Do you think it’s easy being a star at work? If you have all the technical talent, people skills and IQ points bursting out of your brain, do you think your corporate ladder climb will be like a rocket, straight to the top? You may think so. I disagree. Here’s why.
I met a business whiz. He was a star at 28. Armed with an engineering degree he became a plant engineer and had an astute ability to see problems and solve them. Management noticed. He was selected for cross-training opportunities while earning an MBA at night. Armed with his engineering degree, MBA and sheer talent, by 28 he became Purchasing Manager of a multinational corporation. Later he got more diverse experience with international assignments which led to work in mergers and acquisitions of a variety of industries. He could speak several languages. He became the special assistant to the CEO. This is one talented professional. He’s now working as a consultant, but wants a more permanent assignment. It hasn’t been easy. The economy is only part of it. He’s too talented.
There are people in business who are threatened by stars. Sure there are the business people who “get it” and hire people who are smarter than they are. I think they’re the minority. Too many senior professionals who want to keep their job, don’t want competition from others more talented than them. If they don’t hire other stars, it’s easier to keep their job. If you don’t believe me, here’s another sad tale.
I have a friend who I’ve known since grade school. We were in the same classes through high school and ironically we went to the same college. She was a brilliant student. She has a Ph.D. in market research. She is now CEO of one of the largest corporations in the United States . (If you can figure out who she is, the first person who emails me with the right name will get a copy of my new book Monday Morning Sales Tips.) She’s a brilliant businesswoman, too. That’s no surprise. Here’s what is surprising.
You’ll never see her addressed as Dr, even though she’s earned it. Henry Kissinger has a Ph.D. He’s addressed as Dr. Kissinger in the media all the time. Why does it work for a man and not for a woman? I asked her. She told me that she always avoided mentioning her Ph.D. It threatened other people, especially men. Sure, she ascended to the heights of Corporate America. She had to hide her talent to do it.
I’m the last person in the world to tell another woman to dumb it down for business. Be as smart as you can be and get the job done. Sometimes though, you have to limit the amount of brilliance you show the world. Some men can’t take all the brainpower at once. If you’re super talented, you just might want to pay extra attention to your humility, too. Humble people with a lot of brainpower– or even less brainpower –do better than those without humility. I found that when other people cheer you on, you get promoted a lot faster. Jerks don’t move up so fast–even the talented ones.