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Career Advice: Don’t Just Lean In, Speak Up

CAREER Chronicles

There are so many things that I never learned about running head first into my career. I was so ambitious at 22 when I left college, yet so lost. I returned home, got the standard get what you can job and worked it for 2 years until I got my first real career opportunity. During my first job I learned that I needed to be assertive. The real world is racially and sexually bias but more importantly it doesn’t give a damn about anyone.

Too often, we graduate from college with stars in our eyes, ready to take the world by storm and make real life moves. In the process of this, some where along the way I found myself discouraged. My first job WAS NOT my ideal career but I needed money. I was a manager at a major grocery store. 8 months in I found myself in a review being verbally assaulted about my performance (or lack there of), about my relationships with my employees and just my overall attitude about work. This was bullshit. Some where along the way I became complacent. I worked my ass off but my heart wasn’t in the job. It wasn’t my career, it just paid for my life. The store director was known for being a nightmare and a pain in the ass.  He made me redo whole projects that I spent hours on, expected me to work every single holiday, took away days I’d previously gotten approved off,  engaged in gossip with the staff about me but I did nothing about it. I didn’t reach out to HR about this treatment so when I got into this meeting he’s saying things that were inaccurate but there was no paperwork or evidence.  This experience gave me the kick in the ass I needed.

He was a nightmare to work for but he challenged me. I became so on top of my my job he couldn’t fire me. He didn’t want to promote me so he transferred me to a different location where I worked with a take charge kick-ass woman who was not easy on me one bit but always fair. She realized my potential, promoted me shortly after and I moved on to the work for another woman who was great and really valued me. This is a post about how to deal with a bad boss but about being being complacent because you don’t like where you are. To move my agenda forward I had present my best self every day. I had to adjust my outlook, be grateful for what I had in the moment, put my best foot forward and prove people wrong. I was stupid not to go to HR when I felt I was being mistreated. I should have immediately reached out to HR on so many occasions but at 23/ 24 years of age you don’t necessarily know.

As women, we need to not just lean in and speak up in meetings but speak up for ourselves when we’re not being valued. This is your life, your career, your agenda. If you’re not being treated right speak up for yourself. No one is going to hold your hand, the real world isn’t a place where you get a trophy for trying. Speaking up for yourself, especially against a superior, will be uncomfortable. There may be backlash and drama but not speaking up for yourself is worse. Allowing yourself to be treated disrespectfully in the workplace will hurt your self-esteem, character, mind-set and more than likely your work ethic. It may feel un-loyal but honestly why should you be loyal to people who don’t value you? Sometimes you have to be a villain in a chapter of your life to be the heroine of your own story.

Ever since this experience, I’ve been focused on my career path which I now call the Fenique Agenda. I realized that no one is going to move me forward if I didn’t seek it out. And sometimes, even when you do ask for opportunities and seek out growth, managers don’t invest in you. Get a foundation for your career agenda, own that shit and move it forward.


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