Photo courtesy of Eileen Fink Jreige: Insta @eimfj
No one can take away your experience.
There’s a spanish saying I learned when I lived in Madrid: nadie me quita lo bailado. No one can take away what I’ve danced.
Even when a manager, boss or colleague refuses to acknowledge your experience, achievements, or results at work, they can’t take away the experience or accomplishments you have, or the facts around who did the work.
Only You Own Your Experience
A lack of acknowledgement can wreck your confidence… if you let it. Which is why this spanish phrase is one of my favorite concepts to work on with my clients. It’s a critical reminder that your experience is yours. No one can possibly take it from you.
Just because your boss doesn’t appreciate you, or you didn’t get acknowledgement for your work, doesn’t mean anyone can take away the results you’ve delivered. If YOU did it (even if your boss took credit) you can put it on your resume. You know you can do it and have done it, and you are the only arbiter you need of your experience.
Finding a Willing Dance Partner
I was once in a role where my boss was trying to keep me quiet. There was a national conference and I really wanted to attend. I was doing great work, I had turned my programs around (they had been in decline under the previous manager), and by all standards I was excelling. Even so, my boss told me I wasn’t going. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting the acknowledgement I deserved. (In fact, I’m pretty sure my boss’s decision had nothing to do with who deserved to go, but was more about who he wanted to travel with.) He was playing favorites, and as far as he was concerned, if he ignored my accomplishments, then they didn’t exist.
Your professional future does not rest on this one guy. Don’t let him keep you quiet.
I didn’t know what to do, until another woman said, “Your professional future does not rest on this one guy. Don’t let him keep you quiet.” Find some other dance partners.
She advised me to find other champions in my company, and even to look outside my organization (since the politics internally were pretty challenging). I reached out to three of the top leaders in my field and told them I was pulling together a panel for the conference. They wanted to join, and they were helpful and truly wonderful to work with over the three months we prepared. They became mentors to me and we were selected to present at the national conference!
With top-tier champions and allies on my panel and a topic that was in high demand (people were actually sitting on the floor during our panel), my boss couldn’t say no.
And since he hadn’t been willing to sponsor me, I found people who would and partnered with them. My boss couldn’t take away that I had the credibility to go to this conference. I had the experience, I’d worked hard, our partners and top leaders in the field knew it, and I’d delivered results.
No one can take away what you know and what you’ve danced. Your experience is yours to leverage — no matter what your boss thinks. Think about when you sit down to take a written test: the test doesn’t ask for your credentials, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have them! Your knowledge and learning and experience ensure that you ace it.
5 Indisputable Facts about YOUR Career Experience
1. Your future doesn’t hinge on just one person.
Your boss is not the ONLY arbiter of your future, your opportunities, your visibility. Just because they don’t acknowledge your work or experience doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Whatever you’ve done, you’ve done. And you need to make sure people outside your boss know about it.
2. You decide how you talk about yourself.
Don’t assume that people should know why your opinion or advice matters — only you know what you’ve danced until you tell them. Frame how you talk about yourself to make your experience clear. Use phrases that give you credibility. “As someone who spends her free time working in ___”. Or, “because I have worked as a Controller before…”. Or, “when I led the test last year in that program, here’s the results we saw.” Think about presenting your experience in a way that gives you credibility in meetings and in interviews.
3. Your experience belongs to you.
No one in the organization where you work can take away your experience. You get to talk about it even if your boss doesn’t see it. Say you joined a company as an FP&A manager, but you have Controller experience from your last job. You share something from your experience and someone says, “well you’re not a controller.” Your current job title doesn’t matter — you have the experience no matter what your email signature says. So the next time you want to speak up and you’ve got the chops to give your perspective some weight, instead of diving straight into your opinions, start with something like, “as someone who’s done this for three years in my previous job, I think it’s important to note this.” You can call on your past experience. Always making it clear why people should listen to you is important.
It’s similar in the job seeking world. Candidates will say, “my boss won’t say I was leading engineering, but I was because he was MIA.” If YOU did the work and achieved the results, it doesn’t matter what your boss would say. I bet there’s plenty of colleagues and direct reports who will vouch for the work you were doing when it’s time for references. The results are yours. No one can take that away from you.
4. You can take credit.
If your boss doesn’t acknowledge your work, you can take the credit anyway. He might not like it, but that’s his problem. Of course there’s diplomacy involved: you can’t say “I did this all by myself and John had nothing to do with it.” You need to figure out how to frame your involvement without negating his. It made my boss mad when I went to that conference, but I got what I truly deserved and earned. And his power over my career became less and less as a result. I had learned I couldn’t hitch my wagon to his horses.
5. Your champions are out there.
If your boss is not the person who will elevate your voice, there’s likely someone else in your organization or industry who will. Find your champion to help speak on your behalf. You can say, “I’m not getting visibility for this project, and I’m working hard on it. If it happens to come up in a meeting, feel free to say ‘Lashonda’s really great at that, she’s done it in these 3 cases, we should bring her onto this project.’” You can get you on cross-functional and higher-visibility projects by leveraging a champion when your boss isn’t one.
No one can take away what you’ve danced.
Nadie te quita lo bailado. No one can take away what you’ve danced, and you don’t need their permission to share your experience and insight. You own what you know and the results you’ve delivered, and when you operate from the place of confidence and certainty in your experience, your career opportunities will sky rocket.
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