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Ready or Not, New York—Here I Am

By Jazmine Boatman, Ph.D.

Jazmine Boatman, Ph.D.

On Your Mark.

March 5, 2016: The day my husband and I moved into Manhattan. Two self-proclaimed Texans who sold our cars and our home and moved into Hell’s Kitchen. Maybe it was the oh-so-sweet shoulder pads of Dolly Parton in "Nine to Five", or maybe it was my grandmother (a force majeure marble entrepreneur/CEO in the Philippines) but, no matter the influence, I was never the kind of girl who dreamed of picket fences and open land. Walking to my corner office in New York has always been the dream. (In full disclosure, I don’t currently have a corner office, but it does have a door and a view of the Chrysler building, so I can’t really complain.)

Get Set.

For the past nine years, I’ve had the good fortune of working for one company in four different roles. I’ve had managers who took a chance on me and thought I could do things I didn't think I was ready for (but were perhaps, in hindsight, stealthily preparing me for them). Each challenge prepared me for the next, as I moved in and out of leadership roles, across functions, and now in new markets, weaving my way through an organizational matrix, which is distinct from climbing the traditional corporate ladder but just as complex a transition. Throughout it all, a series of questions loomed in my ever-churning brain: Am I ready for this? Am I ready for what comes next? And most recently: Am I ready for the "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" city?


As a Ph.D. with 15 years of experience working with organizations on their leadership strategies and asking them if they have the right talent ready to drive their business imperatives, I've found that with each transition I make in my own career, I end up asking myself similar questions: "Do I have the talent I need, do I have what it takes to tackle this challenge? Am I ready? When will I feel ready? The good news is that—slowly but surely—I am coming to learn that I think the answer begins with the letter N.

Did you think I’d say Now or Never? (the psychologist in me really wants to know and is deliciously pleased to leave you hanging.) My answer, of course, is yes to both.

I think I am ready Now to tackle this concrete jungle because I have stumbled… and learned… and am still standing. I simultaneously know that I will Never be prepared for every possible challenge that will be thrown my way (which seems to be the all-encompassing event those of us with chronic "imposter syndrome" are training for).

What makes transitions so tough? Learn more about the challenges of leadership transitions with the infographic previewed here.

Leadership Transitions

And so...

So where does that leave me? Right here, a once-again New Yorker. I was born north of the city but have never lived here as an adult. Several weeks in, I’ve learned that one of my most favorite things about living here is making my way east through the city to the office while the cool morning spring breeze nips my face as I study the humans of New York and read the names of companies housed on each block. I try to remember what I've read about them in the Times, I wonder what their culture is like (I am in the leadership and talent business, after all), and I make a mental note to look them up. My poor colleagues must brace themselves for the rapid-fire thoughts and ideas that come barreling out as soon as I turn the office key. (These may or may not include the number of restaurants that I want to add to the never-ending list.)

So, if you're like me, or know, manage, or work for people like me—who never quite feel ready for new challenges but crave them nonetheless—I hope my lessons learned will resonate with you:

  • A good leader will open doors for you. They will advocate for you, they will encourage you, they will push you. And they won’t disappear after you walk through the door. Find yourself a good mentor or leader (or train your current boss); find a catalyst leader. Be that leader. If you aren't in over your head
  • Get out of your own way. There is no learning that compares to achieving something you thought you couldn’t do. The sooner we refuse to let our fears stop us short, the better off we are. Work on both your competence and confidence—and we know we women struggle more with the latter. Check out our research on how women leaders see themselves compared to men (page 14).
  • The end does not justify the means. Making a transition at work is a slippery slope and can be one of the most stressful things you can do, and we can be at our worst during times of stress. For me, it’s important that the stress doesn’t interfere with staying authentic to who I am and how I treat others (because that’s how I get to sleep at night).
  • Enjoy the journey. There were some late nights and anxiety in my previous roles as I prepared for this one. And there will be many more (this week has been a bear!). I always felt like I couldn’t wait to finally be good at this project or this role, so I could be ready for that next one. But there will always be another “this” to conquer and a next “that” to worry about conquering. Life is a process, and if you’re planning on mastering it all, you might not be aiming high enough. So stop and recognize how exciting it is that you’ve come this far.

If you are amidst a life or leadership acceleration or transition, my hope is that you might walk a little lighter from burdens of doubt that you're not ready. You are certainly not alone. My hope is that you will walk with a little more energy knowing that if you commit to something, fuel it with energy and focus, and take each of your experiences and lessons learned from one challenge to the next, then you are, for all intents and purposes, as ready as it gets. See you out there.

Jazmine Boatman, Ph.D. is a senior consultant based in DDI’s New York office. In between client projects and team meetings, Jazmine’s working on a scientifically-valid, comparative study on the best pizza in the city (inspired by her data-driven study on the best french fries in Pittsburgh). Send your comments (and a list of must-try restaurants) to

Posted: 10 May, 2016,
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