A seat at the table series: Tackling Annual Reviews, Goal Setting & Self Value in 2024

On February 15, 2024 2024, a seat at the table series

IAB Australia has partnered with The Women in Programmatic Network (TWIPN) to launch the Seat at the Table Series. The series will dive into the personal experiences of those from the local advertising community, and give these role models a seat at the table to share their story. Each month we'll feature a different topic and guest speaker. 

January brought an increase in unemployment with 18,000 more people looking for work. After an incredibly tough year of job losses, business challenges and interest rate increases, we all need to think about how to set the right goals and showcase our best to get the most of career development in 2024. So, for our February interview, we are featuring Mikhaila Warburton, a Senior Consultant at Creative Natives, and Career Coach at Work It Mumma, who will be sharing her tips on how to achieve continuous growth through setting actionable goals, how to prepare for a direct conversation in your annual performance review, as well as tackling the confrontational topics of age gap and non-promotable tasks. 

As always, we’d love for the readers to get to know a bit about you and how you got to where you are today. How has 2024 been treating you so far?

A little about me, well I’ve been in the recruitment and coaching sector for over 15 years. In 2020 I became a mum and also experienced my first redundancy. It totally rocked me but also, steered me into the direction where my career is now and I’m so grateful for that. I have two passions: recruiting for the creative and advertising industry, and career and business coaching for women and return-to-work mums. 2024 has been incredible, actually. I’m going to be quite intentional with my goals, my mindset and what I want each year to look like, and I’m pretty excited about how it’s unfolding so far and we’re only 2 months in!

You’ve also got your own coaching business “Work It Mumma”. How did you come up with the concept, and what are your plans for the future?

Yes, that’s right, Work It Mumma was born out of Covid. Like many great ideas. One door closed and another opened. I found myself coaching all of the return-to-work mums in my Mothers Group after I was made redundant, on how they can update their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, negotiate salaries or start new business ideas. And from that, Work It Mumma organically formed. It allowed me to raise my young family of two beautiful girls and have flexibility and creativity to do the work I love.

The last three years running my own business were amazing, but I made the conscious decision at the end of last year to rejoin the workforce and start recruiting with Creative Natives because I realised that I’m more of an intra-preneur than a entrepreneur. I like to be a part of something bigger and work with people. So now, I get the best of both worlds. A side hustle I love and a career I’m deeply passionate about.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to start thinking about your goals for the year. At Creative Natives, do you see more women looking for jobs after the redundancies last year, returning from maternity leave or as part of a career shift? How do our readers make sure they are making the right move, setting themselves up for success and developing a plan of attack?

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to start thinking about your goals, yes, but I want women to be empowered every week of the year to put themselves and their goals first. I see women looking for jobs for all of the reasons mentioned: redundancies, return to work and career shifts. I’d say I’ve seen a large portion of females looking for work as freelancers in early 2024. Typically what we see in the freelance industry is that work can go quiet in December and January, so we typically see more freelancers available and looking for work.

If you are looking for work in 2024 and want to set yourself some goals, no matter the  reason or time of the year, I would say it’s important to start with this:

1. Know exactly what you want your life to look like. For example, if you know you can only work so many hours due to kids, or you’re wanting to buy a house, freelance isn’t an option for you right now. Or if you’re going overseas for three months, you can’t commit to permanent work.

2. Then, know exactly what you want your role to include and not include. Write out a list and dive deep into things like the work itself, culture, location, salary, the brand you work for, the team culture, how you like to be managed. All of this good stuff.

3. Then, really truly understand what you are good at and where you bring value. When you know the true value you can bring, you can more confidently sell yourself in your folio, your resume, on LinkedIn and in interviews.

4. Finally, it’s time to go out and make it happen! And, don’t get me wrong, it takes work - like networking, making new connections, being visible on LinkedIn, applying for roles, researching and being proactive. Gone are the days where we just send an application or have a coffee with someone and land our dream career.

You mentioned in our initial chat that there are many women over 35 who come to you for advice on career development. Do you see stigma around hiring Gen X and older millennials, and a preference from employers to hire younger staff in the media industry? How do such women stand for their value and showcase their best?

It’s interesting right, I’ve found that being in my late 30’s and a mum myself, I tend to have a lot of women come to me and ask for career guidance and naturally, in many things, there’s this like-for-like mentality. So yes, a lot of people I help tend to be women over 35. In my time in recruitment, I can count on one hand the amount of clients who have made hiring decisions based on age. BUT this isn’t to say that they aren’t making these decisions. They’re just not stupid enough to tell me because I’m an ethical person and recruitment partner with very strong values and I won’t tolerate that, nor work with clients like that. I get to choose who I work with and represent. Are there stories I’ve heard about decision makers going with “the women without kids because she’ll be more available?” Yes, there are. Or have I heard stories about the thirty-something year old, newly married woman being turned down because they said “she’ll probably go off and have kids soon but we need at least 2 years out of someone”? Yes, I have.

My advice here would be: know your rights. Don’t tolerate misogyny, unethical or illegal hiring decisions. If someone is asking you a question in an interview about your personal circumstances, like relationships, kids or marital status, you can either ask them the same question back, ask them to repeat it, or simply say “I’m not sure how this leads into the conversation on the value I can bring to this role”.

With 2023 annual reviews approaching, how can women prepare to position their value and contributions and broach the topic of merit increases and promotion? These conversations are traditionally more difficult for women.

Knowing your skills and the value you can bring is always the best thing to lead with.  Prepare things like testimonials from clients, or case studies from customers, showcase your awards, your work in a beautifully curated folio, bring along your brag file, initiatives you’ve created and been a part of, ROIs… and lay-it-all-out honey!

I agree that these conversations are traditionally more difficult for women, just like applying for jobs and negotiating salaries, but that’s why it’s so important to lead with facts and evidence. Not emotions and thoughts.

If you’re looking for a promotion in 2024, I suggest leading with this in your performance meeting:

  • Show facts and evidence about you and your role and the contributions you made 
  • Seek broad and open feedback and receive it openly
  • Ask directly the questions you want answered: “What can I demonstrate to the company that I haven’t already to get me to XYZ role?”, “In the value that I’ve demonstrated do you agree that there is evidence for me to be compensated with an increase this year?”, etc.

According to recent research, women spend an additional month per year on tasks that will not get them promoted. However, due to challenges that companies are facing in light of current economic conditions, including slowed business growth and employee redundancies, women tend to find any way they can to stand out amongst other younger, more experienced or male colleagues. Do you have any advice around how to balance the above and beyond, and sometimes non-promotable tasks, with just doing your job?

Really great question. The way that I see this being balanced out in my own opinion is that you have to truly value yourself first. Being brave to set personal and professional boundaries, knowing when those boundaries are being pushed and if they are pushed, then asking yourself: “Am I prepared to do that?” For example, putting in an extra four weeks of work a year and not receiving recognition for it would be a huge boundary conflict for me, and I’m sure for anyone. But if you were open and upfront with your mentor, leader, manager or whomever you’re working with, and explained “I’d like to run with XYZ project, this will require an extra 15 hours from me a month. What I’d like to suggest is that this contribution is included as one of the metrics I’m measured on when it comes to the end of quarter review. You get their buy-in, get it in writing, protect yourself and then hustle. If they agree, great. You’ve demonstrated some great personal qualities here. If they don’t, again go back to that original question around boundaries: “Am I prepared to do that?” No one else can make that call but you.

To close, could you please share your personal tips and tricks on how to stay motivated and keep kicking goals even when they seem to be tough?

I’ve been a huge advocate for mindset and manifestation at work for most of my life. And part of my coaching methodology is based on this too. So, if you want two tips to help you stay motivated and keep kicking goals, even when they are tough, I’d say this:

Get visual + have accountability: Evidence shows that goals are far more effective in being achieved when they are written down and hold you accountable. Even more so, if they are visible and seen regularly. So, get clear on them, write them down, put them somewhere where you see them often and have someone hold you accountable.

Watch your language: How you speak about the work you’re doing plays into your mindset, and mindset is everything. If you constantly say things like “This sucks”, “I hate this,” “Totally not achievable” - like yeah, it's probably going to be that way for you. If you flip the internal and external language to things like “This is a challenge, but I’m up for it.”, “Can’t say this is my zone of genius, but I’m sure I’ll learn something new.”, “The deadline you’ve given is not achievable but I’d like to suggest X. Can you work with this?” - this can totally change the outcome and how things play out for you. Do you see the difference?