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Mom is Always Right
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6/1/2020 at 9:21:19 PM GMT
Posts: 23
Mom is Always Right

The time is nearing… most likely this will be my last blog article as the President of IAIP.  It’s been a journey – a year of important decisions, challenges of many kinds coming from many directions, and new territory for all of us to walk.  And sometimes crawl. 

As I look back on the year, I come to the realization that the journey has not been a year; it’s been much more than that.  The journey goes all the way back to my teen years, with my mother telling me, “If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anybody else?  If you won’t invest in yourself, why would anybody else?”

Fast forward to 1998 when I joined IAIP, and that is where my investment began in earnest.  For nearly twenty years I continued my membership, renewed that investment each year through payment of dues, conference and convention attendance, and class after class, earning multiple designations.  I followed the rules, I learned to play well with others, I learned to listen when I really wanted to speak, I learned to give, before expecting to receive.  I learned how to dress for an audience, how to speak to an audience, and how to write for an audience, and I learned that I cannot control everything around me, but I can control how I respond to everything around me.  I learned to work with terrific people and some not so terrific people, and how to manage a smile and a kind word for each of them, because it’s more important to be kind than to be right.

The investment started with my IAIP membership, but the belief in myself did not.  For most of those years I had a career that was less than I’d envisioned.  I was held back and bogged down by office politics, having the wrong look and body type, a voice that can break glass, and being female in a male dominated industry in a company run by all males.  I recall the first time I realized that my gender was getting in the way of gaining credibility in the office, and decided an advanced designation could help prove that I bring some goods to the table.  Asking one of the executives in the office whether CPCU or CIC would bring me (an accountant & office manager) greater credibility, he told me that the best designation would be one focused on service and support.  Unspoken were the words, “where women work here”.   I responded by acing my first CPCU test in the hardest module for most; accounting.

Over time, I learned that credibility does come with designations, provided the holder of the designation puts that learning into practice.  I learned that a woman in a male-dominated field can excel if she prepares herself, invests in herself, and makes it her practice to be the smartest one in the room.  And, so I tried.  While my career did not rapidly advance in the form of promotions, my earning power did, my credibility grew, my opportunities were many.  Being the smartest one in the room protected me through many acquisitions, many leadership changes, and many downsizings.  Perhaps the greatest lesson learned yet, folks don’t have to like you to need you.  And so, I stayed, I earned, I kept going.

A little more than 4 years ago, I hit the motherlode.  I found what had been escaping me for more than 30 years.  I found belief.  After all the learning, all the investment, all the years gone by, I came to believe in myself.  Earning my CLP designation was the final key that unlocked that door; it left me understanding and accepting that I was prepared to lead.  That self-realization came accompanied by menopause and hot flashes, so I will forever recall the moment as a power surge, and thus, I embraced middle age, gray hairs, and sweaty, sleepless nights.  I found my personal power.

The self-confidence, the belief, the self-knowing was undeniable.  I could not have stashed it quietly away if I’d wanted to; and I didn’t want to.  I will never forget the day I told my manager that I was ready to lead; that I would lead, and he’d need to help me find that opportunity within the company. 

Do you know what’s better than believing?  It’s when others also believe; he believed me.  He could not find an opportunity so he arranged for the company to support me with time off and financial assistance, so I could increase my leadership responsibilities in IAIP – so I could pursue the path to the IAIP Presidency.  It was a stop-gap, and a year later, after a change in department leadership, he negotiated with the new department head for a position to be created for me… one that would use precisely the skills I wanted to put into action.   It was so tailored to my needs and skills that I was asked to write the job description for my new position.  My investment in myself had finally paid off with the job of my dreams, created especially for me!  Life couldn’t get any better.

But all things are temporary, and so was that fleeting success.  Within two years another leadership change occurred, and a new department leader came into the position with a plan. The new leader’s plan was to make me go away.  Within six months of the management change my dream job was replaced by a curt offer of a letter of recommendation and an invitation to never again return.

This rejection, and the months of unemployment that followed caused me to question all that had happened leading up to this.  Was the education really worth it?  Was my investment enough?  Were my skills and abilities imagined?  Was I wrong to believe in myself in demanding something more?

My leadership in IAIP helped me through this period of self-doubt.  In the effort to define new strategies and transform an association, I was able to reinforce leadership skills and put them to work where they mattered.  I was able to see many wins in the ways our members and our leadership team worked together to achieve a common goal.  I realized that leadership is not always career success; it’s making the right things happen in the right ways.  Better yet was seeing people come together for a common good because they believe in the mission, even when there is no paycheck, no bonuses, no promotions at stake.  Our members continue to work together to build our future.  That is success.

But, what of my career and all the investment I put into it, only to find myself escorted out the door?  Was I wrong to stand tall, confident in my abilities and presenting myself as an equal to my male peers at work?  Was my mother wrong when she counseled me those years ago to believe in myself and invest in myself?  I don’t think so.  I believe that success doesn’t come to any of us; we have to reach out to create it.  It’s not something that happens to us; it’s something we do.

Recently, I starting seeing increased interest in my resume.  Recruiters interview me and then call in others to interview me.  They start by discussing positions that align with my previous job titles and proven abilities.  But they all end with the same plan forward –a proactive approach in sending my information to organizations that do NOT have published openings, but are known to create positions for the right people to do the right things. 

In my last interview, the recruiter asked what I’d really like to do and what I really would not like to do.  My answer to him was that I would like to make the right things happen in the right ways, whatever that job is or whoever I do it for.  He’d never heard that response.  I told him I want to build things that are new and fix strategies and teams that are broken.  I would stand on my abilities and be recognized for my achievements, and most importantly, I’d be appropriately compensated for my results.  I would never again allow others to claim my work product or achievements, and my work would be done in my name under my own authority.

Most of us have been told that demands like this make us unattractive candidates.   In my case, it resulted in increased support and effort by the recruiters.  I gained me advocates.  It reintroduced me to my more confident and accomplished self.  Not only did I believe in me, but they believed in me as well.

The morale to this story is that Mom was right.  If you don’t believe in yourself, why would anybody else?  The investment paid off in getting me that dream job, and it paid off again when it gave me the self-confidence and the self-belief to understand my worth and my abilities and compelled me to be strong enough to stand up for them.  Nice work, IAIP!  Let’s do this for each and every member joining our association, and particularly the young professionals who haven’t yet walked this journey long enough to know that if they don’t believe in themselves, nobody else will, and if they don’t invest in themselves, nobody else will.    They may not have moms like mine giving them this sage advice, but they do have all of us, and they do have IAIP!

Happy Trails!

Cindy J. Prud'homme, AINS, CPIA, CIIP, CLP
International President 2019-2020
Home Email:
Cell: 810-282-7089

6/3/2020 at 1:42:41 AM GMT
Posts: 1
Thank you for all they you have done in the past, what you are doing now and what you will do in the future for IAIP and the members. I am a lucky recipient of that little nudge in the "growth" direction. Thank you!

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