Five Top Tips for getting Ahead at Work
How to get ahead at work.
You know all the stats about women at work, getting less pay, being talked over, ideas being ignored until a man makes them, and on and on…
Too much of that type of information can make you feel more like a victim than a successful career woman. All of those things are true but don’t let them stop you. Time to take control.
After decades of working with successful women I want to share with you some of the things they do that will help you get ahead at work.
Five Top ‘Get Ahead’ Tips
Tip One: Have a plan
You’ve heard it many times but… If you don’t know where you’re going how do you know what route to take? Writing things down reinforces intention. The simple act of writing it down will be beneficial. It will make you think. Dream big. Don’t limit your aspirations to how you are now. In 3 years you will have so much more to offer when you apply for that top job. Knowing where you want to be means you can make good decisions en route. Successful women have a plan.
Tip Two: Learn not to take it personally
If you’re aiming high you are going to get a few knock backs. It’s just fact. There are fewer senior positions available and as you climb it’s harder to get them. At some stage you will almost certainly be rejected. Dame Jenni Murray told me how she was turned down to study at Bristol University. Decades later she was on their stage accepting an honorary degree ( see full interview here). It’s how you deal with this that separates the achievers from the rest. Do not take it personally. Ask for feedback and act on it. Accept the feedback like a gift. You wouldn’t give a gift back (would you?) You can always put it in the spare room later if you decide you don’t like it. Or it might just be the best gift you’ve ever had.
Tip Three: Speak up
Attend the important meetings and speak up early on. Do your research before you go and resolve to say something. Don’t wait to be asked for your thoughts; you may wait a long time. Volunteer your thoughts. Having been ignored myself a good few times I resolved to speak out in any meeting I attended. I found that in the early days, if I waited too long I got more nervous. So I got in early. It works. Men interrupt women more often than other men so be prepared. You’re likely to be in a roomful of men so practise being heard. Do not apologise or behave apologetically for speaking. Say something like ‘I’ll finish my point and then be interested to hear what you have to say’.
Tip Four: Look like you mean business
This may be about dress code but that’s not the whole story. Looking the part of a successful woman can give you an edge. The impression you make matters. How you use your body and voice is important. Learn to project your voice so you are audible, if necessary get a voice coach or even take some acting classes. This isn’t about speaking like a man but it is about creating your ‘stage presence’. That starts inside of you. What you are feeling will be showing in your posture and general demeanour. Catherine Kaputa has something interesting to say on this in Brand Quarterly.
Tip Five: Put yourself about
By which I mean get out and about. I say it all the time but Its No Good Being Good If No One Knows You’re Good. Volunteer to help at corporate events, to fly the flag for your company or business at outside events. Write something for the company blog or journal.
Be a ‘can do’ person, say Yes. Gender research tells us that typically we women hold back from doing something until we feel sure we can do it well. The thing is, if you don’t have a go at something how do you know? Successful women know how to take calculated risks and push themselves out of their comfortable habits. Think of it like breaking in new shoes.
Photo of Anita Anand by Suki Dahanda. Read my interview with Anita here.