Looking at the statistics, it seems like the odds are stacked against us: Women in STEM are outnumbered by men at uni, in the workplace (even more so the more you advance in your career), and in most of the meetings. Women in STEM, are also more likely to leave their field, and in many workplaces, we find a culture that favours men.
Another number that illustrates inequality is the pay gap. But not just the very real numbers in your bank account. Even in numbers in your own head are skewed. Women have much lower thresholds to what they consider satisfying and dissatisfying salaries.
Many workplaces start to pay more attention to these issues, but the progress is often slow, and for some, it even feels like a mere compliance exercise rather than a true change of heart.
What many women are left with is a vicious cycle of frustration.
We often come with a resume that includes many credentials, extra miles and successes. That resume helps us land a new job. If we’re lucky, it’s a dream position where we can add value to the company and are challenged to grow.
Then comes a honeymoon phase during which we oscillate between feelings of insecurity and overwhelm in one moment because we’re learning and growing and everything is new and fresh. In another moment we then enjoy the thrill of endless possibilities and motivation.
But then… About a year into the role we have to reconcile that this company is just as normal as all the others with internal politics, strategy changes, personal agendas, and a profit orientation that tends to deprioritise investment in people.
In those moments, it seems like the only way to improve our situation is to write a new resume and find a new employer.
At least that’s what I thought in the early days of my career. Feeling overlooked in one job, and bored-out in another. But looking at it more closely, I noticed that it wouldn’t solve the root cause of the problem. In fact, I’d just be kicking the can: Friends who worked in other companies shared similar experiences.
The alternative? Learning the lessons in front of me with that disrupting that cycle for my career. Instead of polishing my resume again, I started developing new skills and creating a network of fans across the organisation. All that helped me build a reputation that led to others knocking on my door asking me to help out on projects or join their teams.
At one point, I even wrote a job description for a new role myself. That’s what’s possible when you can align your strengths and skill set to the company’s needs. (And the timing is right.)
And that’s what I want for you too: Be asked to do more of what you love doing, by taking matters into your own hands.
Empowering yourself now instead of waiting for companies and culture to change. Because we still have a long way to go there. The gender gap report of 2015 said that if development continues at its current rate, the time by when we will have equality for men and women in the workplace is 2133. That’s ridiculously long – past my retirement date.
Of course, taking matters into your own hands is no guarantee of success, because there are still many other factors at play. But it beats the hell out of simply crossing our fingers or staying frustrated.
Instead, we get more recognition from others, get to participate in new projects, and get more responsibility and even promotions. All the while we feel more confident, we enjoy our work more, we are more engaged with our tasks, others are more engaged with us, and we know we belong to the team. And we start to have a bigger impact.
If you take only one thing away from this email, let it be this:
Build your reputation as a valuable expert in your company, because that brings many new opportunities and you can choose the ones that bring you greater career fulfilment.
I want you to be able to do what you love every day. Surrounded by people you like. And have the freedom to do your work the way you want.
How can you do that?
The best way is by building your credibility and focusing on connection. Let me illustrate that with an example of a client session I had a while ago.
If you take consistent action in each of these, you will become a sought after expert with the recognition you deserve. Often you see drastic changes within as short a time as three months.
But let’s break this down a little bit more, we start with credibility.
You may think that credibility is what others think about you. But that’s only part of it. First, build credibility with yourself.
You see credibility comes from knowing who you are, what you’re capable of, and what you want. And then sharing all that with others in a way that makes it relevant to them.
But it always starts with you.
Like with one of my former clients, Friederike. When I met Friederike, she was frustrated but didn’t know exactly why. She knew she was able to do good quality work, but didn’t know how to talk about her strengths and ability. And she didn’t know what to answer if someone asked her why she wants to have a leadership position.
So the majority of our work together focused on finding out what gives her a sense of purpose at work, identify her strengths and aspirations, formulate a clear goal for her next career step, and then talk about that with others.
I would never guarantee anyone they’ll get a promotion in three months. But I’m certain that the results you get from this type of „inner work“ are even more meaningful.
Here’s what Friederike, achieved: She now knows a lot more about herself and how she can change that if she wants to. That feels very liberating to her. She even said, „I feel more confident and more able to argue for myself, my way of working, and what I want to achieve.“
That’s where the magic is in building credibility with yourself first: Others won’t have a choice but take you seriously if you take yourself seriously. It’s like you being a bamboo shoot that starts as a little seedling. With the right ingredients (sunlight, water, nutrient-rich soil) it starts growing fast–without compromising on strength and integrity while being flexible and able to adapt.
There are three ingredients that help you build credibility with yourself.
#1 Self-knowledge. You need to understand your strengths well and embrace your quirks and uniqueness. It’s also good to know what your passions and interests are, and what gives you a sense of purpose. Because, again, I want you to do things that you really love doing.
And lastly, know your aspirations: Do you want to be a project lead? A senior expert? Become a team leader? You need to know what you ask for, so your boss and your HR manager and all those other supporters know what opportunities to offer to you.
#2 Mindset. There are a number of mindset shifts we’ll explore in JumpStart, but there are two you can get started with: Growth-Mindset and Sef-Compassion.
Both of them will help you to stay in ‚learning mode‘ and not get worn down as much when you bump up against your current limitations. They’ll help you to not be so hard on yourself when you think it’s not going fast enough or when you made a mistake.
#3 Positioning. Now that you know who you are, what makes you unique, and what you want, you need to talk about it with others. Get comfortable sharing your story and the work you do. And share it in a way that’s relevant to whoever is listening.
Okay. This concludes credibility. Moving on to connection,
Making genuine connections with others increases your visibility in the company.
Imagine a spiders web. It has multiple connection points to the outside and the individual strings are connected to each other, too. Just like that web catches flies, visibility catches new opportunities for you.
Maximum visibility equals maximum opportunity because people remember you better. They’ll want to work with you more often if you make connections that leave them feeling energised. They’ll also rave about you even when you’re not in a room and they recommend you to be part of projects, or to be considered for promotions.
According to Harvey Coleman in his book „Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed“, visibility makes up 60% of your success in an organization.
So how do you get more visible?
#1 Create a map. You need to know your supporters and advocates that are fans of you as a person. In terms of the ideas and projects you’re pursuing, know the relevant influencers and challengers. They might not influence your career directly, but they’re vital for your day-to-day success at work.
#2 Invest in connections. Once you have a map of all these people, go out and build relationships. Either by making new connections to people you don’t know yet personally or by nurturing the bonds that you already have.
#3 Create positive micro-moments. It’s my favourite connection strategy because it doesn’t require any additional time for me or the other person. I simply use everyday situations to create those small moments that help others feel a little better than before. It truly doesn’t require much effort if you’re intentional with how you’re interacting.
Again, my wish for you is to break that cycle of frustration and create more opportunities for yourself. That way you can do more of what you love with people you like the way you want. It only takes two things to get there: credibility and connection.
And if you want my help with that, keep reading here.