2 June 2021
Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, finding passion in your career, breaking the ceiling as an Asian-Australian, and dealing with misleading job advertisments.
I can really hear how keen you are to discover your purpose and to find something more than simply turning up to work. Sometimes finding that perfect job for you can happen accidentally; for some they have just always known. I do believe that you will be able to find work you can feel passionate about or at the very least, interested in. But before you do, you need to work out what it is that you really love. Without any limits, what kind of job do you lay in bed at night imagining would be the best possible job for you?
Have a think about things in your life that you get excited about – maybe a hobby or something you have only ever dreamt of pursuing. It might also be a particular way of working you love – working with people, creating things or being outside. What does your perfect role look like?
Once you identify what ignites a spark for you, then you need to work out a way to integrate that passion into your professional life. That may mean thinking laterally about how you can find ways to be paid but I guarantee you, when you do find what brings you joy you will do much better at it than any job where you simply turn up for each day.
I am an Asian-Australian woman working for a large corporate company. I’m currently in a mid-senior level and looking at higher levels of management but it is dominated by males and some females, and all Caucasians. I don’t see anyone retiring in the next few years. How can I break the ceiling?
As you identify, the bamboo ceiling you mention – a phrase coined for the many factors preventing career progress for those with Asian heritage – is sadly alive and well. And as an Asian-Australian woman, you are also contending with the intersectionality of your race and gender. I would love to give you a sledge hammer to smash that ceiling since right now, even though Asian-Australians comprise 12 per cent of our population, they only hold around 3 per cent of senior leadership positions in public institutions and ASX200 companies. Add being female to that statistic and the numbers are simply shameful.
Employers and leaders need to fix this, not you. I am sure you are already doing as much, if not more, than your colleagues to develop and network in your role. As Catherine Fox says in her book Stop Fixing Women, it is the system that is broken.
While you wait for the system to change, you might like to speak with your boss about your goals for promotion and ask them what they expect to see from you specifically, for that to happen. If you don’t see any progress or any commitment to helping you succeed, have a think about changing jobs to find somewhere that values you for what you bring, just as you are. There are plenty of companies out there that will be grateful for your leadership around the table.
Bottom line, if you are at the point where you think your potential employer is in the business of misleading their own employees (let alone anyone else), I would make a run for it. The workplace culture is likely to reflect these kinds of issues once you start working with them so I would think twice about taking the job.
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