Being different or standing out in a crowd can sometimes be a good thing. That’s been the lesson I’ve learned in my career at Georgia Power.
When I began in Distribution, there were a limited number of supervisory positions. Basically, you had to “do your time.” It was frustrating until I realized I needed to differentiate myself from everyone else to be more marketable. At the time, I was only one of two or three females in that entire organization, but I didn’t want that to be the reason I stood out. So, I deliberately pushed myself to gain other skills to make myself more marketable.
While my peers accepted me for my own merits and skills, management was much more protective. I just wanted to be treated like everyone else, and having supporters along the way certainly helped. It’s a huge confidence boost when someone believes in you. Once someone is willing to take a chance on you, you have to seize the opportunity to demonstrate what you can do.
For that reason, I believe it’s so important to have a mentor. Don’t wait for someone to find you; seek out someone, male or female, who has the values and leadership style that you admire and respect. Having guidance definitely helps. It would have been nice early on to have someone say, “If you aspire to do this, you need to get experience in these areas of the business.” Maybe there are now women, looking at me and others who blazed a trail before me, who are encouraged that thereis an opportunity for women in this company to succeed.
You have to be willing to create your own path as well. You can get into jobs and get comfortable, but taking a chance on something unfamiliar can challenge you. You learn to do new things and can carry those experiences on to other challenges. Every move I’ve made has given me experience for my next position.
You also have to remember that getting what you want is not easy. You have to make a choice about what’s important to you. Decide what “having it all” means for you, and realize you might not be able to do that. Above all, love what you do. Have fun. If you do, you’ll be driven by it and produce results. You’ve got to enjoy what you do or it’s not going to be worth the sacrifices you may have to make.