Anton van Rossum 

15 October

H.K. asks:

At the beginning of this month, my annual contract with a large American technology company in the east of the Netherlands ended. I’m looking for a C-level position from operations to global logistics and trade compliance, preferably within the high-tech industry. I also have solid experience in the field of marketing communication and portfolio management. During my career in Tunisia, I progressed to a position with great responsibility, in which I reported directly to the CEO.

To challenge myself, I came to the Netherlands as an independent young woman looking to build a career. I hadn’t expected to be judged on my appearance. I’m 36 years old, have a BBA and 15 years of work experience, but people always think I’m at least ten years younger than my age. My height will also play a role here – I’m 1.55, shorter than most of my colleagues. I feel like I’m considered a sex object and that I’m not being judged on my abilities.

A good case in point is a recent job interview in which I didn’t get a single question about my skills or ambitions. It seemed that the interviewer was only interested in how my employer had set up several business processes. My role and possible contributions were apparently not important. I also had the feeling that the interviewer was undressing me with his eyes. It got to the point where I told him, at the end of the conversation, that I wasn’t interested in a follow-up.

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I thought maybe we could have a call and discuss options?

The headhunter answers:

I must admit that I’m not familiar with the market segments that may be relevant and interesting for you. I limit myself to the semiconductor and high-tech/deep-tech sectors. Other headhunters, such as Michael Page and Mercuri Urval, have a broader focus and can certainly help you further.

I would like to add a few comments to what you write about your ambitions. You’re quite demanding on yourself and others. You have to watch out for the pitfalls this can bring, such as frustration, stress and burnout. You desire a “C-level” position and the appropriate salary, but you’re constantly concerned about being underestimated in your work and being assigned less important jobs. However, keep in mind that there may be people in your department who may have very different ideas and perhaps the same ambitions as you. They may also have been working there for longer and have better qualifications than you.

If you’re looking for a managerial position, you need to have the right social and communication skills – in addition to your ambition. You also need to have the necessary mental resilience and perseverance.

Considering, I wonder whether it’s realistic to already pursue a “C-level” position in a company the size of your current or previous employer. After all, thousands of people work there and they turn over billions. With all due respect for your resume, skills and personality, I don’t think you’re ready for that yet.

Instead, I think it’s better to focus on growing companies of a smaller size (SME), where you can make a difference through your experience and commitment. You can grow with them and achieve your aspired top position.

You certainly don’t have to tolerate inappropriate behavior and comments of a sexual nature in the workplace. Any self-respecting organization will take appropriate action against this. I completely understand that this annoys you, but all you can do is keep your cool and report incidents.