A little over a year ago I took a leap and threw my hat in the ring for a big promotion at my organization. Up until that moment, I had been complacent about my work, and knew I was only giving 70% when I could have been giving 100%. I was stuck doing the same thing every day, with little room for creativity and or advancement.
While I had training and some experience in this fundraising area, I hadn’t been doing it for a few years, and certainly never at this level. Yet this was the only option I saw for getting ahead. I had done my time at the organization, and understood that this was my “Lean In” moment to advance my career.
I got the job.
Within a month I began managing my own team and overseeing a business area for the first time. Even with so many firsts, I had the assurance to believe I could learn quickly, and enough history with the organization to manage the internal politics that push most new managers out. Still, I struggled from the get-go.
When I think back on those first months I remember the flood of tears, the sleepless nights, the bottomless stress eating (chocolate chip cookies by the dozen) that I endured as I struggled to find my footing. I felt so alone, and even with positive encouragement from my boss, I couldn’t get out of my head,
I felt like a complete failure.
The nonstop anxiety and self-doubt was unlike anything I had experienced before. I refused to talk about my job with my husband and friends, except to say I was miserable but coping. On the weekends I couldn’t get my heart to stop racing as I reviewed the failures I had made the previous week, and began dreading what was in store in the week to come. Everything was so new and hard. I felt inadequate. Undeserving of this opportunity.
I could write paragraphs about why I felt this way. Was it because I was a woman? If a man had this promotion would he ever experience this kind of debilitating self-doubt? Was it because I was a millennial? I felt like my agency wasn’t noticing me so did I bite off more than I could chew to feel special? Was it because I’m generally hard on myself and had never experienced this kind of pressure-cooker situation before?
I believe it was all of these, and more. Nothing I’ve done had ever demanded this much of me; and never had I demanded so much of myself.
I pushed through it.
Somewhere along the line I had enough wins to gain confidence. I began to develop a strong gut, and could come home without obsessing over every conversation I had that day. I gained a thick skin, and what once felt like stab wounds to my ego, slowly became pinpricks. I developed strong instincts, and didn’t allow myself to get pushed around by people who doubted my strategy. I built relationships, and this more than everything else has allowed me to make change and dream big.
Then last week, and sixteen months into the job, I received great news. Our department annual numbers hit a fundraising target we had not seen since before the collapse of the economy.
In the spirit of this New Year, and the resolutions I know I should be making, I promise myself this: I will always hang in there.
I will not give into the self-doubt that crippled me at the beginning of this journey. I know that there are much more difficult trials to come in my life. I can’t imagine what’s ahead when I have kids… when health problems gets in the way… when I change fields because I’ve climbed every mountain in this one... I will always hang in there because I believe in myself and because I’ve now done it before.
-- Jenna Fields is the Women’s Philanthropy Director for a nonprofit organization. She loves putting on her sweatpants the second she comes home from work, no matter how long or short the day is.