(Photo credit: Shot By Kelley)
Being a young working woman is more about just waking up, rolling out of bed, throwing on whatever appears at the front of the closet and going to work to get a paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, not every workday is going to be a glamorous, hopped out of a Zara ad type of day. Though the effort you put in does matter. Even if it’s just enough to put on something professionally acceptable enough to wear to the work place.
We all have those days when we just don’t feel like it. Take it from me, there are more days that I don’t feel like dressing up for work than the days I do. However, I have learned that people are always watching so it’s always a good idea to have yourself together. And when I say people, I mean leaders and other individuals who may have influence on your next opportunity. Like they say, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”.
While I think appearance is one of the key areas of branding, it is not the only. Check out 8 tips to branding yourself as a professional woman from a variety of areas.
I covered this in the intro but cannot stress enough how important your appearance is as a professional woman. There are people in your workplace whom you may never speak a word to. (Especially if you work for a large company.) But no matter what, they will see you. That director of the marketing department you’re hoping and praying to get into, yep – she sees you! So always look your best. Make sure your hair is combed and neat. Even on the days you don’t feel like dressing up, always make sure to follow the dress code and present yourself in a way you would want to be remembered.
I can recall a Friday when I went into the break room at work and the president of the organization was sitting at one of the tables, reading the newspaper. He rarely ever came to my location. And was never EVER reported to be sited in the break room of all places! It was Casual Friday so I was dressed down. But imagine if I threw up the deuces going out the house in my sweatpants with my hair in a super messy topknot. Yeah, probably wouldn’t have made the best impression to the big guy.
How you expose yourself at work is vital. Also, it goes without saying that the exposure should always be positive. Participating in activities outside of the office can serve you well because it shows that you are able to be (professionally) social with others. Getting involved in different committees can serve as a good opportunity for exposure as well. Have you been receiving those emails about the annual Christmas party planning committee and ignoring them despite your love for all things Santa and snowmen? Don’t be afraid to join in on the festivities. Way too swamped for that? Consider something more short term like asking how you can help out the day of or assisting with a smaller scale event. Any exposure is good exposure.
The overall idea is that you stay relevant. A day may come when you want to transfer departments and find that the hiring manager is the same person you worked with on that committee. If he/she knows who you are, that’s a great start to you expressing your interest in a potential opportunity.
3) Create a Voice
It is important that you have a voice in the workplace. Now this does not mean to be the loudest person in the office. More times than not, that can solicit more negative views than positive. But DO have a voice that others recognize and respect. Even if you don’t speak often, make sure that when you do speak it is always positive, professional and insightful. You don’t have to be an extrovert or even the most educated person whose good morning greetings have the intellectual ring of former president Barack Obama. Be yourself but make sure your voice is creating an image that you can be proud of.
You want your voice to remain credible. The same woman that’s known as the source of office gossip can’t be taken seriously when it comes time to select a candidate for promotion. Be careful that you don’t find yourself in that position.
4) Remain Humble
Have you ever worked with an individual that makes everything about themselves? Someone who points out their every accomplishment or kind deed. Isn’t it a bit irritating to hear them go on and on about none other than…themselves? So don’t be that person.
It’s okay to be proud of yourself or be excited about sharing your accomplishments with others. You’ve worked hard and should be proud. Who knows, those accomplishments could be inspiring others. Though you should also know when to be quiet and swallow the pill of humility. Know when it’s time to recognize others and take yourself out of the spot light. You don’t want to come off as insecure or self-centered.
I would venture to say that a woman who knows how to celebrate others over herself will go further long term in her career than a woman who is all about herself.
5) Surround Yourself with Positive Company
I think this one gets many women caught up in unnecessary, dramatic situations in the work place that could have been avoided. Maybe you’re not a gossiper in the office but someone in your work crew is known as the unofficial Director of Office Gossip. Ever heard the phrase “guilty by association”? Well it’s true. You are just as guilty as they are because your association promotes that negative activity.
So surround yourself with positive company. Even if that means opting out on messiness and rolling solo. I’ve had a do it myself on a few jobs and the end result was always nothing short of peaceful. And the times I have been able to find a positive social team always make for great, inspiring conversation paired with a confidence that I don’t mind being associated with those individuals.
6) Get a Mentor
Navigating the workplace as a young woman can be challenging. Trying to sort through politics, people, not getting sucked into office negativity (see above) and more can be quite a task. On top of it all, you’re trying to figure out how to advance in your career. Definitely some tough grown up stuff. That’s where a mentor comes in. A mentor can help you put things into perspective and think through your goals with you. You can certainly find a way to get paired with a mentor formally whether through your company directly or by your own networking. However, this does not always have to be a formal relationship with official titles.
Many of the women who’ve mentored me in my career have been former bosses or leaders that I met along the way. I can’t say I’ve ever had a formal mentor meeting. Much of these relationships have been built around casual coffee chats or chill dinner meetings. My point, find someone that can pour into you, particularly someone who is already at the level you’d like to be or in a similar leadership role. You can meet up every month or just put in a call/email as the need for guidance arises. As long as you find someone that can assist you as you shape your professional identity. Also, be sure to pay it forward. There will be a time when you are able to mentor someone so know that this is something you should openly consider, especially if someone helped you.
7) Professional Development
Professional development can make a huge impact on your career. It could be as small as taking a 2 hour class on advancing your computer skills or a more extensive opportunity such as attending a 3 day conference in your area of expertise. Find a way to continuously upgrade your knowledge in the workplace.
Many companies have funds for professional development so make sure to talk to your supervisor about how to best utilize those funds for your professional growth. In addition, there are companies (particularly larger ones) that offer free workshops. Even if it doesn’t pertain to your direct area of work, still attend! You may gain skills that can be applied to your position.
8) Be Mindful of Social Media
*Sigh* This is a tough one. Many may argue that you are free to put whatever you like on your social media accounts because it is your space uncontrolled by others. While this is true, you also have control over how you are perceived based on what you post on social media. Especially if you have a public account. This forum is not the best place to post scandalously clad pics or shots of you getting wasted in Punta Cana last summer. Many employers go straight to social media accounts these days because these pages won’t just tell you everything you want to know about a person but everything you need to know as well.
Don’t get passed up on that great job opportunity because of something as simple as what you posted on social media. Either be mindful of what you post or set your page to private. Even with a private page, proceed with caution as there is a way to get around everything on the internet.
One last point on this topic, be mindful of who you’re friends with on social media. Being friends with co-workers can be nice as you can get to know more about each other outside of work. Though I would suggest you only do this with those you trust and can see yourself being friends with long term. Those that you casually speak with or who seem to want to be connected on social media just to see what’s going on with you, not so much. It wouldn’t be fun to find out something you posted was shown to your boss or used against you in some other way. So keep it simple with those friend requests.
Have you already been practicing any of these tips and found them to be helpful in your professional experience? If you have, how so? Do you have any tips that I haven’t mentioned here? Please be sure to share. 😊