How options can give you confidence at work

I spoke at a conference for women in construction management. I was a little nervous when they asked me to share the tip that has helped me most in my career.
I said:
Until you are told otherwise, assume that you have permission. It’s your right to take it. If you are able to accept the authority, don’t hesitate to seize it.
It wasn’t the tip that has been the most helpful in my career, I realized on the way home.
It was a different attitude that helped me grow professionally and take my career in the direction I wanted. Let me explain.
Career confidence is about having options. If you have the ability to pivot and make another work for you, you can face many challenges at work.
A few years ago, I was going through a very difficult time at work due to a very difficult project. I can still remember sitting in a taxi together with three senior managers, my customers. After a meeting with a supplier, we had created a project plan. In other circumstances, I might have been happy for input and the support of executive stakeholders who care enough to make it happen.
That day, I thought only that we weren’t the right people to put together the plan.
The developers were not involved. The test team was not involved. The business users were not involved. The trainers were not involved.
It was not possible to find anyone who would actually do the task. The plan was impossible, I knew it.
I was in front of the taxi, and I had my sunglasses on. The men chatting among themselves in the back. I was crying in the front.
You know, the quiet, slithery-down-your-cheeks-don’t-let-anyone-see kind of crying. Tears of total frustration.
I was able to pull myself together by the moment we arrived at our destination. I was able to put my professional face on and all that.
It was difficult to be so invested in a project, and yet to know that it was a failure. In that meeting, no one had listened.
It was the knowledge that I could stop working on that project that kept me going. I didn’t need the job. I showed up at work every day because I wanted to. The project was enjoyable because of my team and the professional responsibility I felt to see it through.
However, I knew that I could always walk away if things got too bad.
Knowing that I could choose to go to work each day and that I had options has changed the way that I view my involvement. It gave me the confidence to get through difficult days and the mental distance needed to deal with the low points (which were many).
For Taylor Woodrow’s women in construction and projects, I have this to say:
Sorry I couldn’t think fast enough to tell this story. For your career, my best tip is to plan how you will leave your job without a hitch.
If you have the confidence and the will to leave, you will also be able to stay.
How can you get more options?
Be smart with your money. It’s amazing that you can quit your job and still get the next pay slip for food.
Your network should be expanded beyond your company. If you ever need to find a new job, they will assist you.
Keep your skills current. Keep your skills up-to-date. You have something to offer your employer and future employers.
Believe in yourself. You have this. You’re now ready for the next job.

It takes time to give yourself options, but it is possible. My ebook, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome will help you build your confidence at work.
Next: My review of Donald Asher’s Who Gets Promoted? Who Doesn’t and Why It’s a game-changer!
It won’t help with the money. Talk to your financial advisor!
This article was first published in 2016.