In my last blogpost I called on women to make a habit of broadcasting thier ambitions. Letting others know the future you are determined to create for yourself is the key to new opportunities.
I am a strong believer in the saying, ‘Share your ambitions, and let your network do the rest.’
Start with Ambition-Setting
While the returns of ambition-sharing are rewarding, let’s not overlook that it is preceded by ambition-setting. This is an exploration unto itself. It requires courage – to dream, to think big, to align with your values and to have an unshakable belief that you have every right to pursue whatever is meaningful to you.
I recently posted a poll on LinkedIn asking emerging female leaders what put them most out of their comfort zone. Fifty percent of respondents replied that ‘mapping their career ambitions’ caused them the most discomfort. I began to wonder, what could be at the heart of a reluctance to create a plan for the future? Does it seem egotistical? Are wants, needs, aspirations too vague? Is there a belief that women cannot control opportunities to advance? Or is it just not a priority?
Junk the egotism narrative!
Let’s start by myth-busting the word ‘ambition’. For many women, this word conjurs up a masculine narrative of cut-throat opportunistic behaviors, ruthlessly exploiting others for personal gain. While this stereotype may exist, we need to call out the paralyzing assumption that it’s the only way to get to the top. It is this kind of thinking that conflates ‘ambition’ with ‘egotism’. And every time a woman holds herself back from creating a vision of her future for fear of being perceived as’ too ambitious’, ALL women lose. Because this is slowing down the trek towards gender parity among leadership in the workplace, miring talented women in the mud while their male counterparts navigate the uneven terrain in land rovers, tanked up with the energy of their ambitions.
Going with the flow or charting your course?
The analogy of driftwood vs. a wooden boat offers a more wholesome way to envision setting your career ambitions. On a body of water, driftwood moves in random directions at random speeds, without agency, subjugated to the external forces – currents, barriers (rocks and debris), weather etc. A wooden boat is steered; while it may change direction, navigate turbulent waters, stop at a harbor to resupply and to rest, its course is set by the captain – and that is you!
Why should I do it?
What is the value of a thoughtful exploration of your ambitions? As a resource your ‘ambition roadmap’ provides stability and guidance by helping you to:
Where do I start?
You can start creating an ambition road map for at any time. It is an invitation to stop and ask yourself, ‘Where do I see myself in 1-2 years? 3-5 years? 10 years?’
You may already have a specific role in a specific company that you have set your sights on, or a revenue or expansion goal that you intend to reach with your own enterprise. But it is not necessary to instantly have these answers.
What is important is identifying the impact you want to have, the kind of responsibilities that energize you, and what kind of environment you want to be working in.
Choose any format that works for you: a narrative, a chart, spreadsheet, timeline, or a literal drawing of a map. This is not a predictor of your future but a personal resource to track your growth and progress in a chosen direction. While the direction may change, a roadmap drafted from ambition ensures that alignment with your values and needs remains solid.
To kick-start this reflection process, here are some good questions you can ask yourself:
Choose for yourself!
Bear in mind that this is about what you want, not what others want for you. Many women struggle with choosing for themselves when it comes to deciding what is really important to them. Remind yourself that you can add the greatest value to your organization, your field or your cause through the energy and commitment you bring to what you do. These powers are diminished when your choices are rooted in guilt, responsibility or loyalty to the wishes of others. Trust that your own values will be your best guide.
Creating your own ambition map is an empowering process. It enables you to ‘steer your boat’ in the direction you want to go, adding reinforcements to the fleet of other women who have done the same, navigating to the higher ranks of leadership.
You will sometimes need to jump in to the deep and take risks. There will be successes and failures along the way. But know that as you make progress towards realizing your career ambitions, your power, skills and experience will grow.
This article is part of a series highlighting one of the 8 areas of focus: ‘Mapping My Ambitions’, on the Female Leadership Wheel™ a unique coaching tool to support women in their leadership development
Check out my previous article : Why You Should Be Broadcasting Your Ambitions
Author: Lisa Ross-Marcus is a leadership coach and intercultural consultant. Her primary focus is empowering women to lead in organizations or as founders of their own enterprises.