It is no secret that women are often overlooked in the workplace. We may complacently fall into the mistake of blaming men for this. I completely disagree. I think women are overlooked because we allow self-doubt and subconscious fears speak on our behalf by way of silence.In an attempt to share some tricks of the trade of being a woman in the workforce, I have partnered with fellow blogger Belen of A Hint of Life, to bring you my five tips for being fearless in the office:
- Start at the beginning: The way you present yourself in the initial interview will set the tone for the way you want to be treated from then on. If you speak in uncertain terms and a meek voice, you will be treated as someone who can be easily swayed and spoken over. Instead, be clear about your goals and expectations. For many, this is one of the few times you will get an uninterrupted conversation with your future boss in a private setting. So, be sure to address your concerns without any qualms. Doing this requires preparation. Research the company you are applying for and the person who will be interviewing you (I may write a separate post about my superior researching skills, if requested). Then, write down any questions you will have about the position, the company, and their expectations for you. All of these things will come in handy in tip number five.
- Mind your dress: Here is a personal tidbit- I never see my co-workers in person. In fact every single interaction I have is in the privacy of my home office and through a computer. Usually people respond with, “That’s awesome, you work in pajamas”. I wish but I always have this fear that either my attire or halitosis will turn off my co-workers. So, even if every meeting I attend is in a virtual room, I wake up early on staff meeting days, I do my hair, I make myself up, and dress as if the meeting were in person. Then, I practice in front of the web camera to avoid accidental wardrobe malfunctions à la Janet Jackson circa 2004. This may seem excessive, but it gives me the confidence to speak up when I have to and my brain isn’t clouded with doubt or anxiety over what co-workers may be thinking about the way I look.
- Speak up with body language: There is a plethora of studies on the internet about the power of body language on your mind. Do not ever underestimate the effect of a strong handshake; especially on men. Find a male counterpart to practice your handshakes with; think more than a dead fish and less than arm wrestling. It may sound ridiculous, but people study the relation of aptitude and attitude through handshakes the way criminal investigators study handwriting. Once you’ve mastered your handshake, do not stop there. Learn from the master of fearlessness in the office, Amy Cuddy, the key power poses that will hike up your testosterone and cortisol levels (for an example: see my photo).
- Let your eyes do some of the talking: Imagine a child asking permission to go outside and play but looking down at the floor the whole time. This would inspire suspicion and doubt about the child’s intentions. Now imagine yourself in the office requesting time off but staring at your shoes the whole time- you would make your boss equally skeptical and apprehensive about your motives. Any time I am making eye contact with someone I can hear Tyra Banks’ yelling “smize!” at the TV. This is how I have perfected the art of speaking with my eyes; sometimes they’re all I need to tell someone what I’m really thinking.
- Know when to speak up: This is something I am still learning. At times, you may find that the expectations set forth at the initial interview (see point one) have changed without prior notice. If that is the case, you need to speak up. However, this does not mean that every brilliant idea you have should be said aloud. I have a friend and co-worker who has some of the best ideas in our group but every time she shares what she is doing at a meeting, it becomes a standard for the rest of the staff. This has at times bombarded the rest of us with excessive work and become inconvenient even for her. Sometimes, we need to measure our words against their consequences. We need to think about the effect they will have on ourselves and the rest of the office. You may want to be forthcoming about all the details that are not working well, but first think if the setting, timing, and wording will really yield the results you are looking for.
One extra unofficial tip is to give yourself time. It takes practice and trial and error to gain confidence in yourself and your ideas. So be patient and set small goals. If you don’t know where to start or what is appropriate, my advice is this: Find an older more successful woman in the workplace whom you admire and take on the role of mentee. Observe her. What does she wear? What is her overall tone and body language? How does she address her concerns? How does she behave during meetings? Take the bits you admire and make them your own. In time you will feel more and more fearless in the office.
Did I miss something, what makes you feel fearless in the office?