Career Development Working Mother

My Own Ruby Slippers

Have you ever had a house drop on you?  Perhaps not an entire house per se, but something like a figurative cartoon anvil to the head?  Well, I have had the dubious pleasure and it is an experience I will never forget.  It was a time in my life that made clear one very important truth: I needed a pair of Ruby Slippers – stat.

I work in a high stakes, nothing but the best and even that is not good enough industry.  Working this way appeals to my perfectionist nature.  For years I was a Director of Revenue Management, setting prices, predicting trends, and forecasting how the company would perform.  Even when we met budget, we would beat ourselves up.  Even when we beat our competition we’d ask, “How could we have beaten them worse?”

Getting results is something I enjoy doing.  I am creative, like to work on my own and after 25 years in the work force have lost the blush of a kowtowing youngster.  Employers who like an open dialogue and trust me to do my job are favorites.  Employers who want me to agree with them all the time make me uncomfortable.  For several years, I played the game and tried to be a team player: Due to restructuring my office was put in a small closet -heat would have been nice (winters in New England and all,) but I liked the cozy feeling and being closer to the exit.  I did projects others got credit for but gained excellent experience.  I even played the part of a “yes woman.” –’Pay me to NOT think?  Easy money’… or at least that is what I kept saying to myself.

Then something happened that caused me to stop cold.  A contact of mine asked me to speak at a prestigious engagement about a topic I am passionate about.  As a matter of protocol, I asked the leaders in my office if I could have time off to go.  Their response was something close to, “Wow!  That is a huge honor to be asked to do that.  Good for you!  Of course, you are too junior a player to represent us so we are going to take this invitation and give it to someone more important.”  WHAT??!! Crash went my self-esteem.

My immediate thought was, ‘why doesn’t the senior person make his own contacts and get his own invite?’  Then I started to think pro-actively.  If I am not the right person now, I likely never will be.  I decided to leave for a place where I am valued and committed to do the following:

  1. Look down at my feet.  They work well and I can use them to move away from toxic situations.  This required me to stand up and get off another part of my anatomy that had gotten way too comfortable.

  2. Stop looking for a situation to fall from the sky.  Instead build a business from the ground up that I believe in.  (Now the only boss I argue with is me.)

  3. Listen to my critics for content, but do not respond with emotion.  There have been people throughout my career who have pointed out my faults -and they were 100% right to do so.   I took their reasoning under advisement and changed the things they were clearly correct on.  Once able to let go of needing to always be “perfect” I was mentally free to change and evolve.

  4. Believe in myself without other’s limitations.  So many people I meet are frozen in place.  Not because they lack talent to move on to better things, but because they are afraid to try.  Several senior managers said my company would fail, but having a successful business has been the best response.

The lesson learned comes back to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  It was not her ruby slippers that made her special, she was special –she just didn’t believe in herself.  Failure is always possible, but believing in your ability to stand up again gives you the courage to try.  When in doubt, a good mind, a lot of guts, and a nice pair of shoes will get you where you need to go.

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