For many reasons, lots of women can find it hard to get a foot hold on their chosen career ladder.
With much speculation surrounding equality in the workplace, Ann Pickering, HR Director for Telefónica UK, has given us some tips on how to make an impression and overcome obstacles in the workplace.
How to Make Seven Seconds Count
Last week we saw the release of a report, called Women in the Workplace, which called for the Government to tackle workplace inequality and the low number of women working in jobs in the technology, science and engineering sectors. Similarly, earlier this month, the Women’s Business Council identified the number of potential challenges to the career progression of UK women.
As a woman looking to progress her career amid these supposed obstacles, it can be difficult to know how to create the right opportunities to make sure that your talent is noticed, and that you achieve your career goals. One way to do this is to develop your own recognisable personal brand.
While a ‘personal brand’ seems like a strange concept, it’s actually incredibly important. It affects how people perceive you professionally, and can help you make that all important first impression – formed within just seven seconds of meeting. Research has shown that it can take as many as 20 further interactions to change someone’s first opinion of you so it’s vital that you make every second count. A strong personal brand can also give you greater confidence and open up more opportunities at work.
So, how do you go about creating your own personal brand? Here are my top tips:
1. Identify what makes up your own personal brand. Assess everything from style, body language and tone of voice, to how you communicate on email or by phone. They may seem worlds apart but what is the one thing that successful women like Clare Balding, Victoria Beckham or Deborah Meaden all have in common? All three have strong personal identities and have worked hard to create them. Even the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, wasn’t afraid to seek extra help to refine her brand, famously employing a vocal coach to lower the pitch of her voice and subsequently progressing from Cabinet Member to Prime Minister.
2. Decide exactly what it is you want people to know about you. A good place to start is to think about why someone would want you in their team. Ask yourself key questions including: What are my values? What motivates me? What are my key skills, strengths and achievements? What can I bring to a team?
3. Concentrate on your key strengths. Once you have identified these, make the most of them by seeking out opportunities to demonstrate your skills – whether it means putting yourself forward for a specific role on a project, or working with someone who brings out your strengths.
4. Focus on the things that make you different – what makes you, you? Concentrate on the positives on both a personal as well as a professional level. Consider the way you react in everyday situations –whether it’s the way you manage people, how you deal with stressful situations, your creativity, or the way you think and process information. Write your answers down so you have a clearly defined set of objectives.
5. Critique it. Look back at what you’ve written and be ruthless. Remove any irrelevant or unnecessary detail and make sure that you’re using simple, impactful language - no jargon. Once you’re happy, seek feedback from others. Ask friends or family, or if you’re comfortable, other colleagues. It’s important to ask people who will be able to give you honest feedback.
6. Put it into action. Once you have identified what makes up your brand identity, you need to put it into practice. Think about specific projects and meetings that you have coming up and what you want people to remember about you. Simple steps such as giving yourself enough time to prepare can ensure that you come across in the right way.
7. Take it online. A recent Telefónica survey of 18-30 year olds found that young men are significantly more likely to identify technology as holding the key to future success than young women. This is a worrying trend. More women need to realise the opportunities that digital can bring, such as using social media for networking and building a network of influence. Make sure that you use technology to your advantage: Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, join groups, participate in discussions and ensure that the brand you project online matches up with your brand offline.
At Telefónica, we’ve started running ‘personal branding’ sessions for our female employees. The sessions are open to all levels, from apprentices through to those in more senior positions. You’re never too young to start thinking about what you want to achieve at work and how you go about getting it. I know from my own experience that regardless of your role or the stage of your career, the way you project yourself at work will go a long way to getting you noticed for all the right things - your ability.