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The Strategic Plan To Advance Women In Their Careers With JJ DiGeronimo

NWB 79 | Advance Careers

 

Are you working in your career or are you working on your career? There is a whole world of difference between losing yourself in your job and actually working to advance. In this episode, Rosie Zilinskas interviews the award-winning author and former tech industry leader, JJ DiGeronimo, about this familiar struggle that women often face in their professional lives. Working to empower women with tried-and-tested strategies, mindfulness, and energetic practices to increase their impact and influence, JJ imparts the importance of having a strategic plan in order to get above even that first-line manager and further propel yourself to higher roles. How much value can a career coach have in your life? Are you doing really well at your job that you’re doing more work than you can handle? How can you overcome the negative self-talk that is sabotaging your growth? Why is self-worth important to your career? JJ answers these questions and more. So tune in and find out how you can get to that next level and create the life you want.

 

 

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The Strategic Plan To Advance Women In Their Careers With JJ DiGeronimo

I’m talking to JJ DiGeronimo. In this episode, JJ shares her insights on the difference between working in your career versus working on your career. We’re going to talk about the importance of having a strategic plan to advance in your career as well. Let me share a little bit about JJ. She’s an award-winning author and former tech industry leader. JJ DiGeronimo empowers women with tried and tested strategies, mindfulness, and energetic practices to increase their impact and influence. Her work has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and Thrive Global. Through her three books, JJ shares proven keys that help women find more seats at more tables. With that, stay tuned for my conversation with JJ.

 

 

JJ, thank you so much for joining me. How are you?

 

I’m so good. Thank you for this wonderful invitation.

 

You have several books that you have written. In one of our conversations, we talked about the difference between a woman working on her career versus working in her career. It’s so easy for women in the corporate world to get so invested in their day-to-day that their career is on autopilot, which is not a good thing. What is the difference between working in your career versus working on your career?

 

That’s a whole book worth of a difference. This is not something that I knew about. I would say that I had a fabulous career in high-tech. I’m a Computer Information Systems Engineer. I worked a lot in Silicon Valley and in many data centers across the world. In my twenties, I easily moved through my career. When I hit 35, I had one child and another one on the way. I had raised my hand for an opportunity and I was told no.

 

I raised my hand for a second opportunity and I was told no, which was amazing because I had always moved through pretty easily and had great sponsors. I wasn’t in the same company my whole career. What I recognized was that a lot of people in my current company only knew me in the role that I was in and not all of my technical, partnering, and product management background. I was in a job that was more customer-facing, which I loved, but I want to get back to the technical.

 

I couldn’t believe it. I thought everyone knew me and knew my experience. When I started asking people, “What do you think my background is or why don’t you think I’m a good fit?” It was mind-blowing. Many women don’t realize that people see you where you’re at that moment, not where you’ve been in the last 10 years or 20 years. You need a very strategic plan.

“So many women don't realize that people see you exactly where you are at that moment, not where you have been the last 10 years.” – JJ DiGeronimo Click To Tweet

If you’ve got to know me, you need a strategic plan to get from a no to a yes, but you need a strategic plan after the age of 35 to get to that next level in your career. As many of us know, there are a ton of women at first-line managers, but not a ton of women managing managers, VP, SVP, or even the CXO. Not that all women aspire to be there, but you have to have a plan if you want to get above that first-line manager.

 

I agree with that and I can relate because I didn’t advocate for myself. I didn’t have any advocates or sponsors. I found myself at 40 and I had gone through a bad divorce. I halted pursuing different opportunities in my career until that whole thing was done. I found that I was 40 and I’m still an individual contributor. I’m like, “What is going on?” I was a high performer, volunteering, and doing all the projects.

 

It wasn’t until I said something that things started happening for me. A few months after that, I got into management. I landed a position and all that stuff, then I got smart because I started doing what you described which is I had a plan. I started talking to anybody and everybody that would listen to me. I say that I was advertising the fact that I was interested in moving up the corporate ladder. It’s almost like campaigning for yourself. Is that your same experience? How did you get from that no to that yes?

 

I started first researching all the people that had the role. I wanted to lead cloud computing. This is way back in 2011 and 2012. I started researching everyone who was already in the role and what their career path looked like because what I realized was that I needed to be relevant based on where I wanted to have an impact next.

 

I made a list of things I could do and couldn’t do. I wasn’t going to get a PhD, but I could maybe write a presentation, write some articles, or get some customers to beta test some products. I started figuring this out. The people who are in roles I aspire to be in, these are the things that they talked about or wrote about or things that they’ve done.

 

One was like, where do I need to create relevance? Two, I needed executive exposure in a different way than I was receiving it. That was important. How was I going to get in rooms? How was I going to get people with me on different calls or different projects so they could see me work? Three, I needed to have a talk track. I needed to be concise and on what I wanted, so I hired a career coach to talk me through the steps.

 

You don’t want to be figuring out what you need to say when you’re in that elevator, walking down that hall, going into that meeting, or at a cocktail hour and people are like, “What are you up to?” I could talk about this topic forever because most senior leaders do not know how to talk to women. Often, they say to women, “How are you doing?” They talk about travel, your kids, or your husband’s work. You need to be able to manage that talk track as you were saying.

 

I agree with that. The process of documenting their accomplishments is helpful because then you can transfer those accomplishments into stories. That’s a little bit of knowing those stories so that you can easily talk to somebody and highlight your accomplishments in a story that’s more relatable to people other than, “I increase sales 25%,” or something like that. When you say you hired a coach to do the talk track, what specifically did you work on that you became good at?

 

At that point, the coach helped me figure out how I was going to position what I wanted to do next, in the sense of “I’m looking to move into the cloud team. Here are some of the projects that I’m working on,” and leave the nibbles. I pulled a book off because that was way back in 2010. 2016 is when I wrote, Accelerate Your Impact. It’s basically a book on how to get promoted, but I didn’t want to say that because a lot of companies don’t want to promise promotions to people.

 

NWB 79 | Advance Careers
Accelerate Your Impact: Action-Based Strategies to Pave Your Professional Path

I created a very specific chart because, in my engineering mind, I realized you have to have specific metrics. I would ask women, “Think about all the projects that you’re in,” because a lot of women have multiple projects but are working the same exact role in all the projects. A lot of women have to get outside of that like, “I always do this.”

 

I talked about does the projects you’re working on align with where you want to stay or where you want to have an impact next. How does it impact the company? Most people and most women don’t have a direct sales impact. Does it increase the brand? Does it streamline operations? Does it impact the customer? Does it impact the partner? Do you handle version control? Whatever you do, find a metric.

 

Three is what is the benefit to the company or the customer? The project you’re working on specifically, what is the benefit of that? Why the heck are you working on it? What is your profit and loss responsibility? That’s a huge reason women don’t get promoted. They say they don’t have experience, which is bull crap. When I’m in a big room speaking at women’s events, I’m like, “How many of you manage your household income?” How many hands go up? 90% of them.

 

Every woman has P&L experience, but we don’t know how to document it. P&L experience is a huge part of getting a bigger role. I go on and talk about the growth opportunity, stretch opportunity, headcount, and timelines. I’ve been very specific. If you want to get to that next level, working on your career in addition to working in your career is instrumental.

 

To me, working on your career is taking an hour or two a month to figure out where you are and where you want to go. As you said, understanding what the prior people that had the job that you want have. The way I tell people to do it is if they want to know what they’re good at and what they can improve upon, call 3 or 5 of your peers and say, “Can you tell me what I do well and what I can do better?”

 

You don’t focus on the stuff that you’re already doing well because you’re already doing it well. What you can do better are your development opportunities. It’s all in the conversation that you have with your peers or with your boss to figure out what you need to develop in order to get to that next job, as long as it’s relevant to that next position.

 

You have to be a little careful because a lot of times if you’re a high achiever or you develop great value, your boss doesn’t want you to go to another job. Let’s be honest about that. One of the reasons I didn’t have any sponsorship, which we talked about earlier, is because the people I thought I was going to get sponsorship from did not want me to get promoted and did not want me to change jobs.

 

They wanted to keep me exactly where I was at. Rightfully so, I was doing a great job, but that wasn’t benefiting me. It wasn’t until I switched teams, essentially P&L groups, that I got that leadership leader of leaders, and then I got invited to come back to my previous group and lead at a different level. They didn’t do it for me. They didn’t promote me in that way. It’s interesting because I had to go outside of my team to get that sponsorship, which took me about a year to do it. Let’s be realistic. This is not something like I have to leave my job, and now you’re going to get it in three months. It’s almost impossible, especially if you’re going for a strategic next step.

 

I spoke to a woman not too long ago, where she was good at her job and she wasn’t necessarily intending to be promoted at that point. Because she was so good, they kept giving her more work, to the point where she broke down and said, “I’m good at my job and now I’m so stressed out because I have so much work when the other people don’t have nearly as much work because you don’t give it to them because they’re not as good.” It’s counterintuitive but at the same time, sometimes people do get penalized for being too good. As you said, “I don’t want to lose you because you do a great job, and I’m being selfish when I want to keep you in that same position.”

 

Here’s a great trick for somebody who gets overworked. I had a boss that I only saw every other week because I lived in Ohio. My office was in Palo Alto, which is right outside San Francisco. Every time I was there, I would come back with a list longer than my arm. I realized I would be doing these projects late at night and sending it over. I wouldn’t get all the responses all the time. I was like, “I got to get smarter about this. “

 

On my board in my office, I kept every single project he had asked me to do. When he would slide into my office like, “Can you do this?” I would say, “That sounds super interesting. Tell me a little bit more about that. Why does it matter? What is the benefit to the customer?” I’m trying to get him talking so I can get a better idea. I said, “That sounds great. I can do that but I’m going to have to reorganize what I’m already working on because if that needs to be the top priority, then I have to push some of these other projects down.”

 

The first time, he took his little reader glasses and he was looking at everything. He’s like, “What is this?” He forgot some of the projects he gave me. He couldn’t even remember he gave them to me. I’m working on projects that he has already forgotten about. He’s a lovely man. I enjoyed working for him but I had to manage upward. If you’re getting a ton of projects, you need to have a family life, self-care, and boundaries.

 

Create a list of everything you’re working on and push that back on the manager who’s getting paid more, has more exposure than you, and gets more accolades. Push it back on them to make the tough decisions. What I find a lot of times is that leaders are not necessarily leaders in a lot of organizations. They get promoted for various reasons, but leaders are there to make tough decisions and prioritize what to work on. Working on everything is not leadership. That’s not leadership. If you’re under someone who expects so much and you can’t get stuff off your plate, you got to get out underneath that.

 

NWB 79 | Advance Careers
Advance Careers: Leaders are not necessarily leaders in a lot of organizations. They get promoted for various reasons, but leaders are there to make tough decisions and really prioritize what to be working on.

 

Forgetting that you assigned especially big-ticket projects to your teammates is questionable.

 

Hijack moves fast. It’s super fast-paced and it’s like the next day and the next day, it seems like. Sometimes the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing in so many ways. We’re in so many different meetings together. It’s crazy. It is an easy way to get things off your plate. It’s having them prioritize other things that can move down if they keep asking every week for something else. It’s amazing because how you would prioritize it is different from how they prioritize it. It gives you permission to take some time off and get out of there.

 

Nowadays because we’re so virtual, it would be a good idea for people to write them all down and share the screen. That’s a different way of doing the same thing that you did if you’re in the office because having a visual is a great idea. I love that. Let’s talk a little bit about the self-talk overrides. I know you and I can help a lot of women but if the self-talk is not open to that growth mindset, it’s going to override everything we say. What do you do or say to someone who has that negative self-talk, whether they’re limiting beliefs or stories or however you want to refer to it, and you can’t think to get through?

 

We all have that. We all have stories. We are all telling ourselves we can’t and we shouldn’t. I’ve only met a handful of women in my life who have said, “I don’t have that.” I’m not even sure if I believe it, but I give them the grace to be like, “Good for you. Keep going. Knock yourself out,” because we need more women in more tables. If you don’t have it, you need it, get going.” Most of us have the self-talk that keeps us on the sidelines and holds us back.

 

I’m now talking to tens of thousands of women all over the world. It’s amazing how many women come up to me after I talk about these different strategies and they were like, “I was tapped on the shoulder to get promoted and I told them I wasn’t ready,” or “I was asked to be on this board and I declined the position.” In fact, I started that second book with TedX inviting 10 men and 10 women. Nine men said yes and two women said yes at the first TedX.

 

They were well-researched and hand-selected, and the women still didn’t say yes. I feel like this self-talk is in all of us. We don’t want to let people down. We want to be certain we’re going to deliver at 2,000% or 120%. Whatever you feel comfortable with. A lot of times, we’re afraid to show that we don’t know exactly what we’re doing. All those are things that I’ve gone through personally and that’s how I know it so intimately.

 

Through the last fifteen years of sharing these books with women in business, the biggest challenge for women is their inner voice. As soon as you can recognize your inner voice, which took me months of mindfulness training, once you can be in the present moment and listen to what you say to yourself on a regular basis, that is the opportunity to compartmentalize or say, “I got this or let me see what I can do,” as Jen Sincero says.

 

I feel like it’s one of those things that if you don’t know what we’re talking about, that’s okay because I used to be there too. At some point in your life, you realize, “I need to do things differently or I need to see why I’m making the decisions I’m making,” whether it’s inside or outside of work. Many times, it’s based on the stories that were developed decades ago.

 

They were developed as kids more than likely. They are messages that you picked up in your life that you didn’t even realize are still ruling your adult life. You brought up a good point. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, that is huge because the minute you become aware of that little voice in your head that is telling you, “You’re overweight or you can’t do it,” or whatever that message is. Those are thoughts that aren’t necessarily you. It’s hard to separate that voice from who you are.

 

It’s hard to explain if you haven’t had any awareness of it. I don’t believe those five women that don’t have a self-talk either. We all have that conversation, but the awareness is first. Once you are aware that you’re being mean to yourself or you’re not supporting yourself the way your parents would support a child or another spouse, that’s when you can make the change when you are aware of that talk. You can understand what is going on or the fact that it’s going on, then you can try to start changing it. I know you have a third book and it’s called Seeking. I love the name of that book. The one thing that I know you have in your book is stepping into your whispers. Let’s talk about that.

 

The third book is interesting because the first two books are very much about how to get where you want to go with your career and very specific steps no matter where you are to make it happen. Seeking is a whole different book. Seeking is when you have achieved some amazing accolades, titles, salaries, bonuses, or awards and starting to recognize that the things you’ve been striving for your whole life are not checking the box like you thought they would. Maybe you’re so overworked and depleted that you don’t know what you should do next. Is this really the life you want?

 

NWB 79 | Advance Careers
Seeking: 74 Key Findings to Raise Your Energy, Sidestep Your Self-Doubts, and Align with Your Life’s Work (Career Strategies for Women)

Seeking is based on my story after doing all these things and having all these things that I thought were going to bring me such joy, but leaving me feeling like, what is going on? Who am I? Is this what I really wanted? Am I happy? All these things kept coming up for me. I can’t say that I was thinking of this when I was going through all of it, but most of my books are a reflection of all the things I’ve learned from all the people who have crossed my path during those challenging times.

 

Seeking was my journey of figuring out who I was when you take away the titles, salaries, accolades, or recognition. It’s like, who are you really? What do you stand for? What work are you supposed to be doing down here on the planet? I’m not sure when I came out of the womb that I was like, “I’m going to be a cloud computing person.”

 

I visited about 50 different energy practitioners, read a gazillion books, went to a couple of retreats, and started hosting retreats. Seeking is the recipe for women who may be feeling like that. How do they dig through their stories? How do they understand their decision-making? How do they move from that ego energy to that soul energy? How do they sidestep perfection? How do they hear those whispers?

 

That’s what we’re trying to get to. Once you peel back all those layers, you can hear your own soul’s voice that guides you on things to lean into. All of those layers of working through that stuff give you a little bit more permission to lean in. It is the book that’s the bridge book. It allows you to work both from the masculine energy and feminine energy and work towards something that means something to you.

 

Part of that is defining your self-worth. Self-worth is one of those things that is very personal and it means different things to different people. When we’re talking about women in the corporate world, women need to be able to articulate their self-worth. As you said, you can’t just go into your manager’s office without the preparation of how to show your value like how you contribute. What does self-worth mean to you? When you think of your career, when did the self-worth topic come into play for you?

 

First, you do need to know your accomplishments. You need to have metrics because as most of us know, women use twice as many words on the resume but only a third of the detail is men. We need to be able to document metrics, accomplishments, and anything that shows how we pulled something over the finish line and how we contributed to something at the step for which we are responsible. Many of us tie our self-worth to those accomplishments.

 

When I left my tech career to write my second book and do more work with women, I didn’t realize how much my self-worth was tied to my job, my title, my salary, and even my last trip. I didn’t realize it for months after I left. I even had to have a conversation with my husband because when I went out on my own, I was like, “I’m used to having all of this feedback all the time. Now that I’m working at home, I need more from you.”

 

What I got from work, I wasn’t getting from being an entrepreneur. I need to talk through things. I needed this. I needed to find a women’s business group. I needed a coach because I needed to round out the people around me that I walked away from when I left my job. That took a long time. It’s probably too long that my energy plunged low. I was probably in depression at some level because I ripped away all the things that defined who I was.

 

I’ve been working a little bit less than ten years to define in myself that it’s not what I produce but more about the energy I share, how I show up, and how I’m moving through the world. It took a lot of seeking because I had to dig through everything on the inside, every story, every challenge, and everything that I like to find myself by. I had to work through all of that to create more clarity and honestly, acceptance of who I am as is.

 

I love it. Acceptance of who you are as is. That’s easier said than done but it’s possible. A lot of women have to do that work. For most women, when you say you have to work on yourself, they’re like, “What do you mean?” I must have been like 25 or 26 years old and one of my friends is very intuitive. She’s always working on herself. She’s like, “You got to do the work, Rosie.” I was like, “What work are you talking about?” I have no clue what she was talking about. I was in my mid-20s at the time.

 

Now, we talk all the time like, “I’m doing the work, Polly.” It’s very interesting. I know fear and self-doubt are part of that conversation. What did you do when you were still in the tech world when you came across that fear and self-doubt? It’s like those women in the TedX that were like, “I’m not ready?” What did you do when you came across fear and self-doubt?

 

I didn’t know this then but I do now when I do all this research about women. I didn’t know that I had high self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is having a vision for where you want to go and believing you can achieve it. Most of us have heard of this at one point or another. Self-efficacy can be grown. You build it up over time. Self-efficacy happens when you step in before you’re 100% ready.

“Self-efficacy happens when you step in before you're 100% ready.” – JJ DiGeronimo Click To Tweet

If you’re jumping in 50%, 60%, or 70%, it’s a great thing because you’re building yourself efficacy. Self-efficacy gives you that momentum and belief that you’ll be able to figure it out. The National Center for Women & Information Technology did a huge study on STEM women. They said that most STEM women have such a high self-efficacy because they work in such a demanding career that changes all the time. They’re thrown in the hot pot all the time.

 

When I was in the tech career, I had a ton of fear of not delivering and not showing up. I often tried to over-prepare but I often would tell myself, “JJ, you will figure this out. You will figure out someone who can help you figure it out. You will do this.” It’s that reassurance because I had figured so much out so many times when I never thought I could do it. I leaned on those experiences to push myself through the enormous amount of fear that I had.

 

I noticed in the wall behind you that you have, “Progress over perfection,” and that’s perfect. I remember working on projects thinking, “How the heck am I going to do this?” To me, it’s a matter of sitting there, analyzing, and starting to write things down. In the end, I always had this kick-ass, whatever it was that I was doing. I’m like, “That’s pretty good.” At the very beginning, you’re like, “I don’t even know where to start.”

 

It’s that little baby steps. Get a piece of the project done here and there. I’m like you as well, very motivated all the time. It’s almost like being too motivated when you can’t turn it off. You can’t sit and smell the roses. That’s also not good. I think it’s a matter of taking those baby steps and getting a little bit of progress because nobody expects perfection. Perfection is overrated. There’s a lot of conversation about overcoming perfectionism and stuff like that with women. You have had several seasons in your career. Do you recall the season that was your most favorite and fulfilling out of your tech career?

 

I have many amazing moments. I started a women’s group in 2008 because I was trying to figure out how to have it all, like how to have young kids and how to have this demanding career. I started locally with a handful of women. It continued to grow, so much so that my company in Palo Alto asked me to start their women’s group. One of my highlights was starting that women’s group back in 2008 or 2009 for tech, and engaging not only the women of the company but also our customers.

 

We used to have these amazing events. It gave me a glimpse of what is possible. If you build it, other things will come your way. I feel like those two groups were the basis of my first book. I didn’t market my first book at all. I didn’t market it one bit because I didn’t want my company to think I wasn’t taking my job seriously. People heard about it. The other tech companies would invite me in. Little by little, that took off the side of my desk. On the cover of the book Seeking, you can see this. It was supposed to be called “Off the Side of Her Desk” because so many women are doing these amazing things off the side of their desks. A lot of women didn’t resonate with it because we did all these title tests and all this.

 

The idea was a lot of women are doing amazing things off the side of their desks, which may never become the main thing, which is okay because it fills your bucket up, which these things did. It gave me so much energy that I was doing amazing work in my day job. The side gig of bringing these women together was so fulfilling. It was just a couple of hours a week. It motivated and turned the wheel on so many other things in my life.

 

I resonate with that so much because I did the same thing myself. I was talking to a woman at work. I asked her, “When you think about your career, what are your dreams?” She’s like, “To be a cook and have a food truck.” That came out of left field. She’s like, “I know that’s never going to happen.” I was like, “Why can’t it happen?”

 

There’s the voice.

 

Maybe try to do it on the weekend because it brought her so much joy. I’m like, “You can do it. At the very least, don’t discount it.” She was still young, probably mid-30s. You still have a whole lot of life. You never know. You can do your most favorite thing, make money, and have fun. That’s the best of both worlds.

 

First of all, there’s the voice. She tells you what she wants, and then she tells you why it’s not going to work. That happens all the time, and these women sit on the sidelines for a long time. That’s one thing. A woman in tech is very similar. She loved juicing and so she started bringing juices in. The leader there was like, “I want someone to juice for me.” They got the office to buy all the fresh organic vegetables and she would juice for the whole team on Wednesdays from 8:00 to 9:00.

 

It was fine because it motivated the whole team. It started off with great energy, then she cleaned it up and she went back to her desk for her day job. It was such a motivator. I feel like you don’t even know how it’s going to manifest. The greatest thing that I learned through all of this is you shouldn’t worry about the how. You need to lean into what is calling you, what delights you, or what fills your bucket and let it go.

 

I would have never thought when I brought that first women’s group in 2008 that I would have three books by 2023. I would have never believed it, and the retreat center that I wasn’t even planning for. You don’t have to worry about the how. Lean into what is calling you even if it’s a few hours a month off the side of your desk.

 

One of the things that people don’t do because it might be too woo-woo is putting onto the universe what you want. Be intentional about it and think about it. The universe will always typically deliver but you have to be brave enough to vocalize it, verbalize it, and put it out there. As you said, don’t worry about the how. I love that.

 

Don’t worry about the how, but do something because the universe is waiting for you to lean in. You can be lying in bed being like, “I want a food truck.” If you’re not calling around looking for a food truck or if not researching other food trucks or not doing something to show the universe that you’re serious about it, it’s waiting for you to make small moves. Google two hours on the weekends. Go to some food trucks. Look at how they do their signage, take some pictures, and start to build a portfolio. You need to lean into what is calling you so the universe knows you are serious.

 

That’s awesome. I love it. JJ, when you started in tech, did you graduate with your degree in tech?

 

I did.

 

You went into the tech industry right away when that’s very male-dominated.

 

Yes.

 

What were some of the things that you noticed men would do that women wouldn’t do? We talked about a couple of things like not applying for jobs and things like that. A better question is, would you say men have the same internal talk as women do about not being good enough, self-doubt, and things like that? I’m curious to see what you found.

 

I spoke to Pauline. She and her partner wrote about imposter syndrome. I called her when I was writing my second book. I asked her that question because I read a ton of her studies for a while. It was the imposter phenomenon and now it’s imposter syndrome. They said it is equal among men and women, but women pay a lot more attention to it.

 

We’re taught to do so. If you go back to a long time ago or if you’ve ever watched the video from Always Maxi Pads, they talk about women going through a change in life and how they hold back. They used to be so bold in their sports, then they pulled back. It’s an amazing video. That was out in 2011 or 2012. It’s called Throw Like a Boy or Throw Like a Girl or something.

 

It’s an amazing video but it shows how women are pulling back at such an early age and throwing like a girl. That’s the video, Throw Like a Girl, Always Maxi Pad. It’s a phenomenal video but, I feel like when the when the entire group is primarily one gender, it’s hard for them to know what it’s like to be the other gender. I feel like the other gender blends into that gender because you have to survive. I wouldn’t say survive, but you have to achieve your own goals in a lot of ways.

“When the entire group is primarily one gender, it's hard for them to know what it's like to be the other gender and they eventually blend to survive.” – JJ DiGeronimo Click To Tweet

That’s what I was wondering too. Did you start applying for opportunities, jobs, and things like that because your peers who were mostly male were doing it and you were absorbing them, or was that more innate from you personally?

 

In my twenties, I was more tapped on the shoulder or I moved along. I didn’t even think to apply in my twenties because I didn’t have a coach and my parents. I didn’t have guidance at all, but it was fine. In my 30s is when I was like, “I want to get to this,” or I had been in a certain position that I changed jobs and I was trying to get back up. I went down, then back to the lateral moves. I feel like in my 30s I had a lot more wits about me in regard to my career, but men are getting promoted much quicker than I was.

 

It’s interesting because I read a study that girls’ confidence peaks at age nine. Separately, an expert psychiatrist was saying that women generally start working on their confidence and they pick it back up again in their mid-30s when they become smart enough and think, “I need more. I need to make more money.” It’s interesting that you said that because that correlates with what I had heard as well.

 

I was first generation Mexican-American. When I started high school, my parents had no idea what credit in high school was. I had to figure all that out by myself. I credit the high school counselor who recognized that I had good grades. They said, “You could go to the college preparatory or the vocation,” which is beauty schools, essentially. I was like, “Okay.”

 

Had it not been for that one guidance counselor in high school who put me in the college prep and they’re like, “You have to go to college.” I’m like, “Okay.” I had no idea what was going on when I was in high school. That’s part of why my career lags because, like you, I didn’t have mentors. I didn’t even know if there was anything like personal development out there.

 

I am very grateful that we have people like yourself who are out there advocating for women and have these amazing books that you can reference to figure out how you can continue to advance in your career. One last question that I have for you, do you have maybe one tip that you can provide women in the corporate world, especially those younger women who are trying to advance in their careers, on how they can take action in their careers?

 

One of the things I would do earlier is I would send myself an email every Friday with the things that I touched, the things that I’m proud of, and the things that I had accomplishments around. What I didn’t realize early on is when you do those 360 reviews, write self-assessments, or do some leadership group, which you may have the opportunity to do, you need data. If I could tell my younger professional self, I would say, “Send yourself an email every Friday with 3 to 5 bullet points of things you’ve moved the needle on, things you’re proud of, or things that you’ve read or been participating in, and store it in a file.

 

I went back to that material so many times in my career when I was trying to rewrite my bio, trying to do a 360 review, or trying to get promoted for something. I need to put a list of accomplishments together. That weekly email to yourself will allow you to have a categorization of all the things that you touch. Even going back and reading them once in a while is wildly powerful.

 

I love that. To your point, sometimes I pull something and I’m like, “That’s good. I wrote that and I completely forgot about it.” That is a great suggestion because, by the time you write that performance review at the end of the year, you already forgot what you did the prior ten months. That’s a fantastic tip. JJ, any final words that you might have for these women in corporate who are trying to advance in their careers?

 

I feel like someone must be wanting to hear this, but don’t get too caught up on how other women treat you. Everybody is struggling internally with what they’re trying to accomplish. If you get somebody who’s a guy or a gal who is not very nice to you or constantly trying to ding you, that’s more about their journey and how unsettled they feel.

 

Try to rise above the negative energy you might encounter or the energy that’s not supportive because, around the next corner, you’ll find somebody. Hiring coaches like yourself and other people is such an instrumental self-investment. It means you value yourself. If you’re in an environment where you feel like you can’t get a leg up, you need someone on your team to help you figure out the path. Invest in yourself and don’t get stuck in negative energy.

 

The other thing is you never know what the other person is going through. They could be having a family illness or an illness themselves, then they’re just crabby and you take it personally. I like that tip. JJ, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. You gave us a lot of good information. Please make sure that you pick up JJ’s books. All of her contact information is going to be on the episode website. JJ, thank you so much for your time.

 

Thank you.

 

 

I loved my conversation with JJ. She says that you have to be intentional with your career. There’s a difference between working on your career versus working in your career. The other thing that we talked about that is so true for so many of us is that negative self-talk. Sometimes we’re mean to ourselves. We have to have a little bit more love and compassion with how we talk to ourselves. The other piece of that is awareness is the biggest thing.

 

When you catch yourself speaking to yourself in a nasty way, try to catch yourself and change the conversation into a positive way. JJ provided us with an awesome tip. She says, “At the end of every work week, write down a list of all of your accomplishments and email that list to yourself. Preferably, add metrics to that list.”

 

At the end of the year, when you go write your performance review, you can reference all those emails that you sent yourself. Trust me when I tell you when you go to write your performance appraisal at the end of the year, you’re not going to remember what you did at the beginning or even in the middle of the year. It’s always good to have that information documented. Aside from that, all of that information can easily be handed over to a professional resume writer so they can write an awesome resume showing all of your accomplishments.

 

All of JJ’s contact information is going to be on the episode website. By the way, if you have not taken my quiz on how you may be sabotaging your career, please go ahead and take the quiz because if you don’t know how you are sabotaging your career, then you can’t fix it. The link to the quiz is also going to be on the episode website. With that, remember to be brave, be bold, and take action.

 

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About JJ DiGeronimo

NWB 79 | Advance CareersAward-winning author and former tech industry leader JJ DiGeronimo empowers women with tried-and-tested strategies, mindfulness, and energetic practices to increase their impact and influence. Her work has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Thrive Global. Through her three books, keynotes, and popular podcasts, Career Strategies for Women that Work and Together WE Seek, JJ shares proven key findings that help women gain more seats at more tables. Discover her work at www.JJDiGeronimo.com or inside her community, TogetherWeSeek.Online