{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "Going up for promotion this year and was told by my (male) director that I look “too young” and should stop smiling as much if I want my clients to see me as an acting manager", "post_id": "5d90cdf7ccf6a0001ac1e5e0", "reply_count": 30, "vote_count": 1, "bowl_id": "59e88be7e2808e00149b0443", "bowl_name": "Women In Consulting" }

Going up for promotion this year and was told by my (male) director that I look “too young” and should stop smiling as much if I want my clients to see me as an acting manager

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At my first job the company had everyone attend a seminar on public speaking/presenting. One of they things they did was record us doing a presentation and then we had to watch it and give ourselves feedback. I was surprised when I watched mine because I smiled so much throughout the whole thing - I really thought I looked silly! I am still warm/smiley generally but I do try to project a little more seriousness during big client meetings. Not saying it was appropriate feedback for you obviously, but could be a nice tool for you to use, even if it’s just to confirm that you like the way you present. Good luck on your promotion!!

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I was on a project 4-5 years ago where I got to meet one of the youngest female executives in America. She was an SVP in a male dominated industry and started her career in a small consulting firm. Prior to meeting her, most female leaders I had met emulated male behavior- they tended to be a bit intimidating and had a hard edge to them, which I always assumed was an adaptive behavior they felt was required for their survival to the top. Anyway, I got to work with this young female executive for almost a year, and as result entirely shifted my perspective of female leadership in corporate America. Let me tell you when I said that she smiled ALL THE DAMN TIME, the lady was just naturally high on sunshine. She put smiley faces at the end of her emails, sat in open spaces with all the employees despite having the sweet corner office. She treated everyone with genuine kindness, and came from a humble background where the odds were very much against her. But she was so damn brilliant and an absolute beast when it came to her work- and what I admired so much about her was how clearly she had hung on to who she was, despite being surrounded by peers that were nothing but mean ole crotchety men who low key were rooting against her. After that project I decided to never again change or shift my behavior for anyone, I’ll take an honest feedback, but I’m not going to purposely act like a dick because some idiot thinks that’s a more professional image. In this world it is quite a challenge to hang on to your individuality, don’t give into any of it and own who you are all the way through. I always get told by my peers that I don’t smile enough and should wear more colors outside of black. I mean honestly? 🖕🖕🖕. As long as you can stand by your work and your clients like you, the rest of them should just go suck it. Keep doing you.

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I smile ear to ear, laugh, make jokes, wear what I want to wear, look young, bring food to make people happy and don’t particularly give a fck about anyone commenting on any of that. It works for me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea but that’s the whole point - none of us are. My clients love me. My teams love me. I haven’t had a single year where I have not met my numbers since I made partner at 33. Be yourself. Be authentic. People sense that and gravitate to that.

likeupliftinghelpful

To answer both questions above. You absolutely need mentorship and sponsorship in your career, especially if you aspire to be a partner, and it takes time to find and develop both. Also don’t confuse the two - you may have a great mentor to bounce things off but that doesn’t mean they’re a sponsor that will take action and help you with their political capital. To an extent it is a numbers game - you have to network quite a bit before you find the right people wheo are a good match for you and vice versa and you should not stop even if you do find them. This is the one area that will never ever not be worth the investment. That said you have to be strategic, intentional and proactive here. Look at how you develop and maintain relationships with your family, friends and SOs - same concepts apply; you don’t put the time, they won’t reciprocate. You also need a solid ability to self-assess, take feedback but at the same time apply that feedback to your style. This is not a one size fits all. D3, you are told you’re not hard enough. First ask them, your mentors who you trust and can help interpret and yourself why do they say that and what does that mean. Maybe this doesn’t mean you have to adopt their style, maybe they’re trying to tell you they’re concerned you will not push back at a client during a tough conversation. My point is, people interpret things differently all the time and you need to have those conversations with them and others and yourself to put it all together and apply it to yourself. Finally, you need to manage you brand. Through your life, you will get valid feedback that you will act on or choose not to, which sometimes is ok too as long as you understand the risks and adjust accordingly. However, you will get much more feedback that will be really about managing perceptions. So D3, using your example, I would ask why do they think you can’t be tough? And then how can you demonstrate that’s not the case and clear up that perception? Sometimes, how could you use someone else to do that? A client? Another partner? Sometimes what others say about us makes a better point than what we say about ourselves. You will also get feedback that’s just off and there you will have to make a choice whether it is worthwhile to correct or move on (you can’t fight every battle and sometimes it’s worth when you do) or cut that person out. At the end of the day though, all of this has to be done while staying true to yourself. I firmly believe that. There’s a core to all of us that we cannot change; attempting to do so is a waste of time and nerves. Diversity of thoughts, experiences, styles is a strength to our partnerships because it mirrors our clients. I am only as good as one person can be - when I bring the power of my firm to the table, of my peers, we are better. Look for that in your leaders; if they understand it, you just have to work through everything else. If they do not, look elsewhere. Conforming to be something we are not is a path to mediocrity.

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Remind yourself and him (if need be) it was a young person who brought millions together for a climate strike. Be yourself. Be authentic.

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😡😡😡 I feel your pain, as a manager I have been mistaken for an intern, it doesn’t feel great. Your director should be working with you to make sure it’s clear to the client who is in charge and who has authority not commenting on your looks. No one would ever tell a youthful looking male he smiled too much.

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You got this ✊🏼

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The smiling thing is bogus. One can be both cheery and effective. On the looking young part- that’s a really weird thing to say as well. Was he suggesting you should dress more formally or something? I got similar feedback once and it was actually the partner’s awkward way of telling me to dress up more (it was my first project where the client had a formal dress code)

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I typically wear blazers to work (in part to look professional, in part to look older) so it’s definitely not a dress code issue

Honestly sometimes I think men are subconsciously (or consciously) threatened by our “womanly charm”. They think us being nice is somehow going to take something away from them and their ability to be effective or be noticed maybe? I have no idea. It’s just so absurd how much men want women to smile on the street (catcalls) and then how men in the office want us to all stop smiling. I’m OVER. IT. 🖕🏻🖕🏻🖕🏻 do what you want!

likesmart

I have a resting bitch face and am often told to smile more. We can’t win as women, can we?

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🤬🤬🤬 that pisses me off

What’s this thing with smiling being not taken seriously🤷🏻‍♀️ I got that feedback from my previous manager as well, in order to be taken more seriously and show leadership limit smiling😐😐😐ok

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I am over 40 and switched to consulting 5 years ago. Only in consulting did I receive this same feedback. And it usually came from men younger than me. In industry and sales, I always got feedback that I was pleasant, positive and brought good energy. I have spent so many years trying to get to the point of really liking who I am, there is no way I am going to change. I can tone it down, but this also helped me realize I am not a good fit at the firm (big 4) I am at.

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I was also told not to smile by a Male Senior Associate because I wouldn’t be taken seriously then during a meeting as I was getting bullied in a meeting he sat there and said NOTHING

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What a useless jerk.

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I don’t know, lots of people don’t agree with the feedback but I sort of do. Outside of work people think I’m in my 20s. At work I make an effort to dress sharp and come across as serious and confident but friendly, end result is more of an “ageless” vibe.

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Fu k that.

Sounds like your Director is an idiot. You can actually report him to HR if he doesn’t promote you for “looking too young.” Challenge him to give you constructive actionable feedback, and don’t stop smiling.

I’m in my 50s and have been told to smile more... be yourself:)

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