Strong, confident woman - Hays careers advice

Daunting, terrifying, a major case of butterflies in the stomach, but also an increasing sense of exhilaration, purpose and commitment. These are just some of the many feelings I have experienced when making major decisions in my professional life.

The first bold decision I made in my career was early on, and it was my decision to step away from my role as a lawyer, something I had spent many years working towards, and forge a career in the completely unfamiliar field of professional recruitment.

More recently, I made the bold decision to propose to my current employers that we create a new role of Head of Diversity, and that I should be the person to step up to the plate and take this on.

Both very different moves at very different stages in my career, both very bold for me professionally and personally, but both linked by honest self-reflection, strategic planning, positive action and determination.

Why am I telling you this? Well, the 2017 global theme for International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange. International Women’s Day “celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women”.  In light of this year’s theme, many professional women around the world are telling stories of the bold decisions they have taken to advance themselves in the world of work, with the hope of inspiring other women to do the same.

Having the courage to back myself and to be bold in my professional ambition is something I have reminded myself of regularly throughout my career journey, and is one of the key messages I promote with my colleagues at Hays, plus the many candidates and clients with whom I work.

The problem is, change is scary.  A lot of the time, self-doubt, negativity and anxiety can get in the way of following through with the bold step you would like to make in your career.  Ask yourself if this sounds like you. Do you want to be bolder and braver in your career choices, but you’re just not sure how? If the answer to this question is yes, then in the spirit of #BeingBoldForChange, I would like to share some of my insights and advice to assist you in taking decisions which are brave, bold and in time, successful.

Be bold in finding the time to really listen to yourself

My first piece of advice to you would be to trust your instincts. If you feel like something is wrong in your career or that you could be doing more, then you are probably right. Simple though it sounds, in our full and often hectic lives, creating the time and space to really question and listen to ourselves can be a major challenge. Stop doing the doing, and be honest with yourself. More so, be open and accepting of what your instincts and emotions are telling you. Always remember that you know yourself better than anyone else.

Be bold in believing in yourself and understand your strengths

If you don’t believe in yourself, and understand what you’re really good at, then how can you expect anyone else to? Have the courage to look within yourself and find your key strengths. More often than not, I’ve found that my strengths and subsequent successes lie in the things I’m naturally drawn to and energised about. So start there.

This can be an extremely empowering exercise. You’ll probably find that you didn’t fully appreciate just how many strengths you really possess. Take this new-found understanding of your strengths to give you confidence, to inform your decisions and help drive your career forward.

Be bold in recognising your weaknesses, but don’t let them hold you back unnecessarily

Let me use applying for jobs as an example. We have all heard the stats that whilst many men will dive in head first and apply for a role even if they don’t match all of the criteria, most women will only do the same if they are confident they match 100 percent of the criteria (and then some!) It’s important to remember that a job specification is often a wish list which combines perceived essentials and nice to haves.

You often don’t need to be able to tick every single box from day one. Many skills can be learned and as many are transferable. The pressure to be the perfect match often comes from you and if you let this go unchecked, then you risk being the biggest barrier to your own career progression.

So don’t get hung up on all the criteria on the checklist. Instead – focus your energy on the core elements of the job description that do play to your strengths and be confident that you can master the rest when required.

Be bold in communicating what you want

You may know where you want to be, but do other people? By people, I mean those who might be able to help get you there? Look to your professional and personal networks; be it friends, family, former colleagues or university friends.

Have the confidence to communicate your vision and ambition with enthusiasm and self-belief and enlist their support.  Reach out and tell them what you are hoping to achieve, and ask for their help.

Guest speaker for our Hays Leading Women programme and negotiation expert Natalie Reynolds talked extensively on this matter at our last event. Natalie outlined how various studies have shown that women are good at asking for assistance and support on behalf of someone else, but are less comfortable and therefore more reticent when it comes to asking for what they want for themselves. The reasons for this are plenty, but my point here is to be careful not to fall into this trap. Be bold enough to put your cards on the table and ask for what you want. If you don’t ask, you run a high risk of coming in short.

So, what I want to say to you today is, be bold when taking key, strategic and considered decisions in your career. Don’t let another year pass where nothing significant changes although the opportunities are there for the taking. Now is the time to come out of maintenance mode and start actively managing your career.

For those of you who are already taking the above steps, I applaud you for being bold in your approach.  And for those of you that aren’t, why not make International Women’s Day 2017 the day when that changes?

If you are interested in the topic of diversity, you may also find some of the below articles useful:

Hays Leading Women

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Yvonne has over 20 years professional recruitment experience. She is Group Head of Diversity for Hays plc. She works closely with organisations and Hays specialist consultant teams to create and implement diverse recruitment strategies that effectively support and increase the representation of more diverse staff profiles within their businesses.

Yvonne chairs Hays Leading Women, a fast growing and highly regarded membership group for experienced professional women from across the world of work. Hays Leading Women aims to support female executives to further progress their careers by providing a series of  networking, training and professional and personal development forums.

She leads the expert Hays Legal recruitment teams across the UK, having spent many years recruiting lawyers into private practice and in house roles. Yvonne initially trained and qualified as a litigation lawyer with international law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

She sits as a long-standing Board Member of British American Business, the leading transatlantic business organization and chairs the very successful and well supported BAB Womens Forum.

Outside of work she is a trustee of the charity Teens Unite Fighting Cancer.