Who Taught You To Be Confident?

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If you’ve read my last few posts,  you may have noticed that I am a few months in with a new employer. As I’m sure you know, there are definitely challenges and growing pains that come along with any major transition. Mine has not been easy but I’m making it work.

My new role involves being a senior team member with the responsibility of helping to develop an up and coming team.  One of the team members is a young woman; smart, personable. She was very welcoming of me to the team and she frequently expressed her gratitude for “having someone she could learn and grow from.”  Over the last few months, we have developed an informal, but close mentoring relationship where I not only coach her through specific job tasks, but her career overall. This excites me! I have struggled to find my path in the Corporate world, wondering if there is a way for my double consciousness to intersect seamlessly. I know now that whatever I end up doing will involve coaching and mentoring young Professional women.

We have spent a great deal of time together, mostly over lunches or even text  messages.   Over the course of many conversations with her, I found that her biggest obstacle is self confidence. Shortly after this realization,  it occurred to me that she reminded me of myself 10 years ago. I then pondered on how many people I’ve met, women especially who still struggle with understanding their value and place in Corporate America.

We spend so much time and money educating young minds on technical knowledge  and no time on the emotional and psychological mindsets required to succeed in this crazy world. When I think back to the preparation I received for Corporate America,  I remember Math, Accounting, Finance, Supply Chain, etc. Don’t misunderstand me; these are necessary. Without those key words on my resume, the doors would never have been opened to me.

But what about the less tangible skills around dealing with harsh criticism from an insatiable organization?

What about learning how to navigate a severely “matrixed” organization, where it’s impossible to know who your true boss actually is? One where you really do have to please everyone to succeed?

What about maintaining composure and feigning motivation when you keep bumping against that glass ceiling, and have been passed over time and time again for promotions you worked for?

We hear that women make $0.78 to a man’s dollar.  What we never hear is how young people should prepare for that and not have their self esteem shattered by it.

What about staying “professional” when your male counterpart adds a few extra levels of bass in his voice, as he obnoxiously interrupts you in a meeting in front of your entire department,  to steal your game – changing idea, and then eventually win an Excellence Award for it? Oh, and by the way, you had mentioned the idea to him and he brushed it off as “completely infeasible and way off mark”?

I could go on and on…

Are we just assuming that young people, barely out of school are inherently equipped to deal with this? That they know innately to keep their heads up and not cower even when that is the most natural reaction? Clearly not, or I wouldn’t have come across so many like the young lady I described above. Really smart, knows her stuff, but steadily receiving a daily dose of confidence – eroding, microagressive feedback from bosses, coworkers and the system in general.

I think this is a huge miss. I think courses targeted towards building your self esteem should be incorporated squarely into the curriculum of any B school or any Professional academic institution for that matter.  I would argue that possessing the ability to successfully navigate the Corporate American environment, having the stomach and mind for it, may even be more valuable than having the “head”, the technical expertise for it .

I know I cannot effect a massive overhaul of anyone’s curriculum overnight (or maybe ever). But I do plan to continue to invest my time and resources into filling that void, by mentoring young women who come my way, making sure they never lose sight of their true value. And that’s how this dual citizen plans to make a lasting contribution in both worlds.

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