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IWD2018: fake it till you make it

To celebrate International Women’s Day, all week bluenotes will be guest edited by respected journalist and author Catherine Fox. We’ll be publishing content on women, their experience in the workplace and the future of equality. We hope you enjoy it. 

It’s time to let you in on a secret - I’ve faked it.

Yes, there have been times when I’ve felt like an imposter and I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit it.

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I know many women reading this (whatever your seniority) will understand what I’m saying. There are a multitude of books, articles and studies which all lead to the same path - women tend to downplay their skills. In other words, they feel like they have to fake it till they make it. 

"If you are green, you are growing… If you are ripe, you start to rot.”

Study after study demonstrates the cavernous gap between men and women when it comes to assessing their own competence and ability to do the job. A study at New York’s Columbia University Business School estimates men tend to overestimate their skills by 30 per cent.

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What’s my point? To get women to rise up and believe they are competent, worthy and have much to give.

We must keep fighting for our share of voice, representation and equality in pay or opportunities, but we also must start believing in ourselves and know we’ve got this covered.

Making the leap

People often ask me how I grew my career to become the CEO of McDonalds Australia – their first female CEO - before making the leap to a senior position in banking; two very different industries.

I’ve always put my hand up for new opportunities and faced my fears later. Working out how I was going to deal with those fears of became my strategy to thrive.

Women feel they have to be competent from day one or they’ll be exposed as frauds or imposters but if you want a promotion or are seeking a new job, you have to understand there are going to be many things you don’t know.

It’s about creating an atmosphere of stretch, nervousness and stepping towards your fears rather than suppressing them.

When I left McDonalds, I knew nothing about banking. I had to keep reminding myself this was going to be a huge stretch and I was going to face mountains of fear.

What was the worst thing that could happen? Would it be front page news that I couldn’t make the cut in banking?

The reality is that no one really cares - this wouldn’t have even made the nightly news fodder.

Thinking this way helped me redefine what “failure” looked like.

Magic potion

Do I believe I have the magic potion to help women become successful? Of course not. But I do believe backing myself and being curious has certainly had a positive impact on my career.

There’s a saying that underpins how I shaped my career and one I live by every day: “if are you green you are growing, if you are ripe you start to rot.”  

Feeling too comfortable should be a warning sign that it’s time to shake things up and start being curious.

I’m not necessarily talking about being promoted into the next role. It could simply be learning something that isn’t essential for your day job with the pure intent of learning.  

So let’s press for progress, stay curious, step into our fears, be confident and know we can do this.

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My tips for advancing your career

  • Stay green; be curious. Never let the feeling of “I can do this job with my eyes closed” set in. Always be on the lookout to learn about other parts of your division, business or industry.
  • If you are new to a role, implement a 90 day plan to help you understand your role, industry and strategy for delivering results now and beyond.
  • Act confident, even if you don’t feel it.  Confidence will come.
  • Face your fears and the unknown.  Feeling tension is a healthy sign of personal and professional development.
  • Say yes to opportunities even if you feel it’s out of your comfort zone. 

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Catriona Noble is Managing Director of Retail Distribution at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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