For women, there’s no shortage of obstacles on the journey up the career ladder, and there’s still a glaring disparity between men and women in senior-level positions. One study found that, for every woman who achieves a leadership role in the second decade of her career, there are 2.3 men in leadership.
But what happens when you climb to the top of your industry, and then you get fired?
In September, we hosted a webinar with a few women who earned those highly coveted senior leadership positions and learned that no two paths look the same. Panelist Heather Monahan, the best-selling author and host of Creating Confidence tells us about how she was let go at the zenith of her radio career — and how she transformed that stumbling block into a stepping stone for even more success. She also shares insight into the importance of empowering women, becoming an expert in handling conflict, and the power of feminine energy.
Today we’re sharing a few highlights from our webinar with Monahan, Women in B2B Marketing: Career Advancement Strategies & Advice.
Q&A with Heather Monahan
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Q: What advice would you have for someone who is trying to advance their career?
Monahan: I used to think that whatever you stumbled into and started as an industry, that was it, that I had to stay that path. What I’ve learned is: pick your head up outside of your industry, speak to people in different industries, and read about different industries.
I was in an industry in decline and, let me tell you, now that I’m no longer in an industry in decline, that business is easier when you’re in a growth industry. So, you want to hone in on your skills, what you’re great at, what’s special and unique about you, and define your unique value proposition (UVP). Then see where you can apply your UVP to different industries and different opportunities.
Open your mind up — you just might not know about business yet. I didn’t know there was a speaking business. I was in the C-suite in the media industry, and we did not hire speakers. I wasn’t aware of that business.
So, oftentimes people will say, you know, “I love working with kids, or I love art, but there’s no way to make money at that.” Don’t limit yourself to what has come before you or what you are aware of. Open your mind to what you love to do, what is special, unique, and different about you, and put it out to the universe. Start talking to people about it, and you may be surprised what opportunities can come up for you.
Q: How do you advocate for and mentor other women?
Monahan: I was fired by a woman. I worked in a male-dominated industry (the radio business), and all of my mentors were men. I never had a female mentor. And when I got fired, I was so taken aback by that whole, you know, “catfight,” women-versus-women competition that I committed myself to building a business around empowering women and empowering others.
I launched my free podcast, “Creating Confidence with Heather Monahan.” Every week, I sit down with someone amazing to share tips and advice. I answer questions live on my show, you know, to make sure that people who don’t have funds can get the feedback that they need. I also launched a VIP book launch team. I meet live on Zoom every other week with my team to answer all their questions and get feedback regarding whatever challenges they’re struggling with.
And one of the cool things about being in group coaching programs is learning that we all struggle with the same thing — there are always commonalities. And it’s very often the same for men as it is for women. So, I don’t discriminate by just supporting women. I do believe we all should have a fair shake and that we all deserve good feedback. But sometimes, the best feedback you’re going to get is from yourself.
Q: An individual said one of the points made earlier reminded them of something they heard on your podcast about masculine energy versus feminine energy?
Monahan: A new episode came out this week on my show, “Creating Confidence with Heather Monahan,” that is all about masculine versus feminine energy. I’m 47, and I just learned about it this year. And I really believe it could have helped me if I’d embraced femininity more.
That does not mean wearing your hair down or wearing a dress — I did all those things. There’s a huge difference between masculine energy, which is all about action-taking, and feminine energy, which is about receiving. And what I’ve learned, and my guest this week taught me about this is, I was so focused on masculine energy, you know, being in this male-dominated business, all my mentors were men. I started emulating them, and I started pushing away the fact that I am a feminine person.
And now I’m having to retrain myself at 47 to embrace that I deserve to receive good things. I don’t have to go out and take, take, take and make things happen — sometimes great things are just going to happen for me. So, if you haven’t explored that concept, I really encourage all of you, wherever you are in your career, to dive into some of the information.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to somebody just starting out a career today?
Monahan: Don’t listen to people who haven’t been where you want to be. I’ll never forget when I wrote and self-published my first book. Two weeks before I went live, my mother told me I shouldn’t do it. “Pull the book — you shouldn’t do this.” And luckily, I made a phone call to my editor, who had written 19 books. He had been where I wanted to go, and he talked me off the ledge.
He said, “Reconnect with your why, think about what is your why, and why do you want to do this? Start tuning out all of the noise out there of people telling you this is what you should do, this is who you are, this is the label that we’re placing on you, and start giving yourself your own label, or even better, start living lanelessly and take your unique talents and skills wherever you want.” And that is the best piece of advice I could give anyone starting out.
Q: How do you build your presence? And what advice would you give for developing a personal brand?
Monahan: I believe that everyone has a personal brand. You are either holding the pen and narrating it yourself or allowing the world to do that work for you. For the majority of my career, I allowed everyone else to direct my personal brand. When I would leave a room, people would talk about me, and that became my brand.
Five years ago, I decided to put pen to paper and be really deliberate and intentional about the brand messaging I was putting out to the universe and the business world. I started to elevate myself and grow my network. And I started pulling people towards me because of the messaging I created and put out on social media.
And that brought opportunities, new networks, and people to me that helped me get to places I wanted to go.
I strongly encourage you to hold that pen when you are directing your personal brand. Don’t let somebody else do it — you do already have a personal brand.