How Women Should Advocate for Themselves in Their Career

on October 5, 2020

"Goodbye to the Good Girls"

The following is a partial transcript of the podcast episode from REAL MARKETERS with host Stephanie Cox and guest speaker, Michelle (Jones) Miller.  



Stephanie Cox: Welcome to REAL MARKETERS, where we hear from marketers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsess about driving results, and are filled to the brim with crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat, and there's absolutely no bull*** allowed here.../ /...On this show, my guest and I will push boundaries, share the real truth about marketing, and empower you to become a real marketer. I used to be a good girl. In fact, I was raised that way, to be constantly polite, not speak too loud, definitely not argue with others, and so on. I followed these rules throughout my life until about 10 years ago when I realized that these types of behaviors were actually hurting me in my career. While everyone around me enjoyed working with me, my voice was never really getting heard. I can't even count the number of times where I would share an idea that would get ignored only to have a male counterpart say the exact same thing, and everyone responds positively to it. And then one day, I got really frustrated, and I decided to stop being a good girl. Instead, I started speaking up louder, advocating for myself. Now don't get me wrong, I did all this in a polite way, but I was done letting my voice go unheard. It's the same time when I stopped asking for permission about what I can do in my job and just started doing what I thought was best, regardless of whether or not it was technically in my area. And you know what happened? People started noticing and no one told me to knock it off. And that's exactly what I'm talking about with today's guest. Michelle (Miller) Jones is the marketing manager at Warren Rupp (at the time of release). She has more than 10 years of marketing communications experience at Siemens Corporation, Madison Services Group, and Alliance Community Hospital (at the time of release). And we're talking about what it's like to be raised as a good girl and what it takes to break that behavior, how women should advocate for themselves in their career and their personal life, and how she handles the rollercoaster of marketing and so much more. So one of the things that I think I posted on LinkedIn about this idea of being a good girl and how I felt raised to be a good girl who always did what she was told, was super nice and polite, and how that looking back at my career that was a challenge for me really in the first, gosh, maybe seven years until one day I decided to stop and just start speaking my mind. I'm still, obviously, polite, but really kind of turned that on its head. And when I posted about that, you reached out and we had a conversation about that because you were kind of raised as a good girl too. So tell me more about that and how you define being raised as a good girl and what impact that's had on you.

Michelle Miller: Sure. I'm very interested in birth orders. And I'm the oldest child, so traditionally oldest-

Stephanie Cox: Same.

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Michelle Miller: The oldest children are rule followers. And so I feel like I very much have lived up to that. I also grew up Mennonite in a very conservative family, so very traditional gender roles. And as I started to get out of my undergrad degree and get into my career, a lot of what I did initially was just follow authority and do what was asked because that was exactly what I had been taught my whole life. So went through my first two jobs fresh out of college and just followed the rules, played within the lines, colored inside the lines, or played in the sandbox, whatever you're supposed to say and do. And then when I got promoted at one point to run a marketing department, part of the reason for the promotion was because we didn't want to keep things business as usual, and we wanted to take things from a very traditional outbound marketing department to a more inbound focused marketing department. And so if we wanted to really do things differently, we couldn't do things the same way we had done them before. So in some ways, I got the permission that I finally needed and could never give myself to go do something different and go do something radical and go do something a little bit crazy and out there. And it was supported, too, by the senior leadership team and by the organization as a whole, they were craving it. So that's really where I started to open up this box of, hey, I can actually go do things how I want to do them or how I think they need to be done or whatever is the best fit for the business and not just whatever has been done before. So that was a real exercise for me in starting to just think way more creatively than I had before and work on some fun campaigns, and I got to hire some really awesome people, phenomenal marketing specialists and graphic designers, marketing coordinators. And we were all able to collaborate really well and then take these crazy ideas we had and push them live. So I wouldn't say it was like I woke up one day and realized," Hey, I don't have to be a good girl anymore." It was an evolution. It's also a good exercise in learning just to think on your own and think independently. So it's been an ongoing journey for me for sure.

Stephanie Cox: Do you think if you wouldn't have had that opportunity, you probably would have continued kind of the status quo of how you'd been before? Or do you think there would have been some other catalyst in your career that would have driven it?female boss image

Michelle Miller: That's a good question. I think every day, every year I've learned more and more. I mean, we all do. We all learn more and more about ourselves. And in some ways, there's still aspects of my life where I am still very much a good girl, and I have recognized that. And there's some areas of my life, I'm okay with that. And then there's other areas where I'm like," I got to push the boundaries. I got to challenge myself. I got to move forward." And if you're not growing, you're dying, so personal growth is something I'm also really passionate about, and I think is a really good thing. But I think having the right... I've also been blessed to have a lot of really awesome mentors and other people in my life who've helped me sort through some of these things and start to figure out that I don't need to just break all the rules and have no disregard for them, like you said, still be polite, but do it in a respectful way. And I think a lot of it, too, is pulling some of the emotion out of it. So if you're just really emotional, you can sometimes be perceived as being irrational or illogical. And when you really start to put your ideas and break some rules in the context of what's good for business, that's what needs to happen for radical business growth too.

Stephanie Cox: Well, it's interesting that you said sometimes you feel like you still act like a good girl in certain aspects. I find myself the same way. I don't know, it's like I can't beat it out of myself.

Michelle Miller: Yeah.

Stephanie Cox: There are times where I'm just like," Oh, should I say that?" I'm like," Maybe I shouldn't say that." And then sometimes it's like I have to catch myself like," Hell, yes, you should say that. You know what you're doing."

Michelle Miller: Well, the worst part is when you don't say it and then someone else says it, and you're like," Right! I should have said it. Why didn't I say it?"

/clipped conversation/...

Stephanie Cox: So thinking about just being in the workforce and being a woman, but also thinking about, I know you're passionate about diversity, what do you think companies need to do more of to better include women, more diversity, whether that is ethnic backgrounds, whether that is gender, whether that is just even different socioeconomic backgrounds? Because I think diversity of thought is so important too, so how do you think about that and what companies should be doing right now to really advocate for it?

Michelle Miller: The one thing I have noticed as of late is that it used to be diversity and inclusion and now it's diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I think it's really opening up the door to different types of conversations. Like you said, it's not diversity based on just race or ethnicity or gender, it's diversity of thought. And going back to remote work again, this is a great opportunity for companies to bring in different people that they normally wouldn't have access to if they require them to be physically in a seat within the four walls of their building. I mean, I live in a smaller town. It's the city of Wooster, Ohio, and it's not the most racially diverse area. And if companies in my area can leverage this remote work environment that we're now in, they can pull in people from all over the country, all of the world, with very diverse backgrounds and use it as a real opportunity to strengthen their team. And if you look at, there's study after study too, that's done that if you have a more diverse leadership team, whether it's race or gender or whatever, those companies tend to do better on their top to bottom lines. I mean, it's a fact. And so having too many people of the same background just leads to one giant group think and no real progress is made. So I think remote work is definitely a way that companies can really grasp this. And it's not something, I think, that's just going to happen organically, unless... You need senior leadership and you need a team, you need a conscious, ongoing awareness of it, and it just can't be some sort of flavor of the month either, which I think also tends to happen. There's like this slurry of," Oh, we need a more diverse workforce." And then," We'll put together a team, and we're going to do all these things." And then after a month, it's like," Oh, Hey, remember that diversity initiative, what happened to that?"

Stephanie Cox: Yeah, I think that's so important to mention that just the continuity of stuff like this, it's not just one thing you fix. It's something that's going to be ongoing that we need to all challenge ourselves to think about on a regular basis.

Michelle Miller: Yeah, and getting people involved, too, from different levels they can't just be a senior leadership team only thing. I think it's something that you need every level involved in and contributing to. Because even if it's just diversity in how we think and the ideas that are pulled in based on the nature of your role within the company, I mean, it could be from different departments, different levels, that brings in different backgrounds too and different ways of thinking. I also want to throw out the closet, I'm not a diversity expert in any way, shape, or form, but it's just something that I'm really passionate about. Actually, I'm really thankful this year for the opportunity to access different resources and people. I've got book lists going on. Shout out to the public library for the ability to download these books that I keep seeing recommended online. And I've watched webinars and I've watched TED Talks and YouTube videos. There's so much good content out there right now that if you don't take advantage of it, that's your loss.

Stephanie Cox: That's a really good point. I'm not a diversity expert either. I just think I'm an advocate for diversity, and I'm constantly reading and making sure that I'm checking with people that have different backgrounds than me and getting their opinions on what would be helpful to them in every situation as well. As a marketing leader, and just as a marketer in general, I often think about this rollercoaster that we're on, where one day you feel like you're completely kick-ass and you're crushing it. And then sometimes even later that day, you're kind of like, "Do I even know what I'm doing? Am I good at my job? Do I know my job? Do I understand the internet?" So many marketers face that, and I feel like no one really talks about it. And then you kind of freak out and compare yourselves to all these other people who on social media clearly have it all together, which none of them really do. So how do you handle these constant ups and downs as a marketer, especially as a leader?

Michelle Miller: I mean, as marketers, if you look at the number of platforms or technologies that we use every day, first of all, I personally have a Mac, then I have my iPhones, and then I have my tablets, and then I have my Windows Dell laptop for work. Okay, so you've got those platforms. But then you also have all the different systems you use. You have Microsoft Outlook Teams, Zoom. And then you get online and you can use Asana for productivity. We use HubSpot. There's Lumavate's platform, then there's Google Analytics, Google AdWords. I mean, it is unbelievable how many platforms you have to be well-versed in. And the best part is all these platforms are making updates sometimes daily. And so you'll go in there, and you'll be like," Oh, great. Facebook just made another update. Now I have no idea where to even find my page."

The conversation continues and if you have enjoyed reading this, you should listen to the full episode, HERE


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