Career Woman

Why it’s important you step up in your career

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Every woman, from those starting out in their first ‘real’ jobs to experienced leaders in the senior ranks of organisations, have moments – days, months, years even – when they question their ability to face challenges, and when their confidence feels threatened.

You might question your own ability to have an impact and to negotiate and stand up for yourself, whether in your career, about your salary or returning to the workforce after an extended period, like maternity leave.

Maybe you’ve been trying to break through to senior leadership levels and don’t know how to do this. Your colleagues (often male) with more confidence and a stronger presence are now being promoted above you.

You may ask yourself what you need to do differently to be considered ready for promotion. Whose support do I need? How do I develop the level of confidence and influence I will need at this level? And will I really be able to do it? 

According to the 2018 Chief Executive Women Senior Executive Census, women make up almost a quarter (23%) of the executive leadership teams of the ASX 200. While this might be progress, it is slow progress. There is a healthy increase for women in roles like HR, corporate affairs and legal, yet the census shows only a small increase in roles with P&L accountability, like CFO or COO, which are seen as ‘feeders’ into the top job, a CEO role.

Think big

Many of us, set the bar too low. We struggle with confidence and self-belief, which decision makers in organisations judge us on. While, no-one is immune to bouts of insecurity at work, this doesn’t – and shouldn’t – have to hold us back.

Confidence isn’t based on our actual ability to succeed at a task but on our belief in our ability to succeed. It is the expectation of a positive outcome – regardless of whether this relates to our belief in our ability to speak in front of a large audience, to learn new technology, to lead a team, to handle confrontation, to change jobs and careers, or to start a business.

It is, therefore, critical that our organisations are rich and diverse with a balance of skills, experience and gender. This is what leads to improved organisational performance. We need more brilliant women to realise their full potential and step up and into roles they were born to do.

As business tycoon Warren Buffet wrote about getting more women into leadership roles, ‘We’ve seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. If you visualise what 100% can do, you’ll join me as an unbridled optimist…’

Don’t set it and forget it

Remember, confidence isn’t just something you work towards, attain and then forget about – it’s something you have to work on at all times, no matter what level, job or industry you’re working in.

Of course, confidence can wax and wane throughout our lives. It’s boosted when we accomplish something great or when we get good feedback from those we trust, but it can take a hit when we fall short of the mark, or we’re criticised, rejected or simply feel a lack of external recognition. We’re only human after all.

Moving away from being reliant on external affirmation to prop up our self-worth is, therefore, vital. We must take ownership for the actions needed to sustain our confidence.

With consistent effort and the courage to take a risk, we can gradually expand our confidence and, with it, our capacity to build more of it.

Wouldn’t you agree?

About Michelle Sales

Michelle Sales is a highly sought-after speaker, trainer, facilitator and coach who helps senior leaders and their teams learn to show up as the best version of themselves, to build their confidence and influence with others, and to maximise their leadership and performance. She is the author of the book ‘The Power of Real Confidence’. Find out more at www.michellesales.com.au

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