Don’t try to fit the mould
As soon as you realise that there's more than one route to success, it creates less pressure to try and fit into a certain stereotype to advance in an organisation.
Sarah Owen, Director of Walters People Ireland, said the first step to success was accepting this viewpoint: “Earlier in my career, I felt that career progression could only be achieved if I shaped myself into a certain mould. I’ve since learnt that being myself has far more meaning.”
Suzanne agrees that women shouldn’t feel a need to adjust their behaviour in order to progress at work: “Attempting to mould yourself into a shape that doesn’t fit takes up a lot of energy that could be better spent on doing your job in a style that suits you.”
Maternity leave isn’t a career killer
I’ve always made a conscious effort to surround myself with people who are slightly different from me – creating a network of relationships both personally and professionally. These are the individuals that inspire and challenge me by pushing me out of my comfort zone.
Maternity leave is often viewed as having a detrimental effect on women’s careers, but our leaders share their positive experiences. Sarah believes that taking maternity leave can in fact have a positive effect on your career: “Having some time away from the office can give you a bigger view of the business and allows you the time to re-evaluate your career, I found that when it was came to returning to work, I found myself with renewed motivation and determination to push my career further”.
Louise stresses that having a supportive team is critical to ensuring businesses retain top female talent: “Keeping in touch is so important, as it allows you to be aware of new business decisions, meet new clients and new employees, and makes returning to work far less daunting.”
Claire summarises that staying engaged with your business and the employment market makes the transition back to work much smoother: “If you take time out from the corporate world, keeping up to date will make it a lot easier to re-enter”.
Face your fears
All four female leaders emphasised the importance of pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone:
Keeping in touch is so important, as it allows you to be aware of new business decisions, meet new clients and new employees, and makes returning to work far less daunting.
“Learning to say yes to something that you wouldn’t usually put your hand up for is a great first step. It’s about recognising challenges as a means to grow, rather than stressing about the possibility of making a mistake”, advises Suzanne.
Louise shares how adopting a fearless attitude helps you to enter new career territory: “Be that little bit braver, you have nothing to lose by trying, but shutting down new tasks could cost you a brilliant opportunity to grow.”
If something makes you nervous, whether it's pitching to clients or sharing a new idea, Sarah advises to “embrace the emotions, and use every opportunity to practise and overcome your feeling of doubt”.
Feelings of self- doubt is an ongoing issue among female leaders. In latest Robert Walters research, 1 in 5 women admit that a lack of confidence is a barrier to career progression. Lacking confidence was something all the leaders that we interviewed had either experienced personally or through mentoring other women, but why do so many women question their capability?
“In my experience, women are more careful by nature, whereas men tend to be more trigger happy and prepared to send off a job application without second guessing themselves,” says Louise.
So, how do women overcome that nagging self-doubt?
For Claire, observing how men navigate their careers prompted her to become her own personal brand ambassador. She reveals: “I overheard a male colleague discussing his recent project that had been a great success. The confidence he had really resonated with me and made me realise that if I don’t talk about my successes, who will?”
Sarah summarises: “Your success is determined by your mind-set. Having people that share your passion and want to push you forward can be a huge help, but ultimately if you want something, you just need to go for it.”
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