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Former NBC and GE exec Beth Comstock nearly missed a big promotion



Beth Comstock
were they to know she wanted the job? Beth Comstock


  • Former NBC and GE executive Beth Comstock almost missed
    out on a promotion opportunity early in her career.
  • Comstock, the coauthor of “Imagine it Forward,” didn’t
    make it clear that she wanted the new role: senior vice
    president of corporate communications at NBC.
  • Finally, Comstock spoke up and learned that her
    managers assumed that she wouldn’t be able to handle the new
    responsibilities because she was a young mother.
  • Ultimately, Comstock spoke with the head of HR and
    landed the promotion. She vowed to herself to always make her
    professional ambitions clear.

The job had been open for six months.

Beth Comstock knew the call would come — the call from human
resources, inviting her to take over as senior vice president of
corporate communications at NBC.

But the call never came.

At the time, Comstock was in her 20s, working diligently as vice
president of news media relations at NBC. She’d gripe to her
family, “I can’t believe they’re not considering me for that
job!” she told Business Insider.

Eventually, Comstock was angry enough that she worked up the
nerve to approach the head of HR. “You haven’t filled the job,”
she said. “Why? I’d like to be considered.”

The response from the HR head was jarring: “Well, that’s good to
hear,” he said. “We did consider you. We just assumed that
because this job requires so much travel, and you’re a young
mother, that it wouldn’t work for you.”

Comstock was recently divorced, with a toddler daughter — and
this assessment of her potential was infuriating. But it taught
her a number of lessons that shaped the rest of her career.

Comstock recounts this experience in her new book, “Imagine
it Forward
,” cowritten with Tahl Raz. The book shows readers
how Comstock progressed from an aspiring broadcast journalist to
the vice chair of General Electric, the first woman to hold that
position. (Comstock left General Electric in 2017, after nearly
three decades there.)

“I was equal parts angry at him [the head of HR] and me at that
moment,” Comstock said.

On the one hand, she thought, “Who are you to assume what my
constraints are or aren’t?” On the other hand, “I was mad at
myself because how would they know [I wanted the job] if I didn’t
tell them?”

Ultimately, she landed the promotion.

Comstock learned to be open about her professional ambitions

The lesson she learned from that experience, Comstock said, is
simply: “You’re the boss of you. Until you tell people what you
want to do, there’s no way you can do it.” She vowed to herself
that, going forward, she’d make her career ambitions clear and
ask her manager to help her get there.

And when she became a people manager, Comstock said, she knew to
“never assume you know what someone wants to do or wants to take
on, because circumstances change.”

These lessons line up with advice from HR experts, like Toni
Thompson, vice president of people and talent at The Muse. Thompson
previously told Business Insider
that it’s important to tell
your boss exactly what you want, in terms of title, salary and

Thompson said, “They may not be able to give it to you right
away. But it’s really great if you have that conversation upfront
because then they are able to tell you … are you ready for the
role that you’re saying you’re ready for? And they’ll be able to
keep an eye out for big assignments or responsibilities that they
might be able to give to you.

Only about half of employees do this, Thompson said.

As for Comstock, an additional perk of her speaking up is that
she ended up forging a two-way mentorship with the head of HR. He
became a coach to her and she “helped coach him about what young
mothers could do in organizations.”

Get the latest General Electric stock price here.

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