What Works for Women at Work: Answers to Common Questions – Overlooked?
I always get passed over for promotions
It doesn’t seem to matter how hard I work or how competent I am; I always get passed over for promotions. My annual reviews confirm that I’m respected as a good worker, but that doesn’t seem to be enough and men who work half as hard get promoted instead. I’m definitely suffering from Prove-It-Again! bias, but what can I do?
Do you know what the requirements are for promotion? If there are formal guidelines, it’s best to familiarize yourself with them. If these guidelines are more informal, is there a mentor or colleague you can reach out to for guidance? It may be that the expectations are not what you think they are, and you need to focus your attention more on showcasing your management skills or developing business.
Are the expectations unclear or, worse yet, inconsistently applied? If so, well, that’s trickier.
The first thing you can do is to keep real-time records of your achievements. Even if the requirements for promotion are intangible, you can still get a wholistic sense of what work is valued within your organization. Did you bring in business? Did you increase profits? Did you finish a goal in half the expected time? Did you turn around a failing project? Or pitch an idea that brought your organization recognition or business? Start a list (or folder, or spreadsheet) today and come up with a system that requires you to update regularly (reoccurring calendar alerts are great for this).
What do you do with this list? Use it at your next performance review or take it to your supervisor. Say, “These are my contributions over the last year. What else would I need to do or focus on in order to continue to grow within the organization?” Write down the answer you are given and use it as your own set of guidelines for advancement leading up to and during the next review or check-in meeting.
One of the best, but most difficult, ways to combat being undervalued in your organization is to build a valuable and unique specialty, to become the “go-to” person on a topic or series of topics.
Here’s the story of how one professional went about doing this:
“People would send e-mails asking, ‘Has anyone ever encountered this situation?’ If I had, I would answer the question, and if I hadn’t, but I found the question interesting, I might do a little bit of research and then answer the question. I decided, ‘All right, I am going to establish that I’m competent and that I’m reliable and that I’m smart.’ And so, by the end, I had established myself as the subject matter expert in a couple of obscure things, but they were obscure things that came up just often enough that people would be directing people to me. ‘Oh, you want to talk to her. She’s the one who knows about that.’ And so, people from all over the country would be e-mailing or calling, ‘Can you look at this for me? Can you talk to a client for me? Can you help?’ It turned the ‘I-live-to serve’ expectation of women on its head. Like, I’m going to be helpful, but I’m going to be helpful in a specific way that is lucrative to you at this particular moment and career enhancing for me because now this person in Sacramento knows who I am or this person in Chicago knows that I’m a go-to person.”
As this professional explains, building a specialty not only made her allies with anyone who requested help, but also increased her recognition within her organization and throughout her profession. She was associated with not only being a helpful colleague (which on its own can backfire for women gearing up for leadership positions) but also a colleague with expertise that others look up to.