Women and Work: Acknowledging Achievement

Friends...I really love my job. 

Yes, I get to write fantasy and sci-fi and mentally reside in amazing places. What could be bad about that, right? It's nerd paradise.

But in addition to writing, I get to do something pretty amazing. I have the great honor of helping people realize how awesome they are. Then, I show them how to communicate their awesomeness via Career Communication Services. And it is an absolute joy to be able to do so.

Recently, I coached a client who had been with her current company for a very long time in various capacities. She'd worn many hats, and was frustrated that her resume wasn't generating any interest. So we got together over coffee, and I got to know her a little better.

As she described her professional experience, my heart broke a little bit. This is the sort of phrase I heard consistently: "I mean, I've conducted hiring interviews and exit interviews, and I've led staff training, and I've screened resumes...but I don't have any real HR experience. I was never the HR manager or anything." 

Sound familiar?

Based on what I've seen in my work, I'm willing to wager that this is a fairly common occurrence, especially for women. There are so many societal pressures on working women, and it is easy to see how we have been encouraged to minimize our achievements, instead of owning those accomplishments with pride and confidence. Our societal messages tell us that a confident woman who is proud of her work is intimidating, arrogant, difficult to work with, bossy, or bad at delegating.

It's pretty unfair, isn't it? I also happen to believe that it's a load of crap. There are still a lot of battles to fight on a grand scale as women in the workplace, but this is one that we should be fighting just for ourselves. 

Culture, coworkers, and bosses aside, when the doors are shut and you can freely reflect on and examine your professional journey... Are you proud of your achievements? Are you proud of your work? 

In almost all cases, I think the answer should be yes. Most of us are working our tails off in various capacities, and rarely take a minute to stop and celebrate our achievements. It was a joy to do this with my recent client, and to make something very clear for her.

"I don't have any real experience," she said.
"Guess what?" I replied. "The only difference between you and an "HR professional" is the title. You have done the work, and you have the experience. Don't minimize or underestimate your history. You have a lot to be proud of!"

We continued to walk through her experience, and I helped her write a resume that showcased her achievements clearly and confidently. Yes, that resume will hopefully help her land a job. But more importantly, she looked at that resume and was delighted and startled by the quality, depth, and breadth of her own experience. She saw her professional self clearly, and was equipped with language to be able to discuss those achievements in her job transition. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it, because she is everything that the resume communicates and much, much more! 

Maybe you feel pretty good about your work -- that's awesome! But how is your comfort level when it comes to discussing it? Pay attention next time you're discussing your job with a friend or family member. Do you minimize your involvement, or the results of your work? 

It's the difference between these two statements:

"Yeah, just doing the same old thing...working on a project for so and so. It's fine."
OR
"Yeah, I'm actually working on a project for XYZ. I'm excited about it because of THIS, and I'm really looking forward to the results because SOMETHING GOOD WILL HAPPEN."

Admittedly, some of this comes down to perspective in addition to your own pride in your work. Sometimes it's extremely difficult to identify the value in what you do. I used to be an executive assistant, and that work didn't feel like much of an accomplishment because I didn't have an obvious product or service that I was consistently delivering. But now, as I reflect on that position, I see how incredible it was that I juggled so many competing priorities, responsibilities, projects, and stakeholders. I made a major difference in my boss's day, every day, and was able to make his crazy life a whole lot easier. On top of that, I gained a wide range of professional experience that allowed me to move forward on my career path. 

It took me a long time to get that perspective. But every job has an impact, and every responsibility eventually leads to a customer... a measurable result. And that result contributes something to the world, however minor the impact may seem. Hair stylists help people to feel good about their appearance. Dog walkers make pups feel really, absurdly happy and loved. Janitors create a safe, clean environment for others to go about their day. Managers inspire others to success and help them to nurture their professional and personal abilities. Uber drivers get people where they need to go safely. 

What is the value of your work? When was the last time you sat down and thought about your own professional self-image? How do you describe your own responsibilities, achievements, or ongoing projects?

I invite you to join me in this endeavor today. Take a few minutes to reflect on the work you've done across your entire professional history. Remember the projects that you lost sleep over, but were able to complete with pride. Celebrate the people that you served in your work: the satisfied customer, the stressed out supervisor, or the coworker that benefitted from your efforts. 

Your work has value. You have value. And it is anything but arrogant to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments.

Go forth with your head held high and conquer your work week with confidence, my friends!