How do you set career goals? How do you navigate pivotal moments that define your professional success? How to recover from a career setback to seize new opportunities?
In this edition of Author Chat, Disrupt Your Career speaks with Octavia Goredema, career coach at Twenty Ten Agency, about her book, Prep, Push, Pivot: Essential Career Strategies for Underrepresented Women (Wiley, January 2022). Octavia Goredema delivers an indispensable career coaching guide for women looking for a new job, dealing with job loss, pivoting to a new career, or returning to the workforce after an extended absence. An edited version of our conversation with Octavia follows.
What inspired you to write the book? What need are you trying to address?
After being coached myself, which was the precursor to me becoming a career coach – and I am still coached to this day – I just had such an epiphany about how powerful it is to hold space that is wholly centered on what you as an individual need to support your growth. However you define success, however you choose to define it: holding that space. I very rarely had held that space for myself. It was only when there were real milestone moments where you’d have to make decisions, or maybe at the start of the year when New Year lies ahead of you and you’re thinking about what you might want that year to encompass. I also recognized that most people don’t have the opportunity to work directly with a coach. Coaching is expensive and even if you have the means, it might not be a resource that you feel is immediately accessible to you. So in my book, I wanted to provide guidance and coaching led questions for every possible scenario someone might face in their career. Now, as a black woman myself, I know how it feels sometimes to be the only woman of color in a meeting or on a team or even in the building. Women of color remain the most underrepresented group in the corporate pipeline, regardless of industry sector. When you look at the gender pay gap, it can impact women of color so profoundly. It may result in up to a million dollars in lost earnings over a lifetime. This is monumental. And so I wanted to create a resource that someone could use as they are navigating their career, especially if they feel like they might be the only in their spheres.
What are the key ideas, insights and methods from your book if you could summarize them?
The Prep part is really about laying the foundations for what your career values are and what you’re leaning towards. It discusses how to negotiate your salary, how to position yourself for promotion in the Push part, and how to reach for those next steps. And also how to determine if you want to take a step back from your career, as well. I’m a parent, I know what it’s like to make decisions about how you navigate your career goals while being a caregiver. In the Pivot part, there is the Navigating transitions, whether that’s a large pivot such as a career change, or maybe it might be a smaller one, but it’s still significant to you. And I also discuss the importance of paying it forward, because even as we are looking to our next steps, there will be people that are looking at where we are. I do love to have had the experiences that we have had or be in the positions that we are in and it can be easy to forget that. I think even as we are looking to advance it’s really important to share and to connect with others and seek about their career goals, make introductions, recommend events and provide the work of others. Because when people have done that for me, they may not even remember that now, (but) I remember! Someone taking the time to give me feedback, or share a perspective, or give me advice, or make a recommendation, it has been monumental on more occasions than I can think, and I still benefit from that. All of those things are so valuable. So I wanted to harness all of those things in one place with my book.
You say in your book that knowing your worth is crucial to everything. Can you dig a little more into that?
Well I think it’s especially important to know your worth when your worth is not being reflected back at you. When you are applying for jobs, and not even getting perhaps screening interviews, when you’ve asked for a promotion and the answer is no. Or when you are doing all the work and all of the things and you’re not necessarily being compensated what you should be, when you are not being recognized for your potential. For all of these things, often, we look to others to validate who we are. Sometimes there’s no way around that. If you’re looking for a job, you need someone to give you an opportunity. If you’re asking for a raise, you need someone to say yes. If you want to do a stretch assignment or a project, you need to have someone who will greenlight that for you. And so when we come up against obstacles, it can be: “Okay, this isn’t happening for me.” What I really want people to remember is how important it is to dig deep. What matters most to me, is not all of the accolades, but what happened in between, and the ‘nos’ that I heard, and the challenges that I faced and the toxic work environments that I navigated and the self-doubt and all of those things – the real things to be proud of – because it’s coming through those situations. And that’s why as a coach, I know there’s so much that goes into what we do that can often be completely invisible to others. Other people see the highlight reels, whether that’s on our resume or what we share. But there is so much more that goes into that.
For our listeners who are looking for help in their careers and their own purpose, could you elaborate on some of the techniques you recommend for identifying and communicating career values?
My book opens with chapter one Know your worth, and I share about 15 questions that I encourage anyone to ask themselves to really anchor what matters most for you. What do you want to be known for? What motivates and excites you to do your best work? What do you need to do to answer those questions? If you go to my website, www.octaviagoredema.com, you can actually start reading that first chapter right away. So you can go and do that at your own pace. When I’m coaching somebody, I’ll ask them questions, but it’s often when you go a layer deeper, when you pay attention to the response that you’re hearing from someone else, or that you’re writing down for yourself, if you’re doing this exercise, privately, and skim more and more questions. Pay attention to your responses, and then think about, “Okay, where do I need help here? What do I need to keep doing? Or what might I need to do differently?” And I think a really important question to also ask yourself is: “What does success means to me?” Because success means different things to everyone. It might be you want to earn a certain amount, but it might be experiences you also want to have. I want you to ask yourself, what are my non-negotiables when I think about this? What are the things that I must have for my career to be successful, to be able to feel like I’m thriving, and enjoying this experience as I’m navigating these next steps. We can’t fully control our work environment, but we can control the decisions that we make and the choices that we choose to embrace for ourselves, and honoring what we know we need. Sometimes you have to take a step sideways, or what might feel like a step back, but if it’s moving you ultimately in a direction that is important to you, then every step matters.
To order Octavia’s book Prep, Push, Pivot
Octavia’s personal homepage
Octavia’s LinkedIn profile