By Lisa Gordon, M.S.
Do you have a path and plan for advancement at work? An ever-growing number of women are ready to lead but are struggling to advance in the workplace. The last three years of the pandemic seem to have only widened the advancement gap for women. A shift in how women think about advancing at work could make a difference.
Often, women get stuck at a career “fork in the road” trying to decide between a limited set of options. We think about the most logical step or what makes the most sense based on our circumstances as women. But are we limiting ourselves and holding ourselves back from alternate paths we could take to get to where we want to be? Are we too fixated on believing there is only one right way or set of steps to advance at work? Is your limiting belief holding you back from taking a path different than what you imagined?
In today’s workplace, almost everything is “up for grabs” regarding how we work, when we work and how people advance at work. We live in a very different world and workplace, and people are more willing to think outside what is expected and consider a multitude of possibilities. As women, we must seize upon this great opportunity for change and how we see ourselves at work. Why not think beyond the norm? Why not think beyond the “workplace box” we often struggle to fit in? Why not consider a different range of possibilities?
In the poem “The Road Not Taken,” written in 1915, Robert Frost challenges us to consider the unknown, embrace the different and step outside the norm of what is possible:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The “difference” Frost refers to is taking the “road less traveled,” where we go beyond the norm. We go beyond thinking there is a limited set of options for us. We go beyond thinking there is a specific order in which to do things, achieve or move up the ladder of success at work. Frost opens our minds to what we cannot imagine for ourselves and what we may miss if we do not take the road “less traveled by.” The road less traveled at work is not the routine way to get there nor the same path everyone else has taken to advance at work, yet this less traveled path can make the difference.
Are you standing at a career “fork in the road,” wondering which way to go? Are your choices limited? Is there an alternate route to get there? Are you uniquely equipped to make the case for an alternate path to get there? To answer these questions, you need to “clarify your path and plan for advancement.”
To clarify your path and plan for advancement, you must:
1) Be bold.
2) Be willing.
Is there a clear, step-by-step path to advance into the position you are seeking? If a clear path does not exist, do you dare to create it? In thinking about your approach to advancement, you must be bold in considering the following questions: Is there a way up at your current employer? What is the most direct path to the position you are seeking? Are you equipped? Which skills do you need to sharpen before you journey ahead? Are there alternate routes or positions to consider? How long are you willing to stay at your current employer?
You may be striving to advance in a way that does not seem realistic or a natural path to get there. It may not even be the next logical step in the course you have envisioned for yourself, but this is where the adventure begins. Just because it has not been done before doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered. What if you have identified the road less traveled? Are you willing to embrace the path that is calling you? Are you ready to face opposition or roadblocks along the way? Ultimately, your career path is up to you and what you are willing to do, accept, embrace and pursue. Be bold!
If you boldly decide to chart your own path to advancement, you must be willing to accept the consequences of your decision and do whatever it takes to get there. This means accepting the consequences along with the risks, which may be that your path and plan are not accepted by decision-makers and/or it might make people uncomfortable. Your approach and strategy may “upset the apple cart,” be outside the norm or be too unconventional. Are you willing to “show your worth,” make your case and put in the time to prove your plan can work? Are you ready to do whatever it takes for your plan to succeed?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step, even when we don’t see the whole staircase.” Because you are bold and courageous in deciding your path toward advancement, you may be stepping out in faith in a whole new way to get to where you want to be. You may not see the whole staircase. Whatever the case, your path and plan can only succeed if you take the first step and believe. You know your strengths, skills and abilities better than anyone else, and no one can take these things from you. Step out in faith, knowing that you believe in what is possible for yourself. Belief is what makes the insurmountable surmountable.
To clarify your path and plan for advancement: you must be bold, you must be willing, and you must believe. Believe in your path, plan for advancement, and take the first step. You may boldly go where no one has gone before. The difference is you.