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Stop with the lucky girl syndrome

Media commentator, columnist and author Jamila Rizvi wants women to stop with the lucky girl syndrome and own their success.
Catherine Robson
November 3, 2017

Media commentator, columnist and author Jamila Rizvi’s was named one of Melbourne’s Most Influential Women Under 40 in July by The Weekly Review.

Her writing debut, Not Just Lucky, is a career manifesto for millennial women, exploring the reasons why many women at the top of their game credit their success to luck, not ability.

In this week’s Success Story, Jamila talks about escaping competency trap, steps to manage your boss and why the ‘dream job’ isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be.

Jamila Rizvi Drawing on case studies and extensive research, Not Just Lucky empowers women with practical, insightful steps to fight for their workplace success and stop giving luck undue credit for career their triumphs.

“I called the book Not Just Lucky for a number of reasons.

“It started off with me noticing this tendency amongst women, particularly at the top of their careers, really successful women, attributing all their success to chance.” Jamila explains.

“I looked into it more and that was when I learned that for women, who do get to the top of their game in the workplace, success and likeability don’t correlate.”

“I started to realise that when women are talking about luck and the role it plays in their career, they’re really asking for people not to hate them.” she says.

Landing the role as Media Assistant for Kevin Rudd at just 22, Jamila learnt that sometimes our dream job isn’t all it seems from the outside looking in.

It wasn’t just the 4 am starts and 16 hour days working for the Prime Minister that got to her. Jamila began to feel stuck in her role.

“I felt very boxed in.” she recalls.

“I kept wanting to do more and I felt like I wasn’t being given any opportunities to show people.”

It turns out doing a job really well can actually hurt your career – it’s the competency trap, a challenge facing many women, particularly those in entry level roles.

“You might have taken that role hoping it would be a stepping stone but you don’t seem to do any stepping because you’re good at it.

“You’re performing well and your good performance counts against you,” says Jamila.

“It can be a really complex situation. What you often do in that headspace is want to give up and you begin performing worse.”

“If taking that next career step is a priority but you’re feeling stuck, don’t let frustration hurt your performance.

“A lot of bosses say when they’ve got someone in their team who wants a promotion, they perform poorly, not better, because they are actually frustrated that they haven’t got the promotion already,” says Jamila.

She also advises to ‘manage up’.

“Recognise your boss doesn’t just manage you, you have to manage your boss and find ways to demonstrate your consistent achievements.

“They have to know where you’re overdoing it on your KPI’s, so to speak.

“Often when you’ve been a high performer for a long time you become wallpaper. It becomes normal that you’re a high performer.”

Reframing the way she thought about her boss, as a client instead of a boss, meant Jamila delivered work that not only made her look good, but let her boss shine too.

“When you reframe your own boss as the client, you’re then thinking about them in a different way.

“You have to service their needs, they’ve got a particular requirement and they’re coming to you to fill that requirement. If you want their business you have to deliver,” she explains.

“But at the same time, they’re not always going to know exactly what they want.

“If you find yourself on the receiving end of an ambiguous, directionless.

“Can you just take care of this?” type of email from your boss, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification and offer solutions, so you can do your best work.

“I think the best way to respond is a really quick email that says ‘Absolutely!’ start with the positive, start with the solution and then think about the priorities next.

“Ask for specifics, you want a time frame on this kind of stuff, you want a level of urgency and you want to work out, in advance, the questions you need to ask your boss to be able to execute on the job they’ve given you.”

“Options are your best friend at work, give your boss some options. Say, ‘Here’s the course of action I’d like to pursue, alternatively I could do A, B, C or D but I really think we should go with this course of action, please let me know what you prefer?’”


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Catherine Robson
November 3, 2017
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