I promise that this will be my last post relating to Ms. Sandberg’s book, but I can’t help and reflect on her lessons and teachings. Again, I urge all females to pick up her book and read it.
“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder…”(53) This quote, which is the premise for Chapter 2 of Lean In hits home, especially at this point in my career. Sheryl discusses seeking out diversification instead of sticking with what you know best…challenging yourself to accept some risk, if possible, and accept an opportunity to accept a position that you may not excel at, but are willing to learn and grow. She admits that a career shouldn’t be based off a ladder where you can only move up, down on or off, but a jungle gym where you hit obstacles and have to navigate through different channels to get to the top.
In the last page of her chapter, Sheryl talks about the “Tiara Syndrome”: “where women expect that if they keep doing their job well someone will notice them and place a tiara on their head.” She writes that “in a perfect meritocracy, tiaras would be doled out to the deserving, but I have yet to see one floating around an office…taking risks, choosing growth, challenging ourselves and asking for promotions are all important elements of managing a career.”(63)
How does this relate to me today? Well, currently I am at the 10 month mark of my time as an Executive Officer. I just received an exemplary rating on my evaluation and its time to move on…the only problem there is no discussion about where to move…
This is the most frustrating time in a young officer’s career. I am currently at the end of two key development positions and it’s time to move on…but where. There are options, but most of them are limiting, especially because I am not the ONLY officer that needs to move on into Operations or another staff position. I find that often most officers just sit back and wait to find out where they are “slotted,” I instead intend to fight this. There is no reason why as a junior officer you shouldn’t have input into where you want to work next, especially if you have longevity in the Army.
While I was a Platoon leader, I found out that I had been passed up as an Executive Officer by one of my peers for the COIST position. I was livid. I felt that the only reason I had been passed is because I had two months less time deployed as a Platoon Leader than my peers…and that justification was irrelevant to the job title. So what did I do? I formulated my argument, gathered myself and a couple days later walked into the Battalion XO’s office and argued my case. I told him why I thought I Was one of the best, and why I deserved an Executive Officer position, regardless of where I worked or who I worked for. I told him that I know I may be a young Platoon leader and that half of my time was deployed and half in garrison, but I have stood the test as one of the few females to remain in position as Platoon leader throughout my deployed time and I was willing to learn and grow. I argued that I would not let him down if he did give me the opportunity. He told me that my concerns were not falling on deaf ears, that I should set up an Office Call with my Battalion Commander and bring my case to him. He taught me how to be my own best advertiser for my personal career.
Guess what, the Office Call was unnecessary. While passing the Battalion Commander in the hallway he stopped me and said “Malissa, is it necessary for us to have an Office Call about your position.” I said “Sir, I would like the opportunity to explain why I think I am right for the job.” His response…”no need, you’ve got it.” Later he told me that he was impressed that I took the effort to fight for my own career progression.
I intend to do the same this month, and fight for what I believe the right move is for me and this Battalion…where I would serve the Battalion the best and where I think I would be able to grow. I am aware that I assume a great amount of risk by standing my ground on this issue, but when it comes to my future…I want to opportunity to advertise for myself instead of leaving my future in the hands of a third party.
GIRLS IN GREEN…advocate for yourself, promote yourself and dream big.