June 8, 2022

MVP: When a Promotion Isn’t the Answer

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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Feeling stuck is a problem so many people face in their career. But for some of you, a promotion isn’t the answer. It won’t solve the root cause of why you’re unhappy.

Promotions are limited, others seem to be getting ahead, and it can sometimes seem unfair. You’re a high performer and seem to be doing everything right, so why do you feel stuck? You’re just trying to get to the next level.

It just seems like the next logical step you’ve been working toward. 

A client was telling me she did everything right. She went to school, got a good job and even got her MBA. But at the end of the year, like so many others, she was faced with the performance rating process.  She wondered what her rating would be, if she could get promoted, or if her job would still be there with the constant re-organizations and COVID changes. 

She knew she hit her milestones, but dreaded the rating.  It’s a forced curve but so many factors go into what your rating will be. It’s exhausting.

So she focused on getting promoted.

But the more we dug into what she really wanted, the beliefs she had, and what she thought she was “supposed to do” it became clear the promotion wasn’t going to solve her problem.

It wasn’t going to make her feel any better, because those same circumstances would be there at any level. We had to work on something deeper.

This is a MVP episode, meaning it is a most valuable podcast episode. Over the summer of 2022, I will be re-releasing some of my most impactful and powerful episodes.

What You’ll Learn

Why getting promoted won’t solve your career problems

How to succeed and achieve your goals in any setting

3 steps to help you take your career to the next level

How to work through any challenge and show up as yourself to get to the next level

Featured in This Episode

Apply for 1-1 coaching with Melissa.

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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills, and psychology to help you get happy. At work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started. Hello and welcome to the podcast.

So I have a special treat for you today. Now over the summer, I am going to be rereleasing some of my MVPs most valuable podcasts, right. Nice little take on most valuable player because this podcast, believe it or not, we are approaching our 100th episode and there are a lot of earlier episodes from a year or two years ago that are still very relevant today.

And I know a lot of my.

Listeners have been listening from the beginning, but there’s also a lot of you that have started somewhere along the way. And so I am handpicking some of my most popular, powerful episodes to revisit them and give you the insights and tips and strategy that is going to help you in your career. And today we are starting with the very first MVP. It is a promotion isn’t the answer. And what this episode is all about is helping you determine if you want a promotion or to get to the next level in your career to make sure that you’re addressing the root cause for why you want that change and not just looking to achieve that because that’s what other people have or you’re.

Making it means something about you and your confidence.

So I am going to provide you specific questions you can ask in this episode to really get to the root cause of what you’re looking for and if a promotion really is the answer for you or not. So let’s dive in. Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s podcast.

Feeling stuck is a problem that so.

Many people face in their career. I have felt it before. Almost all of my clients feel it.

In one way or another.

Promotions are limited, others seem to be getting ahead and it can sometimes feel like it’s unfair. You’re a high performer, you’re a rock.

Star, probably one of the best at.

What you do, but you’re still feeling stuck. You’re just trying to get to that next level. So what you do, which is what most of us do, is you try to pad your resume. You take more development courses, you get certified in something all to show that.

You are credible and that you can handle that next level.

You’re looking to see what other people are doing.

And you’re like, if I could just do that, maybe I could get ahead.

Maybe I could be listened to.

Maybe I would be given the title.

Or the role or the responsibility that is aligned with what you have to offer. And you aren’t even sure if you want that next level. It just seems like the next logical step, right, to get you heard, to get you to where you want to be. And a client I was talking to recently was telling me that she did everything that she was supposed to. She went to school, she got a job. She even went back and got her MBA. Yet here we were, close to the end of the year, and she was worried about what her performance review would say. So she had done all of this work. She was a superstar. She did the training, she did the classes, she went back and got her MBA. And she still was like, I’m not.

Sure what my performance review is going to say.

I’m not sure what that rating is going to be. She knew she hit her milestones, but she dreaded the ratings, the number or category you get where you’re just kind of put into that every year. It’s a forced curve. So even if you’re at the top, if it’s not your year to shine, you won’t be put there because it’s a forced calibration. We have to share those ratings. It’s also depending on your manager. So if you had a new manager that year and they’re not advocating for.

You and someone else is sitting around.

The table advocating for their person just a little bit stronger, then you might.

Not get that higher level rating that.

Is equivalent to the work that you’ve put in. You might get something that is average, which we all sell, is still very good, right, because you’re meeting expectations. But we use those numbers to define us, so it can be really exhausting.

And my client wanted to work on.

Getting promoted because you can’t control that force calibration. You can’t control the education you get outside. You can control how hard you work. And she wanted to prove that she.

Was a hard worker and that she was valued by getting promoted and getting to that next level.

And she was worried because with structural.

Changes that happen in organizations that seem.

To be never ending, and then with adding covet into the mix, she was wondering if there would be layoffs and would she be one of the people.

That were laid off?

And would her resume full of accomplishments save her? So she felt unsafe. She needed to figure out what she really wanted and to figure out if she should make a move or not. And so, like most of my clients, she felt confident in herself.

She felt confident in what she had.

Put on her resume and the accomplishments that she had worked towards. But the more we dug into how she really felt, how she let the numbers define her, how she felt safe. With her resume behind her, it became clear that she wasn’t truly self confident.

And you guys, a promotion won’t solve that. And I know what it’s like. I really do.

I used to be on that path.

Too, and I just was like, okay.

The title doesn’t really matter to me. It’s just the work. But really you wanted the title, because.

In a lot of these organizations, the title matters.

And I experienced that for myself as well.

And my clients experienced that regardless of.

How smart you are, how talented you are, how capable you are, there are people in the organization that are going.

To look at your title and they’re.

Going to decide whether or not you’re.

Worthy having that conversation with or if.

They should go to your boss or.

Go to somebody else. And so then we get so stuck.

In, well, let’s work towards that title, then let’s get to that higher level.

Because we’ll get this kind of automatic.

Credibility that will help us feel valued and help us feel like we’re appreciated for the work that we’re doing.

And so what I want to offer.

Is that even at a higher level, you’ll have these same challenges. You’ll still be rated. You’ll still wonder if you’re good enough and you’ll still get nervous around executives looking for that approval. That doesn’t change based on your circumstance. It changes when you do the inner work, to feel confident in any situation, even as a high performer. One of the likely reasons you’re not getting where you want to be is because you’re lacking self confidence, because that is creating a ripple effect on how you show up. It’s stopping you from making yourself as visible, from raising your hand and speaking up and pushing the status quo. It’s helping you stay where you are and preventing you from really standing out. And that is the secret sauce to loosening that feeling of being stock is.

Really working on that self confidence and kind of having this area that you.

Might need to work on.

It also is really common for if.

This is something that you’re dealing with, to feel like you need to be a perfectionist, to worry about what other people think and to need the title or the high rating to feel good and wanting everything that you put out there to be 100%, to let the work stand for itself.


Because then it’s almost like you try to kind of combine the work that you’re doing the high quality work with your value, but also separate them at the same time so your work can.

Stand on its own.

But you also want the work to be connected to you because that helps you feel good. And what’s really interesting about this is, like I said, most of my clients, I would say probably 90% of them, don’t necessarily recognize that self confidence is.

Something that they’re struggling with, and they’ll.

Learn through the coaching process that it is something that they’re struggling with. And then it’s just showing up in really tricky ways, like being a perfectionist, for example. Or you might think that you’re just.

Trying to get to the next level because you’ve earned it, but you’re not really seeing how you’re connecting that title.

To your worth, and it just shows up really tricky. But once you go through this process of really understanding how your mind is working, then you can really Peel back the layers of that onion to understand your own selfconcept and what you’re putting out into the world and how that is contributing to your problems and how it’s not right, because it’s not all about you.

Obviously, you can have challenges outside.

You can have bad bosses, you can have bad organizations or toxic cultures. But a big part of it is you. And you do have the power to feel how you want to feel, regardless of that circumstance around you. So just because you’re not at the level you want to be doesn’t mean you need to be miserable. So before talking about how to be.

More confident, I first want to talk about what confidence is.

So confidence is the ability to walk into any situation and know you can handle it. To know you have the skills, the experience, and the know how to manage what comes your way.

It doesn’t mean you have all the.

Answers, but it does mean that you can handle it. It means you are securing yourself and your capabilities. In the most basic definition, confidence is a feeling. Confidence is built by taking action and having evidence of your capability. Self confidence, on the other hand, is believing you can handle anything without evidence, without proof, without I’ve done it before. So I will do it again to fuel you. So we can sum up handling any situation as really being able to trust yourself and be willing to experience any feeling that results from trying something new or doing something uncomfortable.

So when you think about these awful.

Things that are really difficult to feel sometimes, like shame and guilt and embarrassment and humiliation.


Like those are things that stop us in our track. That when we really dig deep into why we’re not putting ourselves out there as much as we could. It’s because we’re having this fear of rejection or humiliation or what will people think of me and it just keeps us small.


But that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s your brain trying to protect you. It’s the same for all of us. So I talked about Imposter Syndrome in a recent podcast episode, and if you haven’t listened to that one yet, go.

And check it out.

I share a three step process to help you overcome it and talk about.

How Imposter Syndrome and confidence are connected.

But to assess your own self confidence, ask yourself the following three questions. First one, do you trust yourself? Do you follow through on your commitments to you? So what this means? Do you do what you say you’re going to do just like a friend or family member? If you don’t follow through on what you say, whether it’s taking that rest day, working out meeting a deadline.

You’re not counting on yourself.

You’re telling yourself and learning that you don’t follow through for you. So what does that say? If you can’t trust yourself to follow through and mind you, that consistent follow.

Through that you’re trying to have is.

The same way that you earn trust for yourself like you do with other people, right? If you have a friend that’s not showing up, that’s like, oh, yeah, I’ll meet you at five and then just, like, bails on you and does it time after time, they’re proving to you that you can’t trust them to show up. So it’s the same thing with you. If you take something basic, like a workout, when you say, I’m going to.

Work out every day at six in the morning, and then you don’t, you’re.

Telling yourself that you can’t be trusted to do that. And so you wouldn’t Flake on your friends or family. But we so often do it to ourselves because we kind of minimize ourselves as kind of last on the list, right?

Like, once you get through helping everyone.

Else, once you handle all of your responsibilities at work and with your family, then you can work on yourself. And so that’s part of the reason. The other part of the reason you.

Don’T trust yourself is it’s not a.

Priority, not just from a task perspective, but it’s almost like around our own.

Feelings of what we put out into.

The world and the worth that we have. And sometimes we have these hidden feelings of shame where we don’t feel we’re good enough. And so we don’t do the things that will help us reach our goals because we deep down don’t feel we’re good enough for them. And that gets really deep. And that is really where, like, the one on one process is really impactful because you can get this awareness right now. But when we talk about it and really understand how you’re thinking and how you’re showing up, that is where, like, the transformation really can happen.

So you can see how you’re kind.

Of sabotaging yourself so that the trusting yourself is a really tricky one. The second one is, are you willing to experience any emotion? So like I said, fear of failure, embarrassment, rejection, humiliation. So for the most part, the worst.

That can happen is a bad emotion.

When we don’t speak up, when we don’t go after our dreams, it’s likely because we’re fearing that rejection, humiliation or failure. But that is just a feeling. It’s just a vibration in your body. So when you learn that you can handle any feeling, this doesn’t become so crippling, right?

We get so caught up in, well, if I don’t do well in this.

Presentation, if this presentation isn’t perfect, then.

These leaders are going to think that.

I’m not capable, that I’m not smart, that I don’t know what I’m doing. If I make a mistake on my work, that’s automatically going to mean, I’m not good enough, I can’t put my name on that. What would they think of me? And so instead, what you do is you kind of hold yourself back because of that fear of an emotion that might happen. And we make that emotion into this big thing when it’s really just a feeling. And of course, there are consequences. And of course, people might think something about you, but you can’t control that.

And they could think that anyway.

You showing up, you being willing to experience any emotion that is going to teach you how to manage your emotions. It’s going to teach you how to show up. It’s going to teach you how to be more visible. And that is going to outweigh any mistake that you could make on a spreadsheet or a project or in a presentation. So the third one, what do you think of yourself?

This is like there’s a children’s book that my children had when they were younger. And it’s like a love bucket book. I don’t know if you’ve read it.

But essentially the concept is you add and remove drops in your bucket throughout the day. And so when you think negatively about yourself, it depletes your confidence bucket.

Same as when someone says something negative.

To you, kind of takes something out of your bucket. But when you think positively about yourself, then you get drops added to your bucket.

And that positivity, that positivity.

It adds up. So I want you to believe that you are confident and capable and valued regardless of your circumstances, regardless of if you have a shitty boss or you.

Have a hard day at work or you don’t think you’re going to get.

That promotion or you made a mistake. Those things don’t mean anything about you. They don’t define you. So how you answer these three questions is an indicator of how self confident you really are. So why this is so hard is we don’t trust ourselves. We don’t know how to manage our minds. We feel out of control of our feelings as if they are happening to us. We want to be perfect. We want to be seen as competent and strong for our bosses, for our peers. We want to be role models for our children and our families.

But think about it.

You put yourself out there and you go after what you want. You raise your hand. The worst that will happen is a feeling that you don’t like what happens if you don’t do anything. What happens if you discount all of this and you say, you know what? Mostly you’re making it much sounds a lot easier than what it is. These things do have consequences, right? The cost is much higher because you are holding yourself back. And when you have more self confidence, you set more goals, you take more action, and you make decisions aligned with your integrity. You learn to be happy and fulfilled. Where you are without letting these external circumstances affect how you feel about yourself and your life. You grow self confidence by doing more things that show you that you can handle those uncomfortable feelings. You have to look at the thoughts that you’re having about yourself and change them. This is going to cause you to go against your human brain and your core beliefs. It’s a big lift. I get it. It’s also a practice. It’s a practice and belief. You keep working toward it until you believe it.

Working with a coach is the most efficient way to see how your thinking is holding you back and to build the confidence to get you that next job, to get you the promotion, to get you the fulfillment that you want in your career and in your life. So some things that you can do now are next time you have the thought that you want to try something new, you want to speak up, be aware of how you’re feeling and allow it. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable instead of.

Thinking, oh my gosh, that’s crazy. I would fail.

What will people think? Okay, let’s just move on to the next thing.

Or let me just go have some wine. Or let me just go watch Netflix. Or let me just go make some cookies and just avoid it.

Just allow yourself to feel it. Speak up and express yourself. Take small steps in action. It doesn’t have to be a big.

Leap all the time.

Just the next time you’re feeling that resistance, that like, oh my gosh, I can’t do this or oh my gosh, what will people think? Go towards it instead of running away from it. When you notice negative self talk, stop it. One of my clients, I noticed when we were in coaching that when she would tell stories, she had a lot of negative thoughts peek through, and she really kind of put herself down a lot but didn’t even notice that she was doing it right.

And so I gave her an assignment to go and keep track.

Keep a tally of whenever she notices.

She’S having a negative thought about herself.

And then to question it and ask if it’s true. And it was really eye opening for her because she didn’t realize how much.

She actually speaks negatively to her or.

Calls herself an idiot or talks down to herself. And it’s kind of like wavered. It wasn’t every day. Some days were better than other days, but she did it a lot and she didn’t know why. And so that’s obviously something that we coached through.

So that is a really big one.

To notice when you’re doing that so that you can question it and try to stop it. Also accept and believe compliments from others. Your brain is your business, and other people’s brain is their business. It’s not your business to question.

Let me say that again.

Your brain, your thoughts, your business. Other people’s brain is not your business. What they think is not your business. It’s not your business to question or to ask whether or not their thought is right or wrong. So if someone tells you, hey, you did an amazing job or you’re really incredible, or you should really work towards management, you don’t need to question that.

And doubt it and have all of.

Your fear set in and all of.

Your self doubt and just say, oh.

No, it’s kind of like someone says.

They like your outfit and you’re like.

Oh, thanks, this whole thing.

Or if someone tells you you’re beautiful, you’re like, yeah, okay, thanks. And you just kind of brush it off.

Take it in. Accept people’s compliments of you when you take these actions, keep track of them. Document your thoughts before and after. How did these actions make you feel? Keeping progress of your action will be an excellent resource for you to see your progress over time in your journey to kind of unsticking yourself for good. Because when you know you can handle any emotion and you can trust yourself, you will see so much open up for you. You won’t worry about the presentation with.

Senior leaders or what your rating is.

Or what’s on your resume. You won’t need to stand behind that. You’ll know that you can handle anything and that you can have your own back. And you’ll know that you’re incredible regardless of what is on your resume or.

What Senior Leader Joe said.

When you have your own back, you don’t need someone else to tell you that you’re amazing because you already know that you are. And when you aren’t promoted, you won’t think it’s because there’s something wrong with you. You’ll take it as a learning experience and be able to make decisions aligned with what you want, whether it be hanging in for the next one or moving on to another company.

And then when you do get promoted.

And the more confident you are and you will be more likely to be, you’ll know it’s because of your work and your decisions. Not because of someone else. Because that is where this shows up too. Is when you do get promoted and.

You think it’s because you have a good boss or if you are celebrating anyway or given any new opportunity, it.

Couldn’T possibly because of the work you’re.

Doing, it’s because you are lucky, right?

It’s another creepy way that you can tell that you’re not self confident in yourself.

So I want you to know that I see you.

I was you. My clients feel the way you do.

Too and you can overcome it.

You just need practice. And if you need help, please reach out to me. We can talk about coaching and if.

It is a good fit for you.

You can apply and we will see how we can work together. So that is all for this week’s episode. If you are enjoying the Podcast Leave a review and subscribe on Apple podcasts. You can also follow or subscribe on Spotify. It helps the podcast become more visible so other people can enjoy it too so that is all have a wonderful rest of your week.

Coaching with me is the best way to guarantee you get happy at work and achieve your career and life goals. Getting started is easy. Head over to www.melissamlawrence.com to learn more and apply it is the first step to get you from feeling stuck to knowing exactly what you want and have the tools to make it a reality. I will be by your side the entire way.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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