Are you feeling stuck in your career? What if you could break through the barriers that are holding you back? Join me as I sit down with Ellen Taaffe, acclaimed author of The Mirror Door Break Through the Hidden Barrier That Locks Successful Women in Place, to explore insightful strategies for self-promotion and career advancement.
Ellen, a career switcher herself who transitioned from PepsiCo to Royal Caribbean, provides valuable insights about overcoming self-doubt, promoting career growth, and making successful pivots. We unpack the concept of FOMO in a career context - the fear of missing out versus FOMU, the fear of messing up, and how these can impact your career decisions. Always remember, job postings are more wishlists than stringent checklists. Ellen offers practical advice on how to shatter mental barriers and embrace the fear of messing up.
In our enlightening conversation, we explore five strategies for mid-career success. Are you tirelessly working to get things done or patiently waiting to be noticed? Do you prepare for perfection or are you eager to please? Ellen's insights on these strategies and on how to set boundaries, address conflict, and manage different parts of your identity in the workplace are game-changers. If you're in the midst of a career transition, you'll particularly appreciate her advice on having courage before confidence. Join us for this empowering discussion that could be the catalyst you need for your career breakthrough.
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Don't toot your own horn. No one likes a braggart. Play nicely with everyone. Let your work speak for itself. You probably heard these things from your parents, grandparents and family members growing up and, let's acknowledge, they meant well and on many levels, it's excellent advice. However, when advancing your career, those same thoughts and beliefs may be holding you back from getting you where you want to be. Now. I'm not advocating you go into your next meeting riding the corporate bulldozer ready to run everyone over, but I do suggest that you stay and listen to my conversation today with Ellen Taff, the author of the Mirror Door Breakthrough the Hidden Barrier that locks successful women in place. Ellen and I talk about how she navigated a career pivot after spending 21 years at PepsiCo to a job at Royal Caribbean. We also talk about how the Mirror Door is holding you back from fully believing in yourself, the difference between FOMO, the fear of missing out and FOMO the fear of messing up along with five strategies that are either helping or hindering your career. Let's get started. My guest today is Ellen Taff. Ellen is a clinical associate professor at the Kellogg School of Management, where she teaches personal leadership insights and is the director of women's leadership programming. Ellen designs and delivers the Kellogg Women's Leadership Seminar Series, the signature program for female students across Kellogg's full-time, evening and weekend and executive MBA programs. Ellen spent 25 years with Fortune 500 companies, holding the top brand management post at divisions of PepsiCo, royal Caribbean and the Whirlpool Corporation. We're here with us today to talk to us about how we can all benefit from learning how to self-promote more strategically and intentionally as we navigate and build our mid-career GPS. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Ellen Taff.Speaker 2:
Hello, I'm Ellen Taff and I am the award-winning author of the Mirror Door Breakthrough the Hidden Barrier that Locks Successful Women in Place.Speaker 1:
Ellen, I love the title of your book and I love what's inside of it, so we're going to spend some time talking about that today. But before we get into all of that, I'd love for you to share with us a little bit about what was your mid-career moment, that moment when you found yourself pivoting careers or something that changed, that really set you up for the rest of your career.Speaker 2:
So there are many things I could go to, but I will say, after being at one company, pepsico, for 21 years and I was in different divisions I decided to leave and to pivot into a whole different industry, moving to Royal Caribbean. So I went from developing products like chips and granola bars to design a state room and get into all different aspects of brand management and marketing. So it was a major move for me and I think it helped me eventually get on boards by having being able to move into different industries with what I already had learned. It helped me to learn a whole different aspect of, you know, build my capabilities that I did not have where I was, and it was a big. It was a physical move too. We relocated from the Chicago area to South Florida.Speaker 1:
Absolutely. That's a huge move. What would you say was the one thing that helped you successfully pivot from your role at PepsiCo into that role at Royal Caribbean?Speaker 2:
Well, the industry was so different but I think the things that I loved, like consumer insights, brand strategy, consumer positioning, were all strengths that I brought to it. I would also say my boss really endorsed me because I was an industry outsider and he had early on had a career at Nestle so he sort of knew the grounding that I would have from having worked in consumer packaged goods and he was highly regarded. And how he introduced me and brought me and welcomed me into the industry and into the company really helped me to hit the ground running and to establish trust with the team that I would lead.Speaker 1:
It's an interesting point, Ellen, because we will get into talking about the importance of self-promotion in our conversation today. But how vital or important is it to have someone like your boss who is there to support, advocate, sponsor, mentor you in those regards? How important was that for you in your career trajectory?Speaker 2:
For me it was huge, because it was such a massive change to be in one place for more than two decades. And I can remember he told me after a long stint, you have a very low likelihood of staying more than two years, and at the time I felt like, no, that's not true. Now it ended up being true, but it helped me to go in, and I think I was building a mastery of taking the competencies I had from my career and then applying them into a new industry, and so his belief in me, I think, helped me individually, and then his visible belief showed that this person can really succeed here, and so it helped me to be able to just be indoors, to be able to get the coaching of what's how does it work here, and it led to other relationships too that were so important for me as I learned in industry. I did not know at all. I had not even been on a cruise until I went into this new job.Speaker 1:
Yeah, they're an experience. Yes, they are. I've been on a few. They are an experience and I enjoy them, which is nice. Ellen, your book is called the Mirror Door Breakthrough the Hidden Barrier that Locks Successful Women in Place. Please tell us what is the mirrored door.Speaker 2:
Sure. So it is this moment that many women encounter when they face opportunity and reflect inward and think I'm not ready or I'm not worthy, and we tend to busy ourselves doing things that have worked in the past and not see that we are holding ourselves to incredibly high expectations and really see a distorted view. So often we are more ready than we realize we're ready enough to move forward into action, which is where all the growth is.Speaker 1:
Why do you think women in particular or let me rephrase that question why do you know women in particular based on your research and your conversations and all? Why do you know they tend to hold themselves back a little more because they feel like they aren't ready?Speaker 2:
I know this from experience, seeing it, and I also know it from the research. So things like women not going for promotions or new jobs unless they have 10 of 10 of the criteria list and men going forward with six of 10. Now I will tell you through my book events and from other people now the book's been out for about a month, I'm hearing from men that have read it. Hey, I have a mirrored door too, and I think that is true. I think for women it's more frequent and intense and women tend to be more held to certain things like perfection or being other oriented, and a few things that I've identified that keep us with a really distorted view so often.Speaker 1:
I appreciate you sharing that because typically for the people who are listening to this podcast, really big hearts, big centered leaders, heart centered leaders and professionals and one of the things about them that I know is that they don't want to make a mistake, and I see that come up a lot, especially with my one-on-one clients when we first start working together, where they will look at a job posting and it is far easier for them to talk themselves out of applying to it than applying. What suggestions or advice would you give someone who is essentially quote unquote on the fence about applying for a job, and what do you think is the pivotal moment that actually gets them to click submit?Speaker 2:
I think that we look at those job postings and miss that. They are the company's wish list. They're not going to get all 10 of the criteria. It truly is a wish list. They also, if you walked in there with all 10 and with great expertise, chances are you wouldn't get the job because you'd be overqualified. They recognize so it's part of it's just a mindset of recognizing they're going to hire people who can grow into the job, who have that potential. Your listeners may have half or maybe more of the criteria and they can show the. If you can believe that I could grow into this job and I'm going to get the coaching and I have the potential. I'm a quick study and I have learned how to do things before that I didn't know how to do. That's when it all adds up to it's time to submit and click Send it in.Speaker 1:
And thank you for mentioning that that job posting is nothing more than a wish list, and I loved your comment about how if someone really did check all 10 out of 10, they're probably overqualified. That's something so often I see job seekers, especially at the mid-career level. They miss. They feel like they need all of these experiences and qualifications. The truth of the matter is, especially when we look at things like applicant tracking systems that electronically compare and score your resume to the job posting, you as a job seeker will never know what the company has set as that filter or criteria to actually put your application. That's going to go and be looked at by an HR rep or the hiring manager, and so, internally, you have to decide what makes me feel most comfortable in terms of applying and realizing that 10 out of 10 is probably not going to serve you well at this point.Speaker 2:
Absolutely, absolutely, hey there.Speaker 1:
We'll get back to the conversation in a moment, but I want to pause here to share news that I am hosting a brand new webinar this month called A Painless Three-Step Plan to Figure Out what's Next for you and your Career in 2024. If you're feeling stuck, undervalued and unhappy in your career, I want you to come to my webinar and let me help you start putting some things in place to find that job you'll love next year. The time is now to put things in place and get the clarity you need to tell your story more effectively when networking or interviewing and get your career moving in the direction you want. If you've never attended one of my live webinars, I want you to come to this one. So not only is it free and full of information, there's also time for Q&A at the end, so you can check the show notes or go to my website, johnnarrowcom forward slash webinar for times and how to sign up. And if you can't attend live, that's okay. Register anyway, because a replay will be available for a limited time. Okay, let's get back to the episode. So if somebody is looking for an internal promotion, they demonstrated the necessities and skills and competencies at the level above them. They're getting great reviews on their performance appraisal. They're having those conversations with their supervisor. It now comes time for them to self-promote, and in your book, I'm wondering what tips you can offer and share with us today about why, people, and women in particular, typically struggle with self-promotion, especially when it comes to advancing their careers.Speaker 2:
Yeah, I think that they're. I identify five strategies that help us to succeed, but they also can become perilous, and one of them is patiently performing. And I think what happens so often is we think we somehow learned along the way that our hard work is going to get noticed. And we have many times negative associations with self-promotion. I myself have heard from my mom don't be a braggart. Now she would also say Ellen, you have to toot your own horn. So I kind of got mixed direction there. But often we come from a culture, a family or it's expected gender-wise that we should not self-promote, that that is, you're being too big too. Don't act superior. We learn that there's consequences to that. And then we get in the workplace and it's really collaborative career planning and we have to shift our view into. This is how it works. So if we stay in our old view of self-promotion, we likely aren't going to get the job.Speaker 1:
I love how you phrase that and put that whole situation about performing patiently into context, because I know I've fallen into that trap where, oh, I'll just let my work speak for itself. And then you realize that somebody else gets the job and you're like, oh, what happened there? And all of a sudden it is that mindset shift that how am I able to promote myself genuinely and authentically without coming across as being pompous, arrogant or obnoxious? What tips do you have for people that kind of essentially help them get out of their own way when it comes to their thoughts about the fear of being conceived or perceived rather as pompous or arrogant?Speaker 2:
Well, chances are that the people who feel this are in no way close to being pompous or arrogant, so one way is to get some feedback on that too. But we have to start to think about that. We can be helpful by what you're calling self-promotion, because our manager or the other decision makers in our careers they're busy, they may not know that what we have done or what we want, and so we help those decision makers by sharing here's what we've accomplished, here's what we're looking for and aspire to in our career, and that's the responsibility of a manager to know that. So if you're keeping quiet, you might get perceived as being less ambitious than you really are when you're just holding to this feeling that I can't self-promote.Speaker 1:
Thank you for that. That is absolutely going to help a lot of people and reframe that whole concept of how they can advocate for themselves better in their careers. Ellen, you've got four other strategies in addition to performing patiently and waiting to be noticed. I'd love to just talk with you a little more about here. So another one of your strategies is about preparing for perfection. What do you mean by that?Speaker 2:
So this is that person or that behavior that is delivering excellence, is the go-to person and does it through hours and hours of preparation, and they show up bulletproof, they always have the answers, and what happens is I mean, that's a great thing, we want that on our teams, but what happens is, as we get busier, as our plates get fuller and as we have to move forward and decide things with less information than we once had, we can be seen as the worker be and the person we want on the team, but not the leader of the team. So there is a shift that we have to make and so often, like my students say, use FOMO a lot. I think there's FOMO, fear of messing up, and that perfectionism is really tied to that, because we don't have the time for preparation and we fear messing up, and so sometimes we don't address things, we don't decide, we don't delegate, because we don't trust that other people can deliver that way. So this wonderful intention can turn against us too. So we have to practice a bit of stepping back, moving forward, stepping back and letting other people do some work too, but also moving forward with imperfection and uncertainty in the lowest stakes possible to build that muscle.Speaker 1:
In your research as well as your experience. When you talk about that person who is the worker be, and they're always delivering that high-quality work. How often do you see that they become so valuable in that role that the company is unwilling to move them out of it because no one can come behind them and do that work at the same level?Speaker 2:
Oh, I think I have seen that happen before and I think that's where I go back to self-promotion. I think stating what you do want, maybe you want to be that, but so often that's a person getting stuck, and so the more you can elevate your opinions, your points of view that are more strategic than tactical and analytical, the more you can elevate yourself and express what you want in your career. That's your best way to fight against that happening and, of course, you can always identify other people who could fill your shoes.Speaker 1:
Well said, thank you. Another strategy, ellen, that you have is about being eager to please, and I know this one is going to absolutely resonate with a lot of the listeners here today. So talk to us a little bit more about what it means to be eager to please.Speaker 2:
Sure, and it resonates with me too.Speaker 1:
Me too.Speaker 2:
Yeah, yeah. So this is that person who, that behavior that's really other-oriented. It can be the glue that holds the team together. People know how to motivate others and also keep the peace. But if you think of it like a seesaw, it is not always evened out and it can, over time, be all about other people and we can neglect our own needs. And it shows up in things like always saying yes, not sending boundaries and not addressing conflict. And one of the amazing things about this skill is in behavior. This is about people who really care about others, and that's the key to tap into the care that you have to be honest and give feedback because you care about that person's career or the team or the company. And so it's taking, again, small steps, and I have in the book some steps to set boundaries in kind of a clear-cut, direct way that we have to try in small increments so that we build the muscle of also taking care of our own needs. And still it's not walking away from the great strength that this behavior brings of really caring, reading the room, really understanding other people as well. But it's about taking care of ourselves too, and sometimes that means boundaries setting, addressing conflicts and saying what needs to be said.Speaker 1:
Well, and it goes without saying that sometimes people who are overly pleasing and taking care of way too many people often lead themselves into burnout, and never a good thing in that. So thank you for that, alan. Another strategy that either helps or hinders us is this idea about fitting the mold. So talk to us a little bit about, specifically, where mid-career professionals may get caught in a trap, if you will, about trying to fit that mold.Speaker 2:
Yeah. So fitting the mold brings with it an ability to see what the culture rewards, what the culture is like. This happens a lot when you move into new jobs where you can quickly read the culture. You're a pretty agile person and you do what you think they want, and sometimes that's not showing who you are. So for me your listeners don't see me today, but I frequently wear red, and part of that is for years I was told to wear a navy jacket and not wear red. Your listeners don't see I have dark hair and fairer Irish skin, and navy is not my color. Now that may be an out-of-date thing, but what is happening for people is they're navigating different parts of their identity or their style. And whether that's a black woman wondering can she wear her natural hair? Or someone coming out in the workplace, it's a really individual thing to navigate through how much we want to share of ourselves. But it also is something like for me when I moved into a company. The style, the style of get of influence, was pounding your fist on the table. Now we've only talked for a few minutes, but that is not my style. You might be able to tell that from my voice. I'm more of the thoughtful. Here's why that doesn't work. Not pound your fist on the table, and it would be really performative for me to do that, and I had to decide can I succeed here? Because everyone seems to be in that mode, and so it's an individual thing. But what happens is when we don't fit whatever, the majority is whether that's obvious or it's invisible, and we just feel it. It can see doubt. It can see doubt of like did they really hire me? Or if I showed more of myself, will I still belong here? So it can be a very individual, isolating thing as well, and each person has to think through the. Am I up for driving change? Am I willing to be a pioneer, or do I need to find my way elsewhere? From a mid-career standpoint, if you've been in this or feeling this for a while, it's really exhausting and it can really be depleting too over time.Speaker 1:
As I was prepping for our conversation, it reminded me about an organization I worked in where colorful language was the norm. Now, I am no prude and there are times when I think a colorful word absolutely is right in that moment. But using it repeatedly, over and over and over again, especially in the workplace, was not the way I was raised, trained or brought up, and I remember working in this particular organization and really struggling a little bit with in terms of okay, how am I going to show up authentically in a way that I'm still providing value, but I don't have to do it by dropping the four letter word right, whether it be the F-bomb or the four letter word that says hi to you in the middle of it. So, whatever that may be your last strategy, ellen and I don't know if this, how, obviously all the strategies kind of play into each other, but the fitting the mold and the last strategy about working pedal to the metal seemed to be this marriage for mid-career professionals, where it can absolutely help or hinder them, and I'd love to get your perspective on where that strategy about working so hard and so diligently may be a plus or a minus for them, if you will, in their careers.Speaker 2:
Sure. So working pedal to the metal is the behavior that helps someone to take charge, and that can be particularly valuable on some big project, the next product launch or something where we need to drive change or something that's not been done before. So you know that this is the working tirelessly to get things done. The risk is that sometimes we're taking so much charge ahead of our people, and so this is where the solution is to pause and reconnect with your people. The downside of this is that you're ahead, and part of being a mid-career professional who's perhaps leading other people is creating followership, and so if you are burning ahead of everyone else and your team is not following along, you have a problem. It also the other, so that's sort of more of an external risk, but the internal risk of this is burnout, and so in both cases we got to pause to check in and take care of ourselves on the burnout, but we have to reconnect with our teams also to help them to understand why we are so forging ahead so many times. And for women, this is where bias comes up that a woman taking charge they're used to, or the expectation that men and women have is that we want to see her take care first and then take charge, and we, truly leaders, need to do both. But so often we need to step back and explain. I am going to be full steam ahead on this project because I know we're up against an incredible deadline and it's going to put our company on the map, or this brand on the map, or whatever that is.Speaker 1:
So, sharing with others your intention, your why, your motivation is a way to close the gap with others and to ask for feedback, so that you don't have this distance from others as well feedback, when delivered and given in a way to support a behavior or to change a behavior, is gold, and I know and I know you know this too right so many people struggle with you know having people in their work circles that are really able to give that kind of feedback, but also for themselves to model it right. So what does that feedback specifically look like? So, to recap for everybody, Alan, the five strategies that either help or hinder us that we talked about today was about performing patiently and waiting to be noticed, preparing for perfection, eager to please, fitting the mold and working pedal to the metal, and all five of those strategies, I know, are going to sit and resonate so well with anyone who is listening. But we are at that point, Alan, we got to start wrapping up. So my question to you is this what advice do you have for someone who's listening today to help them build their mid-career GPS to whatever is next for them in their career?Speaker 2:
So my advice is to tap into your courage. I think so often. We are in a society and when you're in job search or in a challenge of careers, we tend to look for confidence, and my view is that courage is the prerequisite for a job search, for action, for moving into another role, and confidence is the outcome. So I think you know you don't have to have already back to our initial discussion, you don't have to have all 10 of the criteria, but you have to believe that you can make that happen. You have the potential. So I think, courage before confidence. I also would recommend creating a top 10 list of what is most important to you at this stage of your career whether that is something about the content of your work, the you know, the compensation, the capabilities or the credibility that you're building, or room for your life and create a top 10 list and then look, divide 100 points and see how does your current job hold up and use it as a screen when you look at other jobs. It helps I've done this and it helped me to not get overly excited about something that, like, looked all sexy and, you know, bright and shiny, when it really didn't have what I was up for in that next stage of my life.Speaker 1:
That's gold. Thank you so very, very much, ellen. I have enjoyed our time today and our previous call, getting know each other a little bit more. I want to turn the mic over to you. Please share with us where people can connect with you. Please share with us again about your book. Any other information, the mic shores.Speaker 2:
Sure, so my website is ellentafecom. I have a newsletter that is about leadership and careers and that's a weekly newsletter that every other week I respond to reader questions in my dear Ellen column. And then I also am very active on LinkedIn and have a newsletter that is in particularly focused on advancing women and addressing male allies as well. So happy to connect, and my book is the mirror door breakthrough the hidden barrier that locks successful women in place, and it's available at all retailers.Speaker 1:
Ellen, I will make sure all of that is in the show notes. Your LinkedIn newsletter is phenomenal. I enjoy it. So thank you so very, very much. Ellen Taff. It has been an absolute pleasure having you today as a guest on the mid-career GPS podcast.Speaker 2:
Thank you so much, John. Pleasure to be here.Speaker 1:
All right, my friends, if there is one takeaway from today, I want to go back to something Ellen shared earlier, and that is the difference between FOMO and FOMU. Think about where your fear of missing out versus your fear of messing up is either helping or hindering your career. I'd offer you. More than likely it's probably hindering you in some way. It's holding you back from sharing why you're valuable, why you are ready to take that next advancement opportunity where your talents and expertise can be leveraged differently within your current or future organization. But if there's one big takeaway here, it is that you are valuable and your key here is figuring out how best to communicate that in a way that gets people more interested in who you are and what you do, rather than finding you interesting. So, as we wrap up this 200th episode of the Mid-Career GPS podcast, ellen, thank you again, and my friends, here is to the next 200 episodes. So until next time, remember this you will build your mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day. Thank you for listening to the Mid-Career GPS podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and if you have a moment. I'd love to hear your comments on Apple podcasts. Visit JohnNarrowcom for more information about how I can help you build your mid-career GPS or how I can help you and your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event. Don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at JohnNarrowCoaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters.