10 things I wish I'd known at the start
With over 25 years of experience behind me and countless lessons, it’s still the first piece of advice I was given from my dad that rings true even now. He told me when I was just starting out, ‘If you want to go that way bad enough, then you will find a way.’
I didn’t quite understand how important this message was at the time but looking back I realised that the only person stopping you from achieving what you want is you, and the only person who is going to ultimately make it happen is you. I also discovered how much quicker you can make things happen if you do a few simple things.
1. Make time for yourself Create regular time to focus on yourself, even if it's 10 minutes in the shower, just time for thinking about your career or even life plan. So few people actually have a plan, let alone update it! It doesn't have to be set in stone but this is the most important journey you will ever go on so why would you travel without some sort of map?
2. Find a sponsor Find someone who will accompany you and help you on the journey. Men are very good at aligning themselves very early on with individuals who can help them along in their careers. And it's perfectly OK to have more than one sponsor! And a mentor too, someone can share their worldly wisdom with you and help you work through issues and challenge.
3. Grow your network Start building your business networks early. This is not wasted effort, it is investing in your career. And you'd be surprised how happy people are to help if you ask in the right way.
4. Advisory board Beyond a network, look around the people close to you and determine who sits on your trusted advisory board. They will be those you turn to for guidance, assurance, humour or tough love, each bringing something different to the table. You might not always like their advice or even take it but it's important you hear it.
5. Be visible You have to be proactive by making yourself visible and heard. Believe it or not your career is not at the forefront of anyone else's brain first thing in the morning, they have their own concerns. So unless you tell people, they won't know!
6. Go for it Seize every single opportunity and sweat ‘the how’ later. Don't say no. Doesn't matter if you haven't got every piece of knowledge - you have a brain, you will learn.
7. Be confident One of the greatest skills you can learn is how to turn the volume down on the doubts in your head. One of the most common reasons for women not succeeding is our ability to self-limit and the imposter syndrome really is alive and kicking. Believe in yourself and believe the other person’s faith in you. They wouldn't ask you if they didn't think you could do the job.
8. Blow your trumpet The best way to quieten any self doubt is by blowing your own trumpet. Celebrate your successes and get used to sharing them with others around you. Men are really good at it but most women have a strong aversion to boasting and see it as unseemly and as a consequence may be seen as unambitious. Learn to blow your trumpet loudly - they don't have to be massive things and you don't have to be obnoxious, but by doing it regularly it does get easier and feels more natural.
9. Sales pitch For interviews and promotions one of the most effective things you can do is create a sales pitch which includes all of the things you have achieved so far, write it, learn it then put it away. This is a great way of silencing self doubt and giving yourself permission to boast which results in hugely improved non-verbal communication. This plays such an important role in future job prospects as so many hiring decisions are made on how you are and how you make someone feel rather than what you actually say.
10. Think, feel, believeI spend a lot of time rehearsing the sales pitch with some very senior women and we work on editing out, ‘I think that’, ‘I feel that’, ‘I believe that’, and any other softening words. Just by doing that it increases their success rate tenfold. They come across as more self-assured, knowledgeable and competent - all the things the person on the other side of the table will react more positively to.
Applying some of these tips will not feel natural for everyone but there is always a way to adapt each whilst remaining authentic to yourself. The real test will be when you come to that bridge between your next goal, if you want it bad enough you may use one or all of these techniques to get there. I know what I would do!