This is the first blog post in a three-part series about how I managed my career. The armadilloes make their entrance in part two and in part three, find out just how extraordinarily stiff my upper lip is.
Back in the late 80’s, I worked for the UK sales division of a large American corporate. I was in my early 20’s, and in the sales team, the youngest, the lone female, the only one not to be university-educated.
I was pretty proud of myself. I had worked my way up through the ranks, studying part-time, eventually winning academic honors and still turning in enough of a work performance to get noticed.
It was pretty unusual in those days in the UK for a woman to get ahead and have a hard-hitting career. I had no role models. (Unless you count Margaret Thatcher and I did not.) So after deciding I wanted the glory, the money, the country club retreats that came hand-in-hand with a sales career, I turned to a magazine called “Working Woman” for advice on how to make it in a man’s world.
Eagerly every month I would await its publication because in there were planted the seeds of my success. Contained within those glossy sheets was advice on networking, office politics, and skincare tips for the road warrior woman.
I inhaled and got high on the fantasy of career success.
I was on the lowest possible level at this point – a clerk – but I had purposefully chosen this company as my route to career success. Before I joined them, I didn’t know what they did nor how they did it but they claimed to promote from within and that was good enough for me. I left local city government in disgust at their ‘dead man’s shoes’ promotion policy which paid me less simply because of my youth and lack of service years despite an acknowledged exemplary work performance.
I never looked back.
With the tips I gleaned from that wonderful magazine, I learned how to maximize my networking opportunities which were about as sparse as the hair on Howie Mandel’s head given my lowly position. I learned what a business wardrobe was and how to get one on a budget. I learned what to say in my performance review.
The General Manager of my division had no need to know who I was or what I did but he had no choice because there I was at twenty-one years of age following him to the coffee machine. While he waited for his coffee to brew its own unique taste he was as disarmed and defenceless as a baby as I caught him in my perfectly coiffed crosshairs, getting my name and face onto his personal radar. He stood no chance as I stated my intent to climb the career ladder, defeat the monster of sexism and slay dragons.
Probably rather too aggressively now I come to think about it.
On Christmas Eve, I eschewed parties to scout out the designer business suits that I knew would be on sale first thing in the morning two days later. Tried on, tested out and placed in a certain location that made no sense to anyone but me, I only had to swoop in at opening time to nab them. And I did, acquiring a career wardrobe I had no business owning given my paltry salary. Tricky, see? I was a woman on an undercover mission even then.
In time, a policy of affront, shocking self-promotion and less than gracious patience paid off. I was an upstart. I hadn’t followed the better traveled paths. I’d worn the (male) management down, handled every objection they posed, and simply hunkered down to wait them out. It worked and my company car eventually arrived.
I was on the road, warrior.
Out to slay dragons.
In the next installment, find out my three rules to career success for the envelope-pushing female and why exactly I blew up an armadillo’s bum.
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