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To gain advancement opportunities, 'put your hand up' when interesting projects present themselves.Renata Angerami/Getty Images

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Ask Women and Work

Question: I’m a woman in my 20s and I’m very ambitious. I’m eager to advance at my workplace and take on more responsibility, but I have been told to slow down by my superiors. What are some steps I should take to get the career advancement I’m looking for?

We asked Lena Lebtahi Courcol, acquisitions manager at Montreal-based New Market Funds and a Gen Z woman, to tackle this one:

Because you’ve been told by your manager to slow down, I think your first step should be to have a conversation with your manager to understand a little bit more about where this is coming from. It may be that your manager has some pain points in the current responsibilities that you have on your plate and they want to see you hone your skills within that. If the manager says, ‘No, all is good, your performance has been great,’ then I would be interested in prodding the manager and asking, ‘In that case, how can I progress? How do you see my evolution in this role at this company?’

There are some other things you can do to boost your chances of advancement. In my own experience, I’ve found that saying yes, putting my hand up and taking opportunities for new projects has shown success for me. It has shown my managers that I am eager to learn and curious to understand other parts of the business.

When I first started at my company, I was performing well in my current tasks and was able to deliver good quality work, but honestly, I had a lot of extra time on my hands. I saw that there was an opportunity within the company to do this extra project that everyone wanted done, but no one had time for. In this case, it was impact measurement. So I had a conversation with my manager and said, ‘I’m really interested in that. Would you be willing for me to slowly get through it? It won’t take away from my current responsibilities.’ She told me to go for it. Over the next six months, I did it, and everyone said, ‘Wow, we’ve been wanting to do this project for years and you got it done and that’s awesome.’

Another strategy is to talk to your colleagues, especially if they previously had your role and have progressed. How did they get there? The route won’t always going to be the same, but understanding their experience can be so valuable. It’s also helpful to have allies within your workplace, such as a peer who will say, ‘She did an excellent job at this.’ You get that cheerleading effect.

If you’ve been in your current position long enough and you’ve exhausted all your options and everyone’s telling you, ‘You’re doing a great job,’ but there’s still no career advancement happening, that is probably your cue to look elsewhere. If you see peers advancing and you’re not, that would be another cue. It’s a tough call, but these can be indications that it’s not the right place for you to get the advancement you want.

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

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

The right and wrong ways to answer the ‘What are your weaknesses’ question in an interview

“Whether you are mid career or just starting out, the process of job searching can be exciting, but at the same time, gruelling, unpredictable and frustrating, especially at the interview stage,” says Eileen Dooley, talent and leadership development specialist in Calgary. “Questions from interviewers are getting more complex and detail oriented, with specific emphasis on self awareness. And there is no better question that digs into self awareness than the ‘what are your weaknesses’ question.

“It comes in various forms. What do you need to work on? What are your challenges? Or any form of question that requires the candidate to be more self aware, authentic and transparent.

“This question is so critical that it may be the step between you and a good job with a good paycheque. Unfortunately, many interviewees believe this question is ‘stupid,’ ‘lazy’ and just not worth their time answering. They believe it is a set-up to throw them off and become uncomfortable.”

Read how answering the “weakness” question the right way can show authenticity and strength.

Why LinkedIn is the social media channel of business champions

“When I have a few minutes to spare, my first instinct is to pull out my phone and check LinkedIn,” says Amanda Cupido, founder and CEO of Lead Podcasting. “When I tell my media students at Seneca Polytechnic that LinkedIn is my social media channel of choice, they roll their eyes. I may sound like I’m just trying to prove a point about the importance of networking, but it’s true.

“As a journalism instructor I encourage all my students to set up a LinkedIn account and instead of handing out business cards at industry events, offer to connect with people on the platform.

“For people looking to enter the work force, it’s a no-brainer. LinkedIn allows your connections to keep up with your work and gives people an easy way to reach out. And as I’ve learned, no matter your career stage, LinkedIn can be extremely powerful.”

Read three ways to leverage LinkedIn to grow a business.

To make better decisions, split discussion and decisions into separate meetings

Most meetings on critical issues feature discussion and decisions. But consultant Kim Scott believes you need to divide those two elements into separate meetings, even if they seem to naturally go together. And if you can turn that discussion into debate, you’ll be even better off.

The idea came to her two decades ago when she was running her own software company and realized people were angry about how long the weekly meetings were taking. Worse, those not coming to meetings felt guilty and left out. “I also noticed that very often when it comes time to make a decision, people who are in a position of power grab the decision even though they don’t have the knowledge necessary,” she says in an interview.

She tightened the weekly meetings by taking the decisions out of them, instead identifying during the session a few vital ones that would be tackled later in the week.

Read how splitting discussion and decision-making meetings can reduce conflict and sharpen ideas.

In case you missed it

I failed at work. How can I recover from this?

“Failure is human. It’s not fatal,” says Chenai Kadungure, executive director of the Black Physicians’ Association of Ontario. “It’s also a part of learning, so we need to flip the way we view it. The avoidance of failure, or that obsession with perfection, is usually what gets us into trouble. There has to be self-forgiveness.

“After a failure, you need to assess the situation and ask yourself, ‘What happened? What led to me dropping the ball?’ I often find that failure happens when someone is juggling too much. You need to have a realistic understanding of what your capacity is and what your limitations are. Perpetual people pleasers often struggle with that; you aren’t able to say yes to everything that’s coming your way.

“When it comes to building trust after a failure, I think integrity builds trust. Your boss should not be the last to know you dropped that ball. It’s about having a face-to-face meeting, telling them what happened and giving a sincere apology.”

Read the full article.

From the archives

Research shows women of different ethnicities rarely work together to address workplace inequity

Despite facing many of the same barriers, women don’t always come together to address inequity in the workplace.

In her book, Shared Sisterhood: How to Take Collective Action for Racial and Gender Equity at Work, Dr. Tina Opie highlights how white women and women of colour rarely work together to fix the inequities they all face even with the commonalities they experience, like lower pay, disparity in promotion and incidents of harassment.

Her research found white women are more likely to be raised in individualist communities where success is based on individual work ethic, while Black women (and, in Dr. Opie’s research, other women of colour) are more likely to be raised in communities of resistance, where they are taught to work hard but to remember the world is not designed for them.

Read the full article.

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