If you were with me on a cool spring day in April 1996, you would have been seated in a cramped public sector office waiting for the phone to ring...
You would have felt tension in the room. This was the day after the interview for my dream job - the one I’d waited years for.
I’d been working for a long time in what for me had become a mundane job as a conventional middle manager in the Probation Service. I felt stuck, bored and hankering for change. Although I’d moved to other middle manager roles, the new challenges they brought were short-lived. I had now officially stopped growing.
I’d also been involved for some years in creating a business culture that included equality and diversity - my passion - but when this new post came up with my passion at its heart, I was scared. I wondered: ‘Is this a job you can do?’
On that day in April 1996, one phone call from one director would change my life forever.
It’s too late...
The phone rings. I sit up with a start. “Claudia, it’s George.” George was a member of the interview panel and my former line manager. “I’m calling about the outcome of your interview. Sorry ... you didn’t get the job. You weren’t convincing. I expected so much more from you. And now it’s too late.”
I lay awake that night, and many more besides, mulling over the interview. My one chance to get that dream job and I’d blown it. I made a vow; that would be my last attempt at promotion. And yet, in my heart of hearts, I knew I was capable of so much more.
...Or is it?
A few years later I moved sideways into a brand new organisation, a place that promised new opportunities for someone to really make their mark. Even though it cost me dearly, my self-doubts continued and my decision to avoid promotion remained firm. So I threw myself into my new role, doing what I could to overcome my lack of confidence and move myself on.
Then one day, Peter, a regional director, approached me. “Claudia, we’re setting up a new department and I’d like you to apply for one of the new management posts.” Being headhunted was great, but I hesitated when I heard in my head: ‘It’s too late’.
“Peter,” I said, “It’s come too late for me. I’m OK where I am.”
“Claudia, I want you in my team. It’s definitely not too late. Just look at the job description and you’ll see that it’s right for you.”
So I did. And I got the job.
And further success followed
For the next two years I decided I wasn’t going to fail again. I learned everything I could about what it takes for a woman to get promoted. And it worked. When Peter left I was encouraged to take on the management of the department.
So it wasn’t too late. Now I could see there was only me holding me back.
That a mistake several years ago shouldn’t become a mistake for life.
That I’d learnt what it takes to be a successful woman in business.
I had faced my fears head on and knocked them down one by one. I was no longer hearing that voice telling me ‘It’s too late’.
After many years of self-doubt, of being stuck in a role and moving sideways - a total waste of time! - finally I’d made it and got that promotion and a position I wanted.
Now I’m helping others
I took redundancy from the Service in 2010 and set up Winning Pathways Coaching. With my passion for equality and diversity an ongoing driving force, I wanted to share how I’d achieved success with as many women as possible.
Often I see women with huge potential holding themselves back, like I did. Is that you? Have you been holding yourself back? Are you now ready to go for what you want?
Because I’m here to tell you it’s never too late.