my absence.

    His validation, as an outsider, was the key to altering how I see myself. That marked a real turning point for me.

    I’ve always had a strange thing about self-confidence.  I love what I write, at least until I hand it over, at which point I immediately start to hate it. Until very recently, I couldn’t ever stand to read my own work once published. I’ve always gotten good feedback about my work, but my own self-belief has always been patchy. There has never been a solid foundation underpinning it. Hello impostor syndrome!

    This is only my second full-time job (although I have learned so very, very much over the past couple years) and I’ve basically always been the most junior on the team. I’m  naturally reserved, I’m quiet in meetings not just because of shyness but because I don’t feel I have anything to contribute.

    But I’m firmly mid-20s now. I’m not necessarily always the junior person, or even if I am, I now do increasingly have things to contribute. It’s expected of me – and I shouldn’t hold myself back because of how I feel inside. It’s time to adjust this mental perception I hold about who I am. I’m not 18 and clueless anymore.

    I look older than I am, which I think has helped people take me seriously up till now. And I need to take myself seriously too, and not sell myself short.

    At what point did you realise you had outgrown the ‘junior’ card and couldn’t play it anymore? Have you ever had a random incident change how you perceived yourself and your professional worth?

  • Women’s Money Week: Career progression and climbing the ladder

    This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2014.

    There are companies that reward talent, and there are some where it’s more or less impossible to move up.

    Companies where feedback is given and an active interest taken in career progression, and companies where people wake up one day and realise they’ve been doing the same thing for 5 or 10 years.

    It can also depend on structure. In some places, the number and type of roles is more or less fixed. Creating new positions is unheard of within the hierarchy and the kinds of titles and duties available are strictly limited, unless somebody vacates their spot and a specific post opens up.

    A few years ago, T found himself in one of these. It started off well; he had a good relationship with the boss, who promised opportunities for advancement. (Sponsors, not mentors, are your champions within an organisation – I now realise my boss at my first job was essentially a sponsor for me and was key to my moving up.) Initially, he was being groomed to fill a position that the incumbent was retiring from. However, when it came up eventually, it was made clear they’d rather he remain where he was.

    It was probably a mix of factors: he was too good at what he did, and too valuable to lose there; the fact that he’s a bit rough around the edges, so not necessarily preferred management material; and that the company just wasn’t big on promoting – most workers stayed where they were and other top performers went elsewhere in order to advance.

    In the end, we decided to go travelling for awhile and that was the impetus for him to hang on until we left. If we hadn’t, I imagine he would have started job hunting a lot earlier.

    What, in your opinion, are the characteristics of a company that encourages growth and promotes talent? How do you spot them?

  • Women’s Money Week: Kids. Who’d have ’em?

    This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2014.

    They say you tend to most regret the things you don’t do, rather the things you did. (That’s one of the things that convinced me I had to take time off to travel in 2013.)

    Does that apply to having children?

    (Potential TMI ahead in next paragraph)

    I freaked myself out a while ago when I noticed I had unusually sore, full boobs (by my standards. I have NO idea how women with actual chests exercise comfortably. Going running that week was frickin’ agonising). It was coming up to that time of month, but not quite. Naturally, I was half-convinced I must be knocked up and went into minor panic mode.

    That made me realise – with a jolt – that if I was, we would most probably have it. I guess you’d say I’m at the stage in life now where having a kid would only be slightly disastrous (say, 8/10) as opposed to deliriously disastrous (10/10). Two of my friends are apparently already in debate about who is going to be the better uncle to my future offspring. Bless their wacky little hearts.

    But the one thing I really, truly want to accomplish before having kids is buying a house. I want the stability, I want the quality (if it’s a damp house, at least we can insulate it), and I know if we have a kid first it’s going to be virtually impossible to save what we need for a deposit.

    And then there’s all the finances around actually having one – I’m not fussed about THINGS for a baby as such, like clothes and car seats and cots … but rather leave from work, childcare, etc. I’d really like for T to have a more established career. We can live off my income for now while he job hunts, but it’s certainly not the ideal, and neither of us earns enough that it would be easy for one of us to stay home with a kid.

    Unlike a lot of people who grew up in a family where money was tight, who as adults are determined to be financially secure before they have a family, T thinks I’m overly conservative on this front. (It may also have something to do with the fact that he has worked with/socialised with so many less well off people who’ve had kids in their teens/early 20s – who certainly don’t have it easy, but get by nonetheless. His younger brother, for one, is about to join that club.)

    Financial stress SUCKS. Been there, done that, with T right there alongside. And adding a tiny human being into that kind of toxic mix is one hot mess I never want any part of. Money buys peace of mind, and a LOT of things that bring happiness.

    No, he’s generally more concerned with being too old to ‘enjoy’ our kids rather than being able to comfortably provide. I sympathise with this sentiment on the surface but try as I may, I just can’t empathise with it. My parents had me in their 30s, and their age never had any impact on my upbringing, which no doubt plays a large part in that.

    As with a lot of things, there’s never a perfect time. There sure are some better and some worse times, though, and we haven’t gotten into the territory of the former yet.

    How do you think your childhood/family environment shaped your thoughts and feelings about having kids of your own? Would you be ready to have one right now (if you found yourself in that situation?)