The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence I heard once say. Do you remember that feeling of entering a room as a fresh graduate surrounded by people who looked and acted way more experienced than you?
I landed my first job straight out of university and I’ve been in the same firm ever since, first in London and then Australia came on the cards and I took the leap down under. Ten years in the making and I can say with an ironic smirk on my face, that working at this firm has been my longest relationship to date. Bearing in mind I am still 31 years of age… 😉
I have been extremely fortunate in my career to always work in a very welcoming environment with great managers and where capable people are given an opportunity to grow.
However, I must say that around the global workplace it does appear that the more you climb the social ladder, the more the female species becomes scarcer and scarcer.
I wanted to share below some practical tips that have helped me throughout my career journey to increase my confidence, and which I continue to apply day in and day out.
- Pick a good mentor from your team. Either if it’s a formal or informal mentor, male or female, it doesn’t matter. Find someone from your team that you look up to and who you can openly express your goals and any challenges you face. Make tangible goals of what you wish to achieve every six months. With time, this team member can become one of your biggest internal advocates, and your confidence will increase knowing that in meetings you have someone who is vouching for your professional growth.
- How many times have you left a client meeting without having uttered a single word? Some advice I learned early on in my career is to make sure you have something to contribute to in a meeting, even if it’s ONE single point. Approach your manager or relevant colleagues ahead of the meeting, and clearly state that you would like to contribute ONE specific point in the meeting. This means that you’ll be given the platform to say the one thing you have up your sleeve or that you have prepared together, and whether you get cold feet or not, you will feel better once you step out of that room knowing that you provided your input.
- Get out of your comfort zone and join a public speaking course! I’ve always found public speaking extremely intimidating. I’m not a shy person but I think the majority of us are not thrilled by the idea of speaking in front of large groups of unknown people. I joined the public speaking organisation Toastmasters which has clubs in almost every city around the world. I diligently attend my public speaking class once a week which has become part of my weekly routine. Do I still get the nerves before speaking? Of course, I do! But I am ok with that as nerves to me are ultimately just a reflection that I care in doing a good job. With time, public speaking can become an immense confidence booster and give you the courage to put your hand up to undertake work related projects that you would have otherwise only dreamt to participate in.
- My other encouragement is to start building your professional network. There are countless young professional organisations out there, with FINSIA itself being a great network, that can provide you with a platform to expand your network with peers in various industries whilst creating contacts with people at the height of their careers.
- I’ve saved one of the most important pieces of advice for last. I see it as imperative for us women to become better allies to one another in the workplace, becoming more “mates”, which I often see our male colleagues do a better job at. Let it be initiating coffee catch-ups with other female colleagues in your office; or hosting internal catch-ups to discuss any challenges you may encounter and for this to become a platform to share advice and tips. Encourage and advocate for one another. Only once you also start advocating for your female co-workers, you can become a leader at 360 degrees.
As with anything in life, these tips are by no means accomplished overnight, and I am still working on developing my inner confidence every day. This while making sure that I never lose the real me along the way. Same as our male counterparts, we can all become leaders with our own distinct personalities.
Workplaces are definitely making progress at hiring and supporting female talent and I am sure we are only on an upward trajectory. As one of my senior managers recently told me, “Elodie, there has been no better time in history for women to shine and achieve what they wish to achieve”.
My incentive to you is go for it, take the lead on the direction you wish your career to go - and make your inner confidence one of the most beautiful traits you wear day in and day out.