A common struggle for women in the workforce is how to make your results known. We can feel uncomfortable singing our own praises. It’s something that even the big CEOs in the world face – Chief Executive of Coca Cola Amatil, Alison Watkins, is someone who has admitted to encountering this feeling.
Following my post from last week, discussing how women can get ahead with advice from Ms Watkins, in this week’s post, she explains how she got over this feeling and how she’s gotten to where she is today with her advice for the job application process.
One of the earliest pieces of advice I had from Diane Grady was ‘don’t hide your light’. I always found that difficult – it felt uncomfortable to be blowing your own trumpet. I definitely came from the school of put your head down and do a good job and hope someone will notice you. Then I’d feel frustrated because maybe they did or maybe they didn’t,” she said.
Two Ways to be Stronger
1. Seeking Feedback
“Firstly I got some feedback from one of those surveys that showed my peers thought I had strong leadership attributes, but I rated myself much less favourably – which I took as a good thing – until the excellent coach I had pointed out that it meant I was risk averse and under-estimating my ability to make a difference. I realised I was being completely undemanding in a way that meant I was not setting myself and my teams up for success and that wasn’t good for anyone.”
2. Accepting Accountability
“The second awakening came through understanding the power of the mindset of accepting accountability for everything good, bad or indifferent that happens to me. Instead of missing out on a job and blaming the interviewers for not bothering to lift the bushel and seeing my light, I learnt to ask myself ‘why did I create this situation’ and what was it sent to teach me.”
Tips for the Job Interview & Application Process
1. Visualise How You Would Feel If You Don’t Get the Job
“I would say my approach to becoming CEO of both GrainCorp and CCA was different to my previous ‘light under the bushel’ approach. Both I felt were the perfect fit for me – I visualised how I’d feel getting the ‘sorry you missed out’ call and decided I’d be OK if it was something about the better fit of another candidate, but I wouldn’t be OK if it was because I hadn’t done my very best in conveying how I could do the job.”
2. Consider Perceptions & Take Accountability
“As well as thinking hard about the board’s priorities and likely decision criteria I thought hard about the perceptions they would have about me, including the fact that I was a woman. So at GrainCorp, I identified the concern as: ‘she lacks the right operational experience, will get chewed up and spat out in this male dominated industry and really should head down an NED track’.”
“I decided to take accountability, be in control of my own destiny, and to treat these as understandable perceptions, neither right nor wrong but my reality, and to very deliberately go out of my way to address them. Then at least even if I missed out I wouldn’t be regretting that I hadn’t done everything within my power.”
3. Be Prepared With Examples
“I considered swearing and thumping the table but decided that wasn’t quite going to look authentic, so instead I made sure I had several ‘boy she’s a tough operator’ factual case examples nailed for the interviews.”
“Even so, I remember clearly in my GrainCorp interview having that sinking ‘they are not taking you seriously’ feeling – and challenging myself afterwards to stop feeling frustrated and start finding a different angle.”
4. Make Your Point – For Them & For You
I turned this into a letter to the Chairman, outlining what I thought was vitally important for the role and my credentials against those requirements. I have no idea whether it really made a difference but I got the job and with it, a drive to make the most of every opportunity, every day – to always know I’d done everything I possibly could. That motivation continues every day for me – I feel very privileged to hold the role I do, and determined to be the leader I always aspired to work for.
Have you ever struggled with getting praise? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
For more tips for getting a job, check out my post with advice on the job interview.