There are many challenges when it comes to climbing the career ladder. On your quest for recognition and respect, you’re bound to encounter the occasional fire-breathing dragon.
It doesn’t matter who you are, there will always be that one individual, armed with a dismissive glance or a crocodile smile, who can send your confidence into a downward spiral.
In the business world, some people are obviously more forthright than others. Many structures within the workplace such as the boardroom, which relies on you being outspoken and assertive to get your voice heard, were created in line with patriarchal norms.
Sometimes, it can seem like there is an invisible barrier in front of you. However, the level of confidence displayed doesn’t necessarily translate into experience or expertise. It’s just that those who exude confidence tend to encourage confidence in others.
Believe in yourself
As women, we often get told to ‘believe’ in ourselves, but how exactly do we do that? For me, and probably many others like me, it’s about surrounding yourself with people who pull you up, instead of those who bring you down.
This means working with a diverse range of people: people who respect you, and your opinion, even if they don’t agree with it. If people believe in you, you might just believe in yourself.
If they respect your opinion and your views, you’ll be more inclined to share more of them. Think about assembling a peer group of like-minded people who you can bounce ideas off.
I believe we’re conditioned to assess our development based on what we’re not, rather than what we are. As women, we are compared to our male counterparts from birth, and are measured against male standards, which inherently work to emphasise our “lack”.
Formal appraisals and archaic organisational hierarchies can inadvertently breed negativity within a workforce; the former tend to draw attention to flaws, whereas the latter serves to remind people of their place. This can result in people feeling they’re never quite good enough.
Spend some time rewiring your brain. Instead of focusing on your weaknesses and analysing everything you do wrong, why not consider all the things you do better than anyone else?
Blow your own whistle
Budding careerists may lack confidence when it comes to standing up in front of a crowd and declaring themselves ‘an expert’ in their field. However, to create a name for yourself you need to recognise just how good you are at what you do and unapologetically showcase it for the world to see.
When aiming to establish a professional reputation, you need to be clear about your offer and know your market inside out. To communicate your chosen areas of specialism, you need to create a strong personal brand and be consistent with your public image.
This involves venturing outside of your comfort zone and, quite simply, getting out there. The gender-based stereotype that suggests that “strong”, successful women are bossy and domineering is no longer prevalent. It is now admirable to be seen as powerful and accomplished.
Most importantly, it’s essential to be yourself and to be comfortable in your own skin. Accept the fact that not everyone’s going to like you – you don’t go to work to be liked, you go to make an impact.
Regardless of how you’re wired, confidence plays a key part when it comes to achieving your goals. If you can combine attitude with ability, and aren’t afraid to say ‘yes’ to the unknown, then you’re on to a winner. Identify what might be stopping you and overcome it with the mantra: ‘I can do anything I put my mind to.’
About the author
Liz Kentish is managing director and co-founder, Kentish and Co.