Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a white male peer shortly after the announcement of his promotion to the executive ranks. Eager to congratulate him and pick his brain for pointers—assuming the strength of our past relationship made him an ally—I began peppering him with questions about his process of ascension with a childlike excitement and optimism. You know, the “we made it” kind of optimism. First mistake.
I thought that I’d naturally be able to follow in his footsteps as he continued his upward mobility. Since, he’d been promoted to an executive role in less than four years, I was especially hopeful about my own career trajectory. I naively assumed I’d be a shoe-in for his current role and that he’d naturally become my professional sponsor. Second mistake.
As we chatted, I shared my career plans and asked about his current role. And then it happened . . . he reminded me of who hewas versus who I was. “Oh, you’ll likely have a longer journey [than me]. You’ll probably have to move again and you should probably take a business support role to prove yourself; and then maybe you’ll be considered ‘ready’ for advancement. If I were you, I’d plan for 8-10 years.” Wait, what?!?! Visibly confused, I replied, but you did it in three and half years; to which he responded – wait for it – “well, don’t compare yourself to me.” Third mistake.