Getting Noticed by a Laisez Fairre Boss

Dear Debra: My boss doesn’t get how much I’m responsible for. He pays lip service, saying few people would be able to pull off all of the things I do and also manage the number of people I do. But he’s never done my job and is clueless about what it really takes. He’s hands off and relies on me to just make it happen. How can I get credit from him and other board members for being a high performer?

Not every boss will give you recognition for your contributions, so it’s up to you to get strategic and credit-savvy.

Continue reading "Getting Noticed by a Laisez Fairre Boss" »

Staying True To Our Dreams Makes Us The Best Parents We Can Be

Dear Debra: Regarding your prior post, life is not, I repeat, not long. At best you have
about 74 years on this planet. Your children, however, will not be young forever. If you want
them to be around you when you
are 74, you may want to invest as much time and energy into
their upbringing as necessary to gain and secure their unconditional love for those years when
you will need them down the stretch. 10 year olds really don't care about your career, or how
much money you make. My wife's mantra,
when I was obsessed with my career was this: your
children are only young once.

Jim, you are buying into a socially-sanctioned, common-but-false assumption that
ambitious people face an either/or choice: either we strive to get the education we need and
devote time to create opportunities that move us toward meaningful, challenging work that
pays us well and allows us to make the contribution we were born to make, or we scale
our dreamsbecause to do otherwise requires shortchanging our children and being
rotten parents.
This is a false choice.

Continue reading "Staying True To Our Dreams Makes Us The Best Parents We Can Be" »

Finding Fulfillment Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Dear Debra: I’m working full-time while finishing an advanced degree. My company is paying for grad school, so taking advantage of that benefit is smart. But I’m spending way less time than I’d like with my ten-year-old. My husband works from home and is happy doing most of the carpooling, play dates, and homework. Working crazy hours is temporary and will benefit us long-term, but still I feel like a shitty mom and wife.

Don’t beat yourself up for not having a perfectly balanced work and home life, all at the same time. Write this down on note cards: Life is long.

Continue reading "Finding Fulfillment Between a Rock and a Hard Place" »

Get Unstuck by Recognizing Your Expertise

Dear Debra: I’ve reached the highest level possible at a small company. My well-paying, mid-level marketing job leaves me depressed and uninspired, but I can’t see any other options for someone like me who just lucked into this job and stayed for five years. –29, boring, and stuck

Take off your blinders. Your success is a result of your own talent, hard work, and volition—not luck. I give my clients a simple exercise to remind them of their marketplace value:  Go through your resume and take in the sheer volume of experience and knowledge you’ve accumulated. Then update your resume.  Write down everything you did and learned on the job.  Go through your files to refresh your memory about your educational and professional accomplishments. Record recent wins, awards, raises, formal and informal feedback. Get your successes out and in order.

Continue reading "Get Unstuck by Recognizing Your Expertise" »


It has been said that "the surest way to keep a man in prison is not to let him know he's there."  And the surest way to keep a woman from embracing her pure career ambition is to make her believe she's already done it. 

Don't believe it. 

Heading into 2009, we women still are not advancing in our careers the way we should.  We're not getting the fulfillment we desire or making the money we deserve.  And this time it's not men who are holding us back.  This time, sisters, we're doing it to ourselves, because ambition-for us-is still a dirty word. 

Do you unconsciously buy into our prevailing cultural paradigm, that double standard that says: ambitious men are go-getters, but ambitious women are bitchy, greedy, cold, arrogant females who attract enemies, repel lovers, make rotten mothers, live lonely lives and, in one way or another, miss out on fulfilling lives because of their ambition? 

Are you not advancing in your career as quickly as you'd like?  Are you not making the money you deserve and getting the fulfillment you desire?  Are you afraid of what you might have to sacrifice if you pursue your big goals? 


Continue reading "PROTECT YOUR PASSION IN 2009" »

Balance or Not, You are Normal

Dear Debra: I ordered pizza for dinner for my kids twice this week-and last; the house is a wreck, I brought home a mountain of work last weekend and barely made my daughter's school play.  What's wrong with me?  Does everyone else have their act together?

Here's the truth that no one tells us, especially glib work-life balance evangelists: Once you get out into the world of work (and even before that-in college, for example) you should just expect that your day-to-day life simply isn't always going to flow smoothly.

Continue reading "Balance or Not, You are Normal" »

How To Protect Your Credit

Dear Debra: We agree on roles and responsibilities in our team meetings. Then two people, in cahoots go off, change the rules, put their names on our team’s work, and hog credit. Later, after they’ve already been recognized as project drivers by supervisors, they play dumb when we, their team members, try and call them on it. How can we stop sneaky, passive aggressive credit-stealing behavior without coming across as whiners?

Before any group project begins, get explicit written agreements that specify how responsibilities, financial rewards, and credit will be apportioned.

Continue reading "How To Protect Your Credit" »

Taking Credit Isn’t Rocket Science—or a Pocket Rocket

During research for my book, Ambition Is Not A Dirty Word, I e-mailed queries to thousands of high-achieving women and always received a flood of responses. But after sending this one—“What advice do you have for other professionals, and what works for you when it comes to the art of taking credit at work?”—my inbox remained conspicuously empty. 

I might as well have asked, “Who has a vibrator in her bedroom nightstand and for those of you who do, do you mind if I use your real name in this book and include a photo of you holding your special friend?”

Continue reading "Taking Credit Isn’t Rocket Science—or a Pocket Rocket" »

Is Your Big Picture In Balance?

Dear Debra: I founded a fast-growing start up that's requiring a ton of time. 
My wife supports how much she and I are devoting to career.  Except lately, there's been tension when I end up stressing until the last minute about whether I'll be able to get away for a weekend trip we've planned, or repeatedly have to cancel dinner plans with friends.  Am I normal or becoming a fanatical workaholic?

Continue reading "Is Your Big Picture In Balance?" »

Balance Is Bunk: Either/Or Is False Choice for Women

Dear Debra: I'm 29.  My husband and I have an amazing 3-year-old.  I've worked part-time since he was born.  Now, not only do we need my full-time income, I'm dying to dive back into my career.  But I feel guilty, like I'm abandoning my son.  Plus, we want another baby someday.  I just can't see how to balance ambition and mothering

Continue reading "Balance Is Bunk: Either/Or Is False Choice for Women" »

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I am a business psychologist, researcher, author, executive coach, and career advisor. I lead workshops and lecture frequently on women’s need to embrace our ambition. I founded the Women’s Business Alliance, a motivational think tank for more than 2,500 women. For more details, see my about page.

I’d love to hear your story. Ambitious women owe it to ourselves—and the world—to make the contribution we were born to make. Let’s keep the dialogue flowing.


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