Dear Coach Joan: Career Advice
Here are eight ways to increase your power and standing as a woman in the workplace:
1. Have your emotional expression match your content.
When you are delivering serious, factual information state it with authority, not with a smile. You are not delivering a happy birthday cake; you are delivering serious business information. No need to soften the message. Yes, you can use your smile socially for meeting and greeting in the business environment, and for delivering positive news, but don’t use the smile as a nervous gesture or a fallback expression of subordination.
2. React thoughtfully, not emotionally.
Slower reactors are perceived as more powerful and more in-control. Be aware and conscious of when a comment triggers your emotions. Practice pausing. Think, reflect and choose to respond. Or choose to respond later. Most situations do not require an immediate reaction. Whenever you feel anger or hurt rising inside, take a break—separate from the emotion, especially in business settings. Reactive types are viewed as weak.
3. Be large.
Even if you are a small woman you can use more sweeping gestures, you can lean back, you can go for direct eye contact. Glancing away or using small gestures or the frozen look is weak. Be bold. Also, if you are small, wear more one-hue outfits to give you a longer, taller line!
4. No more making statements sounding like questions!
No lilting at the end of the sentence. No rising of the pitch of your voice at the end of a sentence making it sound like a question. Frankly, it is also annoying. And it is also misleading. If it is a statement, say it with conviction. Say it with confidence. Listen to your voicemail and check with others to see if you have this common female habit. If you have it, become aware of it and change it. Practice. You can do it.
5. Measure your words. Think before you speak. Don’t talk too much.
Or, just make sure your words are intentional, that you have your audience’s attention and that you are continuing to command your audience’s attention. Sometimes women fill in silent moments by talking, rather than making succinct points and ending there. Sometimes this is done to justify their position. You do belong in the room. You don’t need to talk to earn your presence.
6. Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate.
According to UCLA Alumni Career Services only 1 out of 10 women negotiate their salary when getting jobs! You will never get more if you don’t ask for it. Also, compile a list of all things that are negotiable when it comes to compensation. For a complete list, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will send you her ‘Compensation Negotiation Worksheet”. If you don’t negotiate you are probably leaving money and other ‘goodies’ on the table.
7. Self-doubting, undervaluing, apologizing and not listening to one’s innate wisdom.
Doubting one has the right, ability or position to speak up gets in the way. You know, it’s the nagging voice that stops you from injecting a fresh idea in a meeting, asking a question in a class, passing on volunteering to be a spokesperson. And, an incessant need to say “I’m sorry” for just about anything. You have no need to apologize. You are a member of the team. You are being paid for your ideas—participate, question, recommend, offer insights. No one is correct all the time. Show you are a true, active participant and ready to even take risks with new approaches and ideas.
8. Offer to make a speech.
Professionals who do public speaking are more highly valued and perceived as having more power. They are perceived as leaders and experts. Start within your group at work. Suggest a topic to your manager that you are knowledgeable about. If you feel shy or intimidated it means you need to gain skill and/or practice at it. Seek out a public speaking class, communications coach or sign up at your local Toastmasters (Google to find a local chapter) and learn to speak up and feel the power of being listened to by a group of people. Be the authority!
Women have made great strides in the workplace in the last number of decades, but we still see the impact of society’s constraint on some women’s professional style and development. By becoming aware of behaviors that are perceived as weak, and changing them, we have the key to true career empowerment for all.