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Woman to woman: Inspirational advice from badass women in leadership

Katie Leask

June 15, 2021 | 4 min read

We can all learn a lot from the incredible, inspiring women around us. And if you’ve set yourself leadership-orientated career goals, then who better to ask for advice than those who have already been there, done that, and got the hard-earned leadership t-shirt? 

We quizzed five impressive ladies in leadership roles on what one piece of advice they’d give to aspiring young women. Here’s what they had to say…

 

Remember to cultivate soft skills as well as hard skills

While it may seem obvious to focus your efforts on developing and growing hard skills, make sure you don’t forget the importance of soft skills as well. 

“Marketing has changed massively since I started my career,” says Janis Thomas, eCommerce and Marketing Director at Look Fabulous Forever. “To become an expert in eCommerce, digital marketing, and social I’ve had to continuously learn, adapt and evolve. I worked on developing hard skills and specialist knowledge for years. It’s only now that I can see how much not focusing on soft skills held me back. 

When I started studying emotional intelligence I had a light bulb moment. I could be exponentially more successful by learning to be a better colleague and a better leader. I work every day to help the best version of myself show up. I now feel like I can never learn enough, but I’m enjoying trying!” 

 

Create a top five list to keep you aligned with your goals

True and long-lasting career success depends just as much on strategic future planning as it does on nailing your daily task list. It’s important to define what’s most important to you and then make career decisions based on how much closer they’ll get you to your long-term vision.

“My most loved piece of advice is to create a ‘Top Five’ list and be super true to it,” says Niki Hall, CMO at Contentsquare. “For where I am in my career at the moment, my top five are: 

  1. Working at a high-growth company 
  2. Promoting a SaaS product that’s easy-to-use and super valuable
  3. Working with an amazing CEO
  4. A great company culture
  5. And a tech solution that will be needed as we break through this pandemic. 

And I finally found all of these things on my list at Contentsquare.” 

Aligning daily decision-making to your top five priorities will help you build a career that works for you. A consistent set of goals means you’re more likely to retain motivation when the going gets tough. You’re working towards something bigger than your day-to-day which means the highs and lows of your career will be easier to navigate.

And the great news is you can adapt and update your goals as your career progresses – but the key lies in always having something to work towards.

 

Subtle changes in language make a big difference

Every day, in every language, around the world, countless women silently give up their power by using self-deprecating language. 

  • “Can I just…”
  • “This is probably a silly idea but…”
  • “I’m sorry if it’s not quite right…”
  • “I’m no expert, but…”

Sound familiar? Of course, it does. We use these phrases all the time. But if this is how you talk about yourself at work, it’s time to reconsider. 

Succeeding in leadership means switching your language from apologies and justification, to confidence, gratitude, and authority. You simply have to stop undermining yourself.

Your gender doesn’t change your right to be a strong and assertive leader.

“Your gender doesn’t change your right to be a strong and assertive leader,” says Emily Parker, Director of Sales Development in Europe at Zencargo. “Show up with gravitas and confidence (even if you’re faking it to begin with).

For example, avoid using apologetic language. If you’re a minute late for a meeting with your team; substitute ‘I’m sorry I’m late’ with ‘thank you for waiting for me’. You’re worth the wait, you fearless leader in the making!”.

 

Harness (and use) your voice

No one has had the same experiences, relationships, upbringing, or career journey as you. And that means you have something effortlessly unique to bring to the table – even if it doesn’t feel like it all the time.

Your opinions matter. Your point of view is important. “Learn the power of your voice and never be afraid of using it,” is Ceri Gillet’s best piece of advice. As CEO at Mubo, Ceri believes women in leadership need to harness the power of their voice and practice using it without apology. 

“Communication is always the key”, she adds. So make sure you focus on building effective, efficient, and supportive relationships early on in your career – where you feel comfortable practicing communication techniques until you find what works best for you and those around you. 

 

Make the most of your opportunities

There’s opportunity everywhere if you know where to look. It helps if you know what your long-term career goals are, as you’ll be more likely to spot opportunities along the way that will help you get there.

“My first job out of university was selling advertising space at a local newspaper,” says Jenny Thomspon, Content Director at Jellyfish. “Sales wasn’t my passion or my forte! But while working in the role, I asked if I could write articles for the businesses that advertised, free of charge – something I enjoyed that was much more aligned with my career ambitions.”

Take a look around you, think outside the box, and don’t be afraid to ask. If you aspire to leadership-orientated roles, you’ll need to learn the art of confidence and creative thinking – so start flexing those muscles as soon as possible and get moving (however slowly) in the right direction.

“Even if the job you’re in right now isn’t quite where you want to be,” says Jenny, “Consider how you can turn it into a worthwhile stepping stone to bring you closer to where you want to go; whether that’s asking if you can lend a hand to projects outside your usual remit or building contacts in different departments.”

 

The takeaways

  • Remember to cultivate soft skills as well as hard skills
  • Create a top five list
  • Change your language
  • Harness (and use) your voice
  • Make the most of your opportunities

 

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