From Feeling Unvalued at Work to Confidently Negotiating a Job Offer: Louise's Story
Louise, Director, Partnerships & Operations
One of my sisters had been coached by Maya a couple of years ago and she mentioned the course. She thought I might appreciate it. And then it just got put on the back burner. Nothing was on fire at the moment so I just didn’t pursue it.
And then late last summer, the social impact organization I had been working for made some significant organizational restructures and my team was one of the teams that was essentially cut entirely. It was a hard process. It was one of those moments that brought into question: “Is what we do actually valuable if you’re able to cut it out of the organization entirely?” and what does that make me feel as a person about the value of my contributions. Thankfully, there was a long transition period, we were fortunate that they shared the direction we were heading and also gave us options to leave if we didn’t want to transition into the new roles they offered.
I’m thankful we had a slow transition but it was also a difficult time. I questioned the value of my contributions and even with the support of an entire team going through the same thing and others validating the value of our work, there was just this much louder inner critic in my head that was getting fueled by that story and that question of “Is what I’m doing impactful? Am I good at it?” When I left that job I took some time to reflect and realized I needed some structure and support to assess what I wanted to do next.
This was a pivotal moment for me to really think about what I wanted out of my career moving forward. There have been a lot of changes in my life over the last couple of years, a new baby, moving to a new city, new communities, a lot of change. And so, I think I reached out to Maya or maybe received one of her emails. I can’t remember which, but it just really felt like a good time to do some more of that exploratory personal work. That’s how I joined the community initially.
There were a couple of key pieces for me that took me from a no to a yes, because I was a little concerned. I don’t have an architectural or design background, so I wasn’t sure if the cohort was going to be the right fit and if I should be looking for more one-on-one coaching. After talking with Maya about the structure and backgrounds of the people in the cohort, I realized the challenges I was facing weren’t industry specific. They may be somewhat universal and in some cases more common with women despite their respective industries. The stories Maya shared gave me a sense of how impactful this journey can be.
Working with Maya
I came in with the very specific focus of needing to find a new job. The resources that were supplied were phenomenal in that way in terms of just taking the process and making it very approachable for me to do that exploratory work. To think about what are the things that I want most. I love that the worksheets were simple. Don’t overthink it, and that’s something that I often do, right? Wanting things to be perfect and then overthinking everything. And I think that the way it was designed both in how we talked about going through things as the cohort, but also in the worksheets themselves really reiterated this principle of doing something in small increments as a valuable way to make progress.
That really spoke to me in terms of facilitating a process forward. How do I make small steps of this thing that felt very unknown? And it was immediately valuable, specifically the inner critic exercises. As soon as I started writing down all of the things in my head, all of the critical thoughts that I had, it gave me enough distance to say, wait a minute, I can immediately start to shoot holes in all of those ideas.
Instead of thoughts in my head that are just pinging around and getting louder and louder, I could see them. It was as if a friend were telling me this about herself and I could say, "You're crazy. These things aren't true."
I was amazed at how something so simple could have such a significant impact in terms of being able to pull myself away from some of those thoughts that had been in my head. It was powerful.
Group Coaching Wisdom
As we went through the process, I was a little skeptical about the group coaching piece, and whether or not that would be a huge value add. I initially thought it would be much more of the worksheets and the one-on-one coaching. But what I found is that there was some nugget I took away every week that was either relevant to my job search, things to recognize about how I work, habits that I have that I want to change or a lot of really useful tools.
I have been able to implement what I learned into the way I approach problems, the way I process things, the way I’m taking more action in small bits and pieces at a time and all of that continues to be really beneficial. There have been so many times where I’ve talked to women and shared some of the things I’m learning and they’re like, “That sounds amazing. I need that. That all applies to me.” There have been so many little nuggets that I find that I’m sharing with other women, because there are these very common pitfalls that women fall into and often feel like you’re the only one who is approaching something in that way, or the only one who’s facing a similar challenge.
Being able to join a group of people and hear that others are facing the similar challenges allowed me to recognize the traits and pitfalls I often saw as my personal failings can also be challenges many people face. That being a perfectionist, over analyzing and getting into decision paralysis isn’t just a me problem. It’s potentially something that many people deal with. And that made it easier to see these behaviors as something that I could change instead of something that was inherently part of who I am.
It’s been empowering to see how other people are recognizing and making changes. You realize you also have that capacity to change.
The smallest changes can lead to significant progress, being able to take the first step and get past that initial barrier can be a massive accomplishment.
Job Search Process & Confidently Negotiating a Job Offer
I’d say I approached this job process unlike any I had before. I had always been terrified, exhausted, and just frustrated by looking for a job. I think previously I approached it as how do I make sure that I’m selling myself to fit this thing they’ve asked. Something that was so powerful through this course was realizing that I am at a different point in my career than I was just out of college or even five years ago.
It was so empowering to recognize the valuable experience I have to contribute and that I have more perspective to assess what I want out of my career, what aspects are fulfilling vs draining, where I want to focus my time, and how I want to grow.
That changed the way I approached the interview process. It gave me confidence in my own strengths and allowed me to focus on what I could do within the organization that aligned with my interests and also consider if the organization is the right fit for me.
And so I definitely approached this process differently and I didn’t apply to every single job that I might be a fit for. I was much more efficient and really honed in on the jobs that felt like something I wanted to explore and also leaning into my network and some of the other paths that had been encouraged.
This new job specifically, it was an opportunity that came from a colleague in my network and the role itself wasn’t one that was necessarily the right fit, but the company was interesting to me. I was also pretty early in my process and thought, you know what? I have nothing to lose. Let’s go for it.
I had done a lot of pre-work through the worksheets, and when I was entering into the interview conversations, it gave me this confidence to just say, you know what? I’m going to ask the questions I want to ask. I’m going to be a little bit bolder and approach each one of those conversations like, what do I want to know out of this? And I think the results of that were incredible. I think that because I wasn’t trying to just answer their questions, we actually had deeper conversations and they were able to see what I had to offer as a person outside of the scope of the initial job. Through the interview process, they created a new role for me. They ended up hiring someone for the initial posting and then created a job specifically for me based on what I had been doing, how I was talking about the broader organization, my experience, the things that interested me most. It became clear through our conversations.
I also went through the negotiation process in a similar way of, well, I don’t have anything to lose. Let’s just go for it. Let’s ask for what I want. Let’s put some bigger numbers out there. I also negotiated on what my title would be as well. I had some great advice from Maya. We had a fantastic one-on-one call where she said, “Let’s talk through some of the different nuances of your situation. What do you feel comfortable you could push on? What are some ways to approach it?”
I left that conversation feeling confident in how to handle it and had nothing but phenomenal outcomes. I went into our negotiation conversation and was just kind of bold and said, “Would you guys consider this as a director level position?” I also did my research and shared compensation numbers that seemed appropriate for the role we discussed.
I felt informed and confident that what I was asking for was reasonable, even if it was more than we had initially discussed. I came out of the negotiation process with a job, the elevated title, and a significant increase in pay.
Which was phenomenal—and also frustrating to realize I was likely underpaid before—but also I advocated for myself and thought this is what you have to do, right? You just have to put it out there. I can’t say what my expectations were coming into the course.
I felt so unsure of how to move forward when I started the course, and I left feeling empowered. It's been transformational in the best way.
And now that I have this job, I still pull from things I learned in the course. Reminding myself, this is me, these are my strengths. I got this job because I was leaning into the strongest version of myself. This helps me remain confident in my abilities and not revert back to previous behaviors. There’s so many negative habits that can be easy to fall back into. The course has been so valuable in terms of getting me to this point and also changing how I think about leveraging my own strengths, taking action, and charting a course that aligns with what I want from my career.
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