At the start of the month, the monthly Young Women of Influence speaker series filled a meeting room at Toronto’s Intercontinental Hotel with estrogen and inspiring young females. Our speaker was Anne Fitzgerald, who began her career as a corporate commercial litigator, but through a series of twists and turns, both vocationally, personally and regionally, eventually landed her current position of Chief Legal Officer at Cineplex Inc. in Ontario. There couldn’t have been a more experienced speaker to lecture us on the benefits of change and the importance of negotiating than Anne Fitzgerald. Here’s what she had to say…
…On Change. Fitzgerald’s lessons learned from change were simple and two-fold: 1. Nothing lasts forever, and 2. It is better to change willfully than let change pass you by. She tells the crowd that “quitting isn’t bad” and describes a phenomenon she calls “quitting euphoria.” In other words, if you have the opportunity, either professionally or personally, to partake in positive change, then apply yourself and make that change happen…just remember, all change requires negotiation.
…On Negotiation. If you are doing a job that you don’t like, or that doesn’t work for you, it is the product of a failed negotiation, says Fitzgerald. In terms of the art of negotiation, a belief in your argument matters a lot in business, while belief in self is more important in personal negotiation. Whatever the case, she cautions against telling the full story with all the facts off the bat. Professionally, when you are in the position to negotiate with an employer, you have the all-important task of creating your own image. You are your own promoter and you get to choose how you are represented.
Need help? Fitzgerald advises asking friends and family to describe what you are good at. We may believe that we know all of our professional skills, but that is only one point of view. Ask those closest to you, you may be surprised at what skills they see that you could not see in yourself.
Once you’ve figured out your skill set, get creative; especially if you are currently in a profession that you don’t like. Remember, don’t apply for the same position with a different company, or under another employer. You will still be unhappy – take stock of your skills and determine whether they are transferable to other positions or perhaps completely different occupations. Don’t limit yourself, think big and think broad.
…On Networking. “90% of all jobs at the senior level are found by networking.” When you think about it, this statistic makes perfect sense. Typically a corporation’s structure is akin to a pyramid. The base of the pyramid is made up of junior executives and entry-level employees, the second tier is made up of management employees, the third tier consists of those second in command to the CEOs and the tip of the pyramid consists of those CEOs. Picture the pyramid in your mind; the majority of job availability is at the junior/entry level.
To put it another way, there are fewer positions available at the top senior levels, and there is only one CEO. When you are being considered for an upper level job, more often than not you have worked your way to the top of the company and are recognized by your superiors (networking within your own company is still networking), or, if you are not already an employee of that company, you are connected with upper level staff who have sway with the corporation and are willing to vouch for you based on your connection (referrals).
So don’t deny yourself any opportunities by passing up a chance to reach out. Fitzgerald, herself in a senior position, said that most people you reach out to will be happy to spare you at least 15 minutes of their time and give you some advice. However, you have to make your own opportunities and, as she tells us, this may mean buying a lot of lunches. This goes beyond reaching out to someone in a senior level position in your own company. Give yourself the opportunity to make connections; volunteer, do some cnotract or freelance work. Put yourself out there.
…On Emotions. It is more difficult to manage negotiations in personal life than professional because emotions are involved. In order for personal negotiation to thrive, there must be a solution for both and you must be able to engage the other person. To effectively negotiate also requires a degree of emotional intelligence, and it can be a trying task to negotiate with an emotional person.
…On Women. The most startling statistics of the night came from Fitzgerald’s lecture on women in the workforce. Today, in 2012, women make up less than half of the Canadian work force at 47% and only 23% of senior executives are women. More shocking still was Fitzgerald’s assessment of women and men’s personalities regarding success. Apparently, men are more likely to credit themselves with their own success while women are more likely to credit others for their success.
The take-home lesson for all of us female young professionals? “Believe in yourself more than you do today and remember that happiness begins with you.”
Photos by Spencer Morris