This week’s Life Lessons on the Northern Power Women podcast comes from Becki Smith, Commercial Sales Director at TalkTalk Plc and proud mum to two daughters. Born and bred in Lancashire and working in Salford, Becki is proud to be part of our NPW podcast. In her Life Lessons, Becki shared her advice on dealing with imposter syndrome, learning how to trust your gut, and what you need to do before you make a big career move. I got the chance to talk to Becki about her Life Lessons and about the topics she touched upon in her episode.
In her first Life Lesson, Becki talked of the one piece of advice that has really stuck with her throughout her career: “trust your instincts”. Becki was able to expand on the importance of this advice, and spoke about a time where she followed her gut instinct as she made the career move between very different sectors. “I left my career in retail and moved to a totally different industry, having not the foggiest idea what I was getting myself into, but I had a really good feeling about it at the time […] I really wanted to test myself, and I had a really good feeling about the role, there was just something about it”. She also mentioned how this ability to trust her instinct is something that she has developed over time, saying “I tend to trust my gut now I’m a little older than I used to do when I was younger”.
Alongside taking time to develop your instincts, Becki had some advice for those who are about to make the same significant career move that she did. She recommends doing your research and analysing your motivations behind making this decision. Rather than making a decision because you are wanting to escape a certain role or sector, “you should always go to something rather than away from something”, she advised. One reason to make such a career change could be to seek personal growth, and to seek challenges from outside your own sector or area of expertise. “Once you get to a certain level as a leader, it’s very easy to stay where you are and get a little bit complacent, and I knew everything about retail, I’d been in it for years, but I feel very proud of what I’ve learnt, and I really feel like I’ve grown my skills massively”. But above all, Becki encourages career transectors to do their research! “Do your research into the industry, find out how easy it is to transition, is there a lot of jaron? Are there a lot of technical skills? But be prepared to work really really hard”.
Having made this career move in order to better align her work with her passions, Becki is keen for others to centre their work to something they truly believe in. “It’s easier to put the hard work in if you have a passion for the work you are doing”, was the advice Becki offered to those at the start of their careers in the podcast episode. But for those of us who are still trying to figure out exactly what that passion is, Becki was able to offer her own recommendations and insight based on her personal experiences. “Try a few different things, don’t put too much pressure on yourself either! I remember thinking to myself that I needed to decide what my career path is going to be and how quickly I’m going to get there […] you just really have to give yourself space to learn what you enjoy. What do you like and what are you good at, and if what you like and what you’re good at are the same thing you’re onto a winner”.
And even when we are lucky enough to find something that aligns with our passions as well as our talents, that doesn’t stop the pesky imposter syndrome from being able to creep in and affect perceptions of our progress and achievements. As well as offering the tactic of running through your strengths in your head, Becki discussed the importance of remembering how imposter syndrome is something that affects everyone. “Everybody has their own achilles heel, everybody has something that they feel they are more sensitive about, and that they can’t compete with other people on”. Despite the seemingly overwhelming power of imposter syndrome, conversations like the one Becki has started are pivotal to chipping away at its power. As soon as we realise that everyone (even those who seem to us to be infinitely confident and self-assured) suffers from imposter syndrome, the sooner we will realise how easy it is to overcome together. “Especially when you’re early on in your career you think you’re the only one that’s affected by any of these issues and you’re definitely not”, Becki stated. She also remained firm in her efforts to deal with the sly undermining voice that creeps in every now and then. “That negative voice, you’ve got to stop it, you’ve got to shut it up, because otherwise it shuts you up! […] You start second guessing yourself, and when that begins, you’re on a slippery slope. You just have to be aware of it and try and put it to the back of your mind, and not let it slow you down.”