01 Sep Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and asking for what you’re worth
Soraya Sultan’s passion for work was embedded from a young age.
At just 14 years old, she volunteered at a retail store in Edinburgh for two years until she got her first part-time, paid role.
“I really enjoyed making sales, seeing all the different trends that came in and, most importantly, interacting with the customers. Working in retail store gave me a lot of self-confidence and taught me a lot of great organisational skills which I have continued to use,” she says.
This dedication and passion for customer service continued throughout Soraya’s career.
She joined her current employer when she was still at university, which was 11 years ago now, and has been working her way up the ladder even since. After nearly five years with the company, she was asked to join its international team in London.
“The company had just started to expand into international markets through franchise and wholesale agreement and they needed a coordinator in the small team of three.”
“Within a year I was promoted to International Product Manager after my success in coordinating a ‘Buying Show’ with all the franchise and wholesale partners. I spent the next 4 years learning how to buy, merchandise, plan, open new stores, develop new markets, manage logistics and supply chain. I was lucky to learn a lot from my manager and the team around me.”
After this success, Soraya had an itch to try something new. She thought Australia would be a great place to start fresh and dive into a new professional challenge.
“My plan was to come to Australia on a Working Holiday visa and try out a new career, but my company asked if I could help in rebuilding the Australian part of the business because a new General Manager was coming on board. I took on the role of Australia Supply Chain Manager as a new challenge.”
Time for something new
Soraya arrived in Australia two years ago now and while her company has been a great place for her to develop and hone her skills, that inclination to try something new still exists within her.
“I wanted to know how to take the next step after being with the same company for the last 11 years. Whilst I am happy in my current role and grateful for the career I’ve had so far, I want to be able to take my skills and experience to the next level and perhaps in a new company or industry.”
She posed this to her mentor Amanda Chase – the General Manager, Consumer and Customer Marketing, Asia at REA Group – at the most recent Mentor Walks event in Melbourne.
What Amanda helped her to realise was that she hadn’t been negotiating her salary hard enough. As she’s currently being sponsored by her organisation, she felt she wasn’t able to ask for the amount she really wanted (and felt she deserved).
“I was also pleased to learn that I can aim for higher pay rise and that women are notorious for not negotiating hard enough as we don’t want to appear ‘greedy’.”
Amanda was able to give her some great pointers on how she could approach this conversation not only when her next job opportunity came along, but also with her current manager.
“Since my walk, I have approached the topic of the pay review with my manager and it’s now in discussion as he recognised my contribution and hard work.”
Now she passes on this advice to other women: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get… so just keep asking.”
Realising you are good enough
Amanda, Soraya and the other mentees in her group discussed ‘Imposter Syndrome’ on their walk, the phenomenon where people feel that they are not qualified to do their job and don’t feel they deserve the recognition they receive. Soraya could see that she’d experienced this in the past.
“Amanda explained how this is quite common amongst women, and that I should trust in my capability given what I have achieved in my career so far,” she says. “ I learnt was that I have a lot of transferable skills that I can take with me to my next career path.”
Other than getting the ball rolling on her pay rise conversation, Mentor Walks also helped Soraya to look at new ways to develop her skills in her current role and to feel confidence in her capabilities to do a good job.
Soraya still isn’t quite sure what the future holds, but leadership is an area that she’s keen to continue developing.
“I now help to lead several managers who have their own ways and ideas on how to approach the business. I had to learn very fast on different ways to approach and communicate with them to ensure that I don’t come across as ‘bossy’ or ‘unapproachable’.”
“I had the fear that if I wasn’t firm I would appear weak due to my appearance and mannerism. This is also another reason why I joined Mentor Walks. I wanted to meet women in leadership positions and take lessons on how they lead people without the negative stereotypes.”
She says mentoring is important in helping you to realise that everyone has something to offer. Knowing what others go through and comparing that with your own experience can be a great learning exercise for both the mentor and mentee.
“I want to be able to have a positive impact by developing the people in my team and help them to advance their careers. I am still working on what my next career step would be but I am hoping to further my career in logistics and operations.”