What To Do When You Are Highly Qualified But Undervalued In The Workplace?
By Eryka T. Johnson
During my recent book launch and signing of Own Your Life at Barnes & Noble, I received a question from a Periscope audience member watching the event live. I wanted to share her question with our women’s leadership community.
What is your advice for women who are undervalued but highly qualified in the workplace?
Thank you for your question. Although a great question, it is a loaded one that I will do my best to un-pack in this response.
You are not alone. Women at all levels of leadership – executive, middle management, and entry level – are faced with the same challenge. We are highly qualified, educated, and capable yet others (mainly our male peers) are preferred and often get both the leadership opportunities and sponsorships that propel them to the top of organizations.
So, what is a girl to do? Below are four things you can do now to gain the opportunities you deserve.
Ask for what you want and give your management an opportunity to deliver.
Go beyond the regular career development discussion each year with your management and keep the lines of communication open. Schedule a one-on-one discussion with your manager communicating the purpose of the meeting ahead of time giving him or her time to prepare. The discussion should focus on next opportunities for you and what you can actively do now to prepare yourself to transition into that role. Please be aware that management is in no position to tell you specific details of what you may be doing next because things change in the business world quickly. Instead, ask about types of roles that are available not only at your current site but possibly in other locations.
Be clear about the negotiables and non-negotiables.
If the role you are interested in today is not available, what other opportunities are you willing to entertain in the meantime? Specifically ask to be considered for special projects, short-term high visibility assignments, and opportunities that will give you visibility with upper management and allow you to continue honing your skills and learn new competencies. Help your manager think beyond the box. Assist him or her in envisioning job opportunities that may be a good fit for you but not necessarily the traditional track.
Determine if your current work environment is a good fit for you.
If you are in an organization that does not support your development nor celebrate your contributions, prepare now to create your own platform.
It’s my belief that within all of us is a solution to a problem. If we can simply provide that solution to those with the greatest need in a clear and concise manner, we have an awesome business model to enter the marketplace as our own boss.
I’m a woman of strong faith and the story of the Proverbs 31 woman inspires me. Here is a woman leader who not only takes cares of her family but participates in her local business community by creating wealth and jobs.
“She considers a field and buys it…” (Prov 31:16)
So, what industry are you naturally gifted in that interests you? Focus there. Build up your skills. Increase your knowledge. Talk to industry leaders and ask for keys to success. Invest in your field of expertise with time, study, and money.
Don’t lose your focus and motivation.
When you are constantly faced with adversity and made to feel that you are less than, it is easy to listen to the “inner chatter” provoked by the negativity around you. Often, it can lead to you doubting your capabilities. Don’t entertain those thoughts. Remember you are a highly qualified Woman Influencer but you cannot control those who fear you, your potential, and your awesome-ness.
Let me know if this helps. Leave a comment below.
Eryka T. Johnson