Everyone has a story – and that is your unique brand identity. Moving careers in a new direction doesn’t come naturally to most people, women particularly. During the November Women Lead Webinar, Wendy Sachs – author of Fearless and Free – How Smart Women Pivot and Relaunch Their Careers – shared a personal story about moving to Silicon Valley, embarking on a new career, and the lessons she learned.
After getting fired from her job, Sachs had multiple interviews with startups and corporations, but she soon realized what was holding her back: even though she had the appropriate skills, she was not telling her story or selling her talents effectively. Moving to Silicon Valley – where the culture of startups made ‘celebrating failure’ the norm – she recognized the need to think like an entrepreneur.
Sachs suggested five tactics for effective career relaunch:
- Develop confidence
- Amplify your voice
- Engineer serendipity
- Conquer networking
- Brag the “right” way
Are men naturally more confident than women? Studies show that increased levels of testosterone correlate to confidence. However, confidence is a muscle that can be developed, grown and nurtured if we are willing to take risks and “get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” according to Sachs. It is easy to become complacent in our jobs or in our lives – but noodling about the opportunities is where the magic happens.
How we present ourselves is important – women tend to physically shrink, not raising our hands and not leaning in. Women need to take a ‘larger than life’ physical position – taking up physical space at the conference room table is one way to do this.
Sachs suggests that we stop apologizing or using ‘shrinker’ words to dilute our message. Dialing it back only diminishes power. Lots of studies have shown that it’s not always the smartest person who gets the job, but the one who is most liked. A key question here is: how do we strike a balance between not diminishing ourselves and coming across as likeable? Sachs suggests this tactic for emails: start warm and end warm, but be direct in the middle. Likeability goes a long way in the workforce.
Amplify your voice
As the name suggests, it is very effective to amplify successes and share with the world what you’re doing. Since many of us are not comfortable patting ourselves on the back, having someone else do that for us removes the discomfort. Social media, where someone else can give you a shout-out, is one solution.
Sachs shared a real-life example about women in the Obama Administration who felt they were initially not being heard. To solve this challenge, every woman began to repeat the same thing another woman had spoken as a way to advocate and amplify the message. It worked like magic – the President started paying more attention, and women were increasingly invited to meetings. This practice is being adopted by women in the corporate sector as well. When women feel supported and are collectively heard, the culture changes to one which empowers women.
Serendipity may be a happy accident, but you can create your own good fortune. The formula is to always be ready for the moment and be in the right place at the right time. To do that, put yourself out there even for opportunities that may be out of the norm. Attend an event somewhat unrelated to your industry, for example. Brands are increasingly leveraging adjacent possibilities – for example, technology recently has been marrying with fashion. By seeing ourselves as brands, we can see intersections more clearly, think more broadly and push ourselves out of our comfort zones to be ready for every opportunity.
Adopt a growth mindset by believing that the world keeps evolving, things keep changing, and we can continuously keep learning. For example, learn online, take classes, and read up in order to move in the direction you want. We can make this magic happen for ourselves, which is empowering.
To learn how to boost your network and develop a specific kind of “bragging” to strengthen your personal brand, listen to the on-demand recording of Fearless and Free – How Smart Women Pivot and Relaunch their Careers.
Sachs leaves us with a key piece of advice: over-thinking creates inertia or inaction. Men are not afraid to jump in and move on when something doesn’t work out. As women we agonize over our next move because we want everything to be perfect. We should allow ourselves to fail sometimes as part of the journey!
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