Don’t be afraid to stand out.
MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How can more women leaders instill confidence in the workplace? is written by Priti Shah, vice president of leadership product strategy and corporate development at Skillsoft.
Confidence may come more naturally for some women than others, but regardless of where we start out, we need to take the steps toward becoming advocates for ourselves. As women continue to face an uphill battle in the workplace, it’s crucial for us to be thinking about what we stand to lose if we let opportunities pass us by because we haven’t asserted ourselves properly. And being proactive about finding mentors — continuously learning and defining our personal brands — will always put us in a better position to be seen as equally confident to our male counterparts.
As I rose through the ranks in the predominately male technology field, I’ve learned that it’s essential for women to show conviction — but how? And what about those of us for whom self-advocating doesn’t come naturally? Regardless of your place in the organization, these three strategies can improve your confidence as a leader and the confidence of those around you:
Be proactive about finding a mentor (and be one yourself)
Careers are rarely made without a little guidance along the way. Open yourself up to networking and find someone you identify with and admire in a similar career trajectory. For women, this can be of even greater value if you make a point of approaching a female colleague you trust and respect, who can offer you a broader glimpse into the unique set of challenges we face in the workplace and how to tackle them. It’s also important to share your knowledge by and mentoring and sponsoring others. This will help to establish yourself as an authoritative and confident leader within your organization.
Be proactive about learning
Working for a learning and development company, this is certainly top-of-mind for me and I can’t overstate the importance of seeking out anything and everything your company offers to further your professional development. Some employers will make it easier than others — with apps for your phone or personalized platforms for continuous learning — but regardless of your situation, make it a point to approach your manager, your mentor or anyone in HR about what learning resources may be available to you. At the very least, your proactivity will demonstrate that you take self-improvement seriously.
Be proactive about your personal brand
Identifying and defining your personal brand provides you an opportunity to articulate what makes you stand out and demonstrate that you are a highly capable leader. It is who you are in your combined personal and professional capacities that, in sum, make you less of a nine-five worker and more of a well-rounded asset to your company. As much as you may feel you have an understanding of your personal brand, take the time to write things out — your interests, your goals, your passions, your motivations, your strengths, your weaknesses — and you’ll gain a clearer picture of what skills you want to work on and what attributes you want to promote more proactively.
Perhaps the most significant moment of clarity I’ve had as a woman in the workforce was when I first realized that I needed to be the biggest and most vocal advocate for myself. This can apply to anyone in the workplace — male or female — but is even more of a necessity for women who may already be at a disadvantage because of the existing unfortunate gender stigmas. In all likelihood, as women, we aren’t able to just walk into work on the first day and have the whole office assume, “she could be the next leader of this company,” but by practicing the above strategies, your ability and confidence will be undeniable.