Trailblazing Panelists Share How They Became Confident in Their Careers

Magazine ,

By Diane Sears 

Antoinette Williams enjoyed working in the multifamily housing industry, but she wanted to get out of her leasing position and move up to a job that would challenge her more. The tricky part was that she didn’t see anyone who looked like her in higher-level roles. 

Williams, who is Black, had to take control of her own career and learn how to promote herself. Today she is a regional vice president based in Dallas for the Carroll real estate investment firm. Self-promotion is not bragging, and it’s not bad, she told an audience at the Florida Apartment Association’s Annual Conference in October. It’s important to let your boss know what you’ve accomplished and show you’re ready for new opportunities. On the flip side, it’s also important for people who are in the majority to actively seek out those in the minority to make sure they feel comfortable taking the steps to grow in their careers. 

Williams was one of three panelists in a session called “Trailblazing Your Way to the Table with Confidence,” moderated by Elizabeth Francisco, founder and president of Dallas-based ResMan Property Management Software. Francisco understands what it takes to become CEO of your career after starting out as a leasing agent herself. 

A lack of confidence can stifle career growth, Francisco said. You might be experiencing a lack of confidence if any of these scenarios describes you:

  • You find it easier to advocate for others than you do for yourself.
  • Other people champion you, and this is how you’ve gotten promoted.
  • You are frequently “voluntold,” and you do well in your volunteer roles, but you don’t volunteer on your own.
  • You don’t celebrate wins along the way because you’re not confident enough to stop and take time to do that. 

When you’re not confident, she said, you hesitate to ask for things. You are reluctant to speak up. You might just be getting in your own way. 

“Growing your skill set and becoming an expert in your domain is not your employer’s responsibility,” Francisco told the audience. “It’s yours.”

If you want to move up in your career, you have to make sacrifices to get the education you need for the next level. That might mean investing your own time and money in learning a skill that is new to you: building Excel spreadsheets, creating profit-and-loss statements through QuickBooks, hiring through behavioral interviewing, managing a team. If you think you don’t have the time or money to invest in yourself, then advancing your career is not your priority. 

“Self-confidence is a lifelong venture,” panelist Sonya Rosenbach told the audience. She is the CFO for Allied Orion Group, based in Houston, but she went through a rough period in her career when she found herself living in a new city with no job and no support system. As a young woman in the industry, she was wracked with self-doubt, but she had to power ahead.

Rosenbach became her own pep squad and supplied the self-confidence she needed to get herself through. She offered these four pieces of advice:

  1. Identify what is making you feel like you are not confident.
  2. Focus on wins, no matter how small they are.
  3. Cut yourself some slack.
  4. Celebrate what is going well instead of dwelling on the negatives. 

Part of building your self-confidence is that old adage of “Fake it till you make it,” said panelist Jimmy Chestnut, vice president with Incore Residential in St. Petersburg. He said he found it important to identify people who could be instrumental in helping him grow in his career. You have to build your own network and support system, he said. 

In today’s job market, where employees are like gold, it might be easier to get the kinds of promotions you deserve, moderator Francisco told the audience. “Good talent is hard to find. Be the one they can’t afford to lose. If you’re not being compensated properly, take the risk and leave.”

It’s not healthy to develop animosity toward your employer because you’re putting in the work and not being recognized, she said. Instead, you have to speak up. Your supervisor might have too full a plate to realize what is happening or not happening in your career. 

Your personal brand becomes key, Rosenbach said. Companies love metrics, so make sure you keep track of yours. How many prospects have you brought in? How many leases have you signed? How many have you renewed? 

Francisco shared additional tips to help you become CEO of your career:

  • Set aside 1.5 hours a week to work on your skills after you put your kids to bed at night. 
  • Challenge yourself to get to the next level.
  • Free up your time to study the skills it takes to become an executive. 
  • Learn “in the shadows” on your own time, rather than relying on your supervisor to send you to training, and you’ll get results faster. 
  • Build professional relationships with people who are where you want to be. Men tend to network two levels above their current position, while women associate with people at their own level or maybe one step above. 
  • Learn how to delegate. You can’t deprive the people around you of doing good work that helps them grow.
  • Remember to give those who work for you public credit for the work they’ve done.

Most of all, she said, don’t be so afraid of failure that you avoid risks. Francisco quoted industrialist and business magnate Henry Ford: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”