Month

October 2017

“8 Tips to Branding Yourself as a Professional Woman”

(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.

1) Appearance

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.

2) Exposure

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.

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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. 😊

“Can You Hear Me Now?”: What To Do When Your Ideas Aren’t Being Heard In the Workplace

{Image credit: pixabay.com}

Have you ever had a moment at work where you have this amazing idea, one that has the potential to resolve that big problem? You know, the problem that has everyone scrambling eagerly for a solution. Well you have the answer which is great but you don’t seem to be heard. So suddenly your bubble has been burst and left a huge puddle of soapy bubble juice (because I don’t know if there’s an actual a name for it) all over the floor. In a figurative sense that is. Unless you work at Toys R Us. I digress.

It’s frustrating when you feel like you aren’t being heard. Whether it was that one occasion or on a daily basis. It’s easy to take it personal, shut down and never speak another idea out loud again. Well you could do just that but what would that be contributing to your employer and more importantly, yourself? You were hired because of the unique set of skills you possess. That idea you hold back could be the difference of whether or not you receive a promotion. Sticking behind your idea could be building the tough as nails, thick skinned type of confidence you need to get you to the next level.

Below are 7 tips to help you cope with these moments of disappointment and maintain your confidence.

1) Timing is everything! Be patient.

I have witnessed this pretty frequently through my own career. Sometimes it’s not the case that your answer isn’t heard or will never be utilized. It could be that the timing just isn’t right. So be patient. There have been occasions where I’ve made a suggestion that didn’t get recognized right away but a colleague or superior came to me weeks later wanting to discuss the idea in more detail as we prepared to implement it.

Had I morphed into a 6 year and stomped away like a brat the moment my idea wasn’t heard originally, odds are a follow up opportunity wouldn’t have come my way. Patience truly is a virtue!

2) Let the other person process your idea first.

This is a follow up to my first point. You never know what space a person’s head could be in upon the presentation of your idea. Maybe they’ve had a bad morning and can’t focus. Perhaps they have multiple projects going on and the project associated with your idea is at the bottom at their priority list. They had to chase their dog down the street and put him back in the kennel all while trying to get themselves and their kids out of the house that morning. Their spouse texted them asking to transfer money to the in-laws again. The possibilities can go on.

My point is, you never know what variety of things a person has on their mind at a given time. And even when someone is laser focused on what you are saying, everyone processes things differently. So give them time to do just that.

3) Pick your battles.

On the flip side, even some of your best ideas may never make it to fruition in the workplace. You just have to pick your battles. But know that all is not lost. My advice would be to pull out your trusty notebook (hardcopy or digital) and jot down those ideas. Then keep them in a handy place for future reference. You could end up utilizing them in a future position. Or who knows, one day when you have your own company (if that’s your goal) you may see what was just another idea that got shot down become the blueprint of your vision.

4) Know your position.

Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, there is a pecking order in the work place. Not to say that you should think of yourself as a peon. Never that. Though it is important to recognize your position. If you’re in an entry level position, odds are you’re not going to have the same voice as a CEO. Continue to voice your ideas but always do so in the most respectful and humble manner possible. Perhaps this humility will be the distinguishing factor that makes you stand out and have your idea implemented.

5) Recognize your environment.

I realize that some people may struggle with a scenario I haven’t spoke on yet in this post – the competitive co-worker. You know, that person that doesn’t let you get an idea in without trying to sabotage it all. Perhaps they shoot back with an idea they proposition as “better” or take your very same idea and twist it to make it seem like this genius suggestion was their own the whole time.

A colleague once told me “Messy people never win”. She was referencing a different type of situation. Though it still applies here.

Even though that person may crawl under the depths of your skin as they scheme against your great ideas, know that this is temporary. It won’t last and they won’t win. So know your environment and how to professionally work through the politics. Don’t let them allow you to give up on your ideas. The temporary discomfort will pass.

6) Reposition your ideas to use elsewhere.

In tip #3 I suggested that you document your ideas in case you need to wait to use them at a different time. To elaborate on that, consider using your ideas in another space. What are you involved in outside of work? Perhaps that new tech advancement you wanted to be made can be utilized your PTA group. Or that awesome team calendar that you put together can be shared with friends who need help getting organized.

Want to step it up a bit? Pair your idea with your expertise to profit your business or creative venture. The practice will help build your professional portfolio and assist others in need at the same time.

7) Talk to the source. Meet with your boss.

My dad has a saying “don’t go talking to the janitor”. There is a story behind that but to simplify for times sake, the message is – address your issue with the source. Don’t discuss it with everyone else that’s not able to resolve it.

Perhaps you’re frustrated because your boss is the person you feel is not listening to your idea. Ask to meet with him/her to express how you feel in a calm and professional manner. Most times, supervisors appreciate the feedback of their employees but are often so overwhelmed with their own work, on top of overseeing staff, that they may come off as unapproachable or uninterested. One-on-one conversations are always best because it allows both parties to talk through the situation.

It could be that they value your idea but right now is just not the right time (refer back to tip #1). Or maybe they misunderstood your idea at the time of presentation but have a better understanding now that he/she is in a space to ask more specific questions.

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What are some methods that have proven to be successful for you in these types of work place situations? Or if you’re someone who hasn’t been successful in this area (yet), don’t be discouraged. Know those ideas have been planted on your mind, and even heart, for a reason. So keep plugging along. They will be implemented at the right time and in the right place. Hang in there!

The Black & White ReMIX

{Photo credit: RSEE Photo}

I remember when mixing prints was seen as a fashion faux pas. One that would solicit looks that said: “Did she [or he] look in the mirror this morning?”. Well fashion has evolved and as a result accepted this mashup into the cool kids group.

Mixing prints used to be seen as “too much going on”. Though nowadays, when done tactfully, it can add just the right touch. For instance, on mornings when I see a black top and grey pants I think “Perfect! I don’t feel like making the effort so I’m just going to go with it!”. Then I find a leopard print scarf with black and white shoes and voila! That quickly I just jazzed up basic without a tremendous amount of effort.

I’ve found a trick to this pairing that makes it work: find a base color. In the outfit pictured I chose black as my base. A top with floral print set against black, black and white gingham pants, black pumps all topped off with a solid black necklace. The black base allows for consistency without falling into the basic black and white trap if you’re looking to kick things up a notch.

How do you feel about wearing mixed prints in the office? What are some of the tricks that allow you to have fun with your work outfits while mixing things up a bit?

{Outfit details: Top (H&M); Pants (Zara); Heels (Cathy Jean – similar here); Necklace (Forever 21 – similar here)}