As a young woman in the workforce, it can often be difficult to come across as confident and professional. It’s very easy to end up as “that girl from the office.” Not only are you younger than most of your coworkers but, as a woman, you are often physically smaller than the men in the office. This can lead to feeling inhibited and withdrawn at meetings.
I worked at a large construction company for two years. There, most of my colleagues, and all of my supervisors, were men. My direct supervisor was 20 years older and a foot taller than me. This often led to me feeling intimidated. I doubt this was something that he was doing consciously but, the end result was the same. Speaking up was difficult for me and it very well may have hurt my career.
Fortunately, there are several things we can do to appear more confident and more professional at work.
Statements not Questions
No one wants to work with a teenage girl. So, don’t speak like one. You know what I mean. It’s when you talk like this? If the sentence you’re about to say is a statement, make it sound like one. Your voice should not rise in pitch at the end of a statement. Doing this undermines what you’re saying by making you sound unsure. Remember, if you sound unsure, no one else will take your suggestion seriously.
Own your Space
The next time you’re at a meeting, take a look at your coworkers. That confident guy from legal will have his chair pushed back, his stuff spread out across the table, and his hands behind his head while he’s leaning back in his chair. Meanwhile, the shy assistant straight out of college will be sitting at her chair, which is pulled right up to the table, with her hands folded in front of her and her stuff will be neatly stacked in a small pile. The guy from legal looks and feels like he belongs in that meeting while the assistant looks like she’s a student in class.
When you’re at a meeting, take up some space. Make your presence known. You can do this by spreading out a little. Don’t stack all of your things to take up the absolute least amount of space. Spread them out to make full use of the part of the table in front of you. Also, don’t fold your hands in front of you or cross your arms. Put your hands on the table, at least, shoulder width apart. Now, don’t encroach on other people’s personal space but, use your own space fully. Doing this sends out a subconscious signal that you belong at this meeting, that you’re an active participant and not just an observer.
When you have a suggestion or an idea at a meeting, speak up. Don’t wait until later to approach your boss. Saying it now lets everyone know where the idea came from. So, the credit is yours.
Also, never qualify your idea. If you have an idea, just say it. Don’t say things like “This might not work but…” or “I don’t know much about this but …” When you say these things, you have sabotaged yourself by planting doubt in everyone’s mind. If you don’t think it’s going to work, why should they?
Creating a confident and professional work persona takes time and effort. However, the sooner you start, the sooner it will feel natural to you. Then, you can start to reap the benefits.
Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net