The Secret to Liza Badanova’s Career Confidence & Her Advice to You

Liza Badanova Ukraine

I met Liza Badanova, a young attorney and the Deputy Head of Legal in Naftogaz, Ukraine, at a small gathering of Ukrainian and American women professionals who met to share experiences and career advice.

Right away, I observed that Liza exemplified three of the most important attributes of successful leaders: she is poised; quietly, but deeply confident; and has a calm authoritative presence that draws you immediately to her.

I was eager to know more about her. Who was she? What made her tick? How has such a young woman already achieved what so many much more experienced leaders spend a lifetime trying to develop?

As I listened to her that night, I learned about her guiding belief:

“Mold your career around your interests and strengths. Don’t try to force anything else.”

Liza’s career advice is that the most important thing a woman can do for her career, is to focus on the work that best fits her. Rather than encouraging a smooth career trajectory or socially recognizable achievements, she advocates zeroing in on your strengths and the influence you want to have.

We invited Liza and two other influential Ukrainian business women to kick off a new women’s talk show series in Ukraine called the OWN IT: Women in Business, a collaboration between American House Kyiv and The Way Women Work

Here’s a recap of Liza’s career advice from our first Own It Women in Business talk show, held in March 2017:

Find your personalized focus

Liza urges women to focus on finding the right job/career fit for their personality and strengths. She advises women not to be swayed into decisions that conform to social standards of success.

“When you have clarity about the exact type of work you are best suited for, you will be in charge of your career direction.”

“When you have a solid grasp on what it is you want to be doing, you’re able to sense what falls in line with that and what doesn’t. You’re able to choose steps towards it without hesitation because you can see the ways it lines up with your vision for yourself.

Release old expectations and ideas you had for yourself and develop a clear vision for your career will help direct your time and energy into specific goals.”

Leave “normal” behind

Even when a career choice might seem backwards or counterintuitive, Rather than trying to take a “normal” position or path, Liza encourages women to think critically about what they do best, how they can best do it, and what positions or jobs will maximize their potential–even if the resulting choices might look like a career misstep.

“Let go of ego, vanity or desires to look like you’re progressing/moving up.”

“You might need to take a lateral or even more junior position. People may tell you that you’re missing out or throwing away opportunities by going into a more junior role or learning position.

But when that “step back or down” is into work you believe in and care about, away from becoming stagnant in a field you know isn’t yours, it’s the best kind of progress.”

“Don’t strive for likes, strive instead to find work that fits who you are.”

Liza modeled this approach when, already successful in a multinational consulting role, she left Ukraine and the company where she worked to take on an internship position abroad. The internship was a “step back”in her career. But, it opened up a whole new arena of work for her.

She entered the energy sector in Ukraine in a relatively low position because she saw big opportunities in the future in that field. Today, she a legal expert in the field and at the forefront of Ukraine’s thrust for responsible energy reform.

Choose learning opportunities

Liza urges women to take advantage of learning opportunities in order to move into work that maximizes their potential. One of the main reasons people get stuck in ill-fitting career paths is because of the difficulty in pursuing new experience and skills training outside their current jobs.

Developing thorough competence is critical to becoming a leader. Liza defines a leader as the on can do every single job on the team at the same level and quality as anyone on the team. She believes that if they can’t do the individual work and “lower level” tasks of the whole team, they’re not the best leader for the job because they should be able to train and cover at any level of the team.

Step into your authority

Liza tells women to take any opportunity for responsibility, and do so with confidence.

“Assert your authority in your field and workplace regardless of your actual position or tenure. Your position is not what important; what’s important is the authority or charisma you have…”

If you are at the bottom of the hierarchy, but when you enter the room, everyone knows that you are the responsible one, and everyone looks to you for the answers, you are essentially the leader there.”

“See your time as a subordinate as your chance to work as hard as possible at the skills and tasks in front of you so that you earn the responsibility and authority that makes you a leader.”

Because she found ways to learn and develop new skills in her field, Liza became highly competent and sought after in her field; she became a key legal advisor to top government officials in the energy sector.

Take care of yourself

I am a very strong proponent of adopting habits that set you up for success and I am always curious about the habits  of successful women.

As I listened to Liza at the gathering that night, I found myself wondering how she has the energy to work the kinds of hours she does at this intensely high stakes level. I learned that like all successful women I’ve interviewed, she also knows what it takes to take care of herself.

In Liza’s case, it’s a bit unusual – every night no matter what, she eats about a couple of pounds of fruit. She believes, it gives her health and the energy she needs to persevere.

What’s your highest and best use? Where is your strengths/career fit? How do you keep going?