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If an organization isn’t aligned with your career goals, you could be wasting your time there.jacoblund/Getty Images

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Ask Women and Work

Question: I’m in my late 50s working in a corporate environment. I feel like I’m being pushed to retire, but I’m nowhere near ready to do so. What I really want to do is advance into a more senior role. What actions should I be taking to get the promotion I’m looking for, or to find a new job where they appreciate my experience and leadership?

We asked Toronto-based executive coach Kadine Cooper to tackle this one:

If this is an organization that you are still invested in, a good place to start is with your manager. Have a one-on-one meeting with them and be clear about what you want. Tell them about your interest in advancement and ask, ‘Do you foresee that as a possibility for me here?’ If the message you are getting is that they aren’t aligned with your career goals and your trajectory, you’re wasting your time there.

It may be hard to hear, but consider this opportunity a bit of a gift. If this organization no longer sees your value, is it really a place that you want to continue investing your time and your energy?

You are expressing that you have much more to give, but what does that ‘much more’ look like? Do you want to go into consulting? Do you want to work in the same industry or do you want to explore a different industry? These are questions you need to think about.

The next step is to conduct a spot analysis on yourself. What are your strengths? What value do you bring? What are your weaknesses, such as any skill gaps you may have? If you’ve been in the same organization or industry for 10 or 15 years, you might have blinders on.

Next, start having some intentional career networking conversations to see what is out there. This isn’t about asking anyone for a job. You’re looking for insight into what a day in the life in that job would look like, and the educational or experience you would need to be seen as the ideal candidate. If you do have a skill gap, you might want to explore taking a course, getting certified or some other kind of upskilling.

Then, take a look at your personal branding. Ask yourself, ‘How am I showing up? What does my digital footprint say about me as a professional?’ For example, there’s such a misconception that your LinkedIn profile belongs to our employer. LinkedIn is your profile. You may need to tweak it so that people see you differently.

Sometimes it can be about working on your confidence; knowing the value that you bring and being able to confidently articulate that. I have a client right now who’s at a bit of a crossroads, and one of the things that I’m working on with her right now and is being able to advocate for herself.

Ageism is a real thing, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t be valued for your years of experience and expertise. I think we sometimes give our power away and allow other people to dictate our future, whether it be personally or professionally. What would it look like if you were to take that power back?

Submit your own questions to Ask Women and Work by e-mailing us at

This week’s must-read stories on women and work

For every step forward, it seems women take two back

“When it comes to women in leadership, sometimes it feels like for every step forward we take, we take two steps back,” says Dawn Calleja in her latest editor’s note for Report on Business magazine.

“In April 2021, Rania Llewellyn appeared on the cover of our Women Lead Here issue with the line: “Underestimate me. That’ll be fun” – the words emblazoned on the sweatshirt she wore for her interview with reporter Joanna Pachner. Half a year earlier, after two decades climbing the ladder at Scotiabank, Llewellyn was appointed CEO of Laurentian Bank, making her the first woman to run a Canadian-owned bank. Laurentian, she told Pachner, was at a ‘critical juncture’ in its 175-year history, losing market share and woefully behind technologically.

“Llewellyn was handed the CEO role after the board gave her predecessor two weeks’ notice. ‘In a sector characterized by orderly leadership transitions,’ Pachner wrote, ‘that’s almost equivalent to being marched out the door by security.’

“That line is particularly striking now, given what happened to Llewellyn in early October.”

Read what Ms. Llewellyn’s ouster, and that of two other high-profile female CEOs, means for the leadership landscape in Canada.

Bilal Baig on saying goodbye to CBC’s Sort Of and finding creative confidence

Even as an accomplished triple-threat, Mississauga native (and writer, actor, producer) Bilal Baig felt nervous embarking on CBC Gem comedy series Sort Of before it premiered back in 2021. But today, with its third and final season set to make its debut on Nov. 17, and with seven Canadian Screen Awards and a Peabody Award in the bag, they feel proud of what they created: a true labour of love.

With co-creator Fab Filippo, Baig developed a boundary-breaking series that follows Sabi (played by Baig), a gender expansive Pakistani-Canadian millennial who is making more than a few transitions: in life, career, faith and love. Aren’t we all?

As the first queer South Asian Muslim actor to lead a Canadian prime-time television series, they have become a role model and a sign of what is possible for so many.

Read more in this intallment of Off Duty, a series of lively conversations with influential people, from CEOs to celebrities, on life, work and the art of taking time off.

ROB magazine’s Newcomer of the Year: How Tracy Robinson got CN Rail back on track

Tracy Robinson would be the first to admit she was a surprise choice for CEO of Canadian National Railway. She’d stepped away from the industry for close to eight years before taking over CN in February 2022. Sure, she’d spent nearly three decades at Canadian Pacific before that, with roles in sales, marketing and finance, but the investor and analyst community didn’t see her as an “operations person.”

There is, after all, a kind of mythos around railroaders. The men who lead Canada’s railroads – and they’ve all been men – have typically spent decades working with trains, prone to telling tales of the grit involved in keeping them rolling. Hunter Harrison, who’s credited with turning around several railroads, including CN, got his start as a teenage carman-oiler. Keith Creel, the Harrison disciple who now heads Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC), once trekked to a hotel in the dark of night to turn over rooms so a rail crew could sleep.

“I don’t blame anybody for having some questions,” Ms. Robinson says. The skepticism didn’t rattle her. “I’d rather come in and show than talk,” she says. “I don’t mind having to prove it.”

Read how Ms. Robinson has restored credibility with investors and won plaudits from analysts by playing to CN’s strengths.

In case you missed it

Ask Women and Work: Tips on handling workplace stress from an emergency room nurse

We asked Alexandrea Bearzot, registered nurse (RN) and wellness lead for nurses in the emergency department (ER) at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, to tackle a question about how to stay calm in high-stress situations:

“I think managing stress in the workplace comes down to two factors that are equally important: the things you do in the workplace and things you do outside of the workplace.

“One of the most important things that helps me in the workplace is the support of my colleagues. I know if I’m overwhelmed or stressed or unsure about something, I can always talk to a colleague and know that it’s okay. Even the most experienced doctors, the most experienced nurses, they’ll ask for help. They’ll rely on a colleague for something that they don’t know. So it’s important to know you don’t have to know everything or deal with everything on your own; you can rely on the support of your colleagues.

“When it comes to keeping the emotions under control, I find that taking a moment to centre myself has always helped with this. That can mean going to the washroom or another space to take a few seconds to breathe.”

Read the full article.

From the archives

Should you go back to school to boost your career prospects?

During the pandemic, Hanadi Usman checked off an item from her professional development bucket list and successfully completed an online master of business administration (MBA) degree.

Ms. Usman, a 41-year-old project manager working in the health-care industry in Toronto, had put off pursuing the MBA for over a decade because she was wary of being burdened with student loan debt. She also needed a flexible curriculum that could accommodate the demands of a full-time job.

Even though her MBA degree did not result in a significant raise or promotion, Ms. Usman has no regrets about taking the plunge.

“My MBA degree has definitely helped me to understand business strategies, branding, sales and leadership because we had CEOs and executives from well-known companies share their experiences,” she says.

Read the full article.

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