Embarking on a transformation Journey named PGPX : Full time 1 Year MBA at IIM Ahmedabad

The choices you make will define who you become– Shikha Sharma, Axis Bank CEO

The word “transformation” means : “a marked change in form, nature or appearance”. More than the definition, two words listed as antonyms (sameness, stagnation) give us insight into why organizations, countries or Individuals embark on any transformation journey. We do not want sameness or stagnation and we seek change outside and within. I too decided to embark on such transformation journey named PGPX – residential full time 1 year MBA program at IIM Ahmedabad . Its been few weeks and I want to share my experience so far:

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Inauguration of 12th batch of PGPX

Most difficult part is making the decision to disrupt the status quo

After working for 12 years, I decided to go back to school. This decision was the hardest decision of my life as by this time I also had the responsibility of 2 children and a home. I was overborne with guilt of leaving children behind. I was also scared of living alone without family after a long time. My mind was full of apprehensions and dilemmas whether it was a right decision to disrupt not only my professional and personal life but also life of my children and spouse. It was indeed a hard and brave decision to make as often expressed by others to me. This is the phase where many women instead decide to drop their plan or ambition as they fear the disruption such drastic change will cause in their lives. If you are contemplating this decision, my advice to you would be to go for it. Once you are past this difficult decision making phase and have made up your mind, it becomes easier. It is entirely doable and worth the sacrifices you would make.

Change is completely disruptive (even more if you stay alone without family)

You suddenly arrive in a new city and start living in a totally new environment- a new city, a college campus, a hostel room. You eat in cafeteria and go to a class instead of office. How amazingly different life can become overnight hits you and there is initial resistance but within few days you start settling in and in few weeks start loving it. Just hang in there and go with the flow.

Rigor, fast pace and intensity of program is effective and actually helpful

No time to settle in or take it slow. It is overwhelming in the beginning but gets you to speed pretty quickly and is actually very helpful in dealing with emotions and the drastic change. When I took decision to join the program and in months before start of program, even the thought of staying without my children was enough to make me teary eyed and guilt ridden. It was in-fact not as tough as I imagined and post initial settling period hiccups, the rigor and fast pace of program left no time to miss home. Intellectual engagement in class and group studies and tight schedule of program immerses you completely into it and keeps you focused on tasks at hand which are plenty at any point of time.

Always remind yourself why you are here.

This is specially relevant to women such as me who chose to not bring family to campus. There are emotional moments of living away from family such as when you video-chat with family and you see your children or when they tell you that they miss you or when you miss seeing them, hugging them or being with them. In such vulnerable moments, it is helpful to remind yourself the purpose of coming here. Keeping the focus on the purpose of staying away from family will make your resolve stronger and will give you strength in dealing with your emotions. It is a hard choice but there must be some good reason why you still made that choice. It would be good to also acknowledge that this is a temporary stay and having made sacrifice of staying away from your family, you must make most of every second of it.

Only you exist.

If you are a woman and a mother, When was last time you could only do what you wanted to do even for 24 hours. When was last time your thoughts about work or self were not interrupted by thoughts about issues waiting at home – children’s home- work, classes or other responsibilities at home. When was last time you just lived life as you, the person. May be before marriage and kids. It is almost like a time travel. After so many years of living a multiple role life, you suddenly reclaim your earlier life without any additional responsibilities of being a wife and mother. You do miss your family but at the same time, you can’t help to not notice how free you are to focus on only you and your needs. Its like on those overwhelming moments of conflicting demands of work, children and home, you wished running off somewhere and staying alone for sometime and that wish has come true. Live it fully before it gets over.

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Honored to inaugurate the program along with IIM A Director and Program Chair.

It is a modern day “tapasya”

During the inauguration of program, PGPX chair Prof Sunil Sharma gave an excellent analogy of PGPX to a tapasya. Earlier, sages used to go to forest to do tapasya for some time to gain deeper knowledge, or to find purpose of life . I feel like doing a tapasya. I have left everything behind – my home, spouse, children and my life to come to this place and do one thing for a year – to learn as much as I can. To learn from anyone I can. To learn anytime I can. The greatest opportunity cost while we are here would be to let our focus deviate to anything other than learning.

Learning is the key

I can feel the excitement a child feels when he opens a new gift and likes what he sees. He cant wait to play with it. Its only been few weeks and I am loving the experience so far. When and where am I going to get all time to myself, to think, to introspect and to reflect upon my past and future. I am already starting to feel that this is going to get over very quickly. I look forward to each new day, each new class, each new assignment, each new interaction with professors or peer because in each one of them lies the opportunity of learning and transforming myself.

Note: PGPX office is inviting applications for Year 2018-19 batch. Click here for details.

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How to restart your career after long career break ?

back-to-work-copyOne of the common advice I am asked as a mentor  is ” How do I resume working full-time after a long career break”?  I think in today’s fast changing times, the need to keep reinventing your skill-sets to stay employable is very relevant and important. This is applicable even more to working women who take a break from working full time. While it might not be possible to plan the duration of break always but if you can have a tentative timeline for your break and a comeback plan as well, going back to work would be easier. If you plan to resume working full time, you must keep working to build your profile even when you are technically on break or not working full time. There are two parts of restarting career post break.

PART 1 – Things to do while you are on break

Assess if you can work part-time or for few hours while you are on break

This is the best way to maintain continuity in your career and at the same time also take care of responsibilities at home. Many companies offer part-time working option for a limited duration. Explore these in your current workplace and while you are making you r break plan make a comeback plan as well. Even if you do not pursue a formal part time working, you can always look for freelancing projects or project based work which allows you to keep in touch with your industry, job function or specialization. Check platforms such as one offered by TATA group tatasecondcareer

Keep working on keeping your skill sets relevant

Irrespective of whether you are taking a break or not, you must work on reinventing and refreshing your professional persona periodically. You need to keep infusing fresh blood and thoughts into your professional persona. World is dynamic and the pace of changes whether on political or technological fronts is increasing day by day. You need to keep refreshing your skill-sets and perspectives. There are so many online education mediums available(for example coursera) to keep learning and adding skill-sets.

Keep up to date on Industry trends and how the wind is blowing

Read about latest news, trends and developments in your Industry/function. Attend seminars and workshops if available. You need to allocate time and do this systematically. The rate at which technology and business disruptions are happening currently and making technology skillsets and employees obsolete, one needs to be in tune with the changes and adapt to the them to remain employable.

Keep networking 

Lateral job fulfillment happens mostly through referrals and your former colleagues and larger network plays a big role in this. Networking is an art and this can not be done in one day. Network relationships need to be nurtured over a period to be used when you need them. Even though you are on break, keep in touch with your network in companies where you worked before. Attend college reunions or any meeting where you might be able to network.

PART 2 – Things to consider when you are ready to make a comeback

Be flexible in your job search

When you are looking at restarting your career, you need to be flexible. A long break in career is not seen favorably by recruiters and you would face the hurdle of rejections initially. You need to understand the job market, its requirements and act accordingly. You can utilize service of professional recruiters and resume writers to help you in your job search. You can also target the companies or platforms (such as sheroes) which focus on helping women restart career post long break.

Consider the option of higher studies – PG/MBA/PHD 

Good way to gain knowledge, credentials and add value to your profile is to go for higher studies from a reputed institute and re-enter the workforce from there. This route may also be specially useful if one wants to switch career tracks. There are many 1 year MBA programs for experienced professionals  in India. (such as PGPX by IIMA)

Remember, no comebacks are easy and you might face difficulties in the beginning but it is important to have a solid resolve and not give up.Whatever path you may take to restart the career, it is possible to do, provided you are ready to persevere, you are confident in your abilities and ready to make adjustments.

Here are few online platforms and companies which run focused programs in helping women  restart their careers. All the best!

Platforms  : Sheroes,  Women restart , Jobs for Her

Companies : TATA group –  Tatasecondcareer,  GE – Restart program , IBM – Bring her back  GENPACT – Career 2.0,  HUL – Career by choice,  Intel – Home to Office, SAP – Stay in touch, Axis Bank – Reconnect, Philips – Back in Game(B.I.G),  AV Birla Retail – ENCORE, Capgemini – Career Comeback, Intuit – Intuit again, Goldmansachs- Returnship,  L&T – Renew, Target – Back on Target

You are a leader in making. Act like one.

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Sometimes, it’s “what you don’t say” counts more than what you say. Perception is as important as reality, if not more. When it comes to branding, perception decides the brand value. Personal branding is important to build to reach corner offices and boardrooms. It is true for everyone and more for women because women have to overcome a subtle gender bias against their capability and potential to reach the top and lead an organization. You don’t have to be the smartest and most knowledgeable to be perceived as a leader. You have to be perceived to be smarter than others. All leaders are judged by their body language. Importance of nonverbal communication is depicted in graph below, a result of research by Dr.Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA.

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Following are some recommended body language do’s which women should exhibit to be perceived as powerful and a confident leader.

  1. Work on your voice and watch you voice tone:

As per this study : people who put out the right kind of sounds—below the range of conscious human hearing—become the leaders of most groups. The process of picking a leader has more to do with having the right kind of voice than it does having the right ideas or the right physique. You can work on your voice, and produce a leadership-quality sound.

2. Establish and maintain an eye contact

Eye contact conveys trustworthiness. People who meet your gaze seem sincere and trustworthy, while those who don’t seem either dishonest or lacking in confidence. However, too much eye contact can be uncomfortable  Studies suggest the proper amount of eye contact in the U.S. and many other countries should be between 50% and 60 % of the conversation, mostly when listening.

3. Use appropriate hand gestures

Hand gesture can complement the words you are speaking. Try Steepling which is a body posture when someone brings their hands up towards their chest or face and presses the tips of their fingers together. This is a gesture of confidence, self-assuredness and even superiority.

4. Use power poses 

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Take your space. Women tend to minimize the space they occupy through pulling in their bodies and minimizing their space. An outstretched, open posture projects an image of power and confidence. Research at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools shows that simply holding your body in “high-power” poses (leaning back with hands behind the head and feet up on a desk, or standing with legs and arms stretched wide open) for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone—the hormone linked to power and dominance—and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.too. Power poses are great way to boost your confidence and portray leadership potential.

4. Firm handshake

People with weak handshake are judged to be passive and less confident. Face the other person squarely and make sure you have palm to palm contact. Shake the hand firmly and for at least few seconds.

5. Remaining calm and composed

Women have a tendency to go overboard on expressing themselves and their emotions. Expressing too much can overwhelm your audience. Be watchful of your expressions and hand movements to appear in control and mature. Calmness and composure are often associated with leadership and authority.

6.  Be business like

Maintain a distance literally and figuratively. Smile but do not smile excessively. Do not flirt. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity about your intentions. Control perceived girlish behaviours such as twirling your hair, playing with jewellery such as rings or biting your nails. These things also convey sign of nervousness and lack of confidence.

7. Speak more in negotiations

Research has confirmed that in negotiations men talk more frequently than women and interrupt frequently. Do not keep waiting for your turn to speak because you might not have it if you leave to others to let you speak. There is a famous quote by former secretary of state of US, who when asked what advice she had for women professionals, replied, ” Learn to interrupt”.

Good news is that body language behavior can be learned and internalized with practice. Communication skills are key to be an effective leader and one can not rely on only instinctive behavior when it comes to nonverbal communication. In order to be successful leader, one has to be aware of signals sent by non verbal cues and choose appropriate body language to convey more power, confidence, and leadership potential.

Reference : http://www.scienceofpeople.com/2013/11/body-language-alphas-nonverbal-secrets-leader/

 

How to make successful career transitions ? PART II

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This is PART II of two blog series on career transition. You can read about why people want to change career tracks in PART I of this series. You have one life and if you are not happy in your current role or have clear preference or another career, it is worth to try for a career switch.

” In the end we only regret the chances we did not take” – Lewis Carroll

Here are some “dos” as when you are have decided to change your career and are preparing and planning to make the transition.

Research . Get to hear from people in your desired shoes.

Talk to people in your target profile. Learn about their experiences in their career. Ask specifically about challenges they have faced and what they don’t like in their job or what they would like to change. Research current profiles and their core competencies in your target roles on LinkedIn.

Try to gain a first hand experience of your target function

If it is consulting that your heart is after, try to do one project or at least be part of it if not in active role. There is nothing like experiencing it yourself and you must try for it if possible. Most likely the first brush with the job should have generated your interest towards it but if you are planning to switch job functions based on popular perceptions about it, please make sure to test the waters first.

Look for lateral transitions in your current company

This is the safest route. For example if somebody want to move from profit & Loss core function to a support function such as marketing or Human Resources, it would be good to try to do that within your existing organization, if possible.  The risk is low and you won’t be new to everything. Industry and company remains same. Your existing network and past performance can also help you in transitioning to new role.

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Make the transition multi step , one at a time

Any job would have at least 3 components.  Try to change one thing at a time. Carry forward some common skill sets and experience which would be relevant to new role.

  1. Your Job function – Revenue generating or Non revenue generating support function. Example Marketing department.
  2. Your core competency/capability or specialization. Example in Marketing , your specialization could be digital marketing.
  3. Your Industry – The industry your company belongs to. Example IT industry.

Here if you try to change all 3 parts in one go, transition could be difficult. Plan for a multi layered transition where you can carry forward your past work experiences.

Higher education – Post graduate Programs , MBA, MS or Doctoral programs

Professional Education is one way of bridging knowledge gaps, acquiring new networks and credentials which are helpful in opening the doors. Now there are 1 Year MBA programs designed for experienced professionals. In India , PGPX from IIM A is known for helping experienced professional in switching careers. If you want to switch to teaching a doctoral program equips you for that. Professional certifications are also helpful in bridging the knowledge gaps.

Some tips on how to make career transition successful once you are in  your desired role:

” We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castenada

  1. Don’t give up too soon. All changes are tough in the beginning. 

mm_dontgiveupInitial months in new role are going to be hard. You would need to work harder to learn ropes of your new role and establish yourself in the organization. First 6 months, be prepared to toil and give your 200 %. The first project or assignment would teach you more than any of many more your would do.  Treat the first opportunity as a test to prove and establish yourself in the new role. Aim to not only meet expectations but exceed them. Trick is to do more than expected and pleasantly surprise your stakeholders. Believe me, the extra hard work put in during initial crucial period would give you rewards in long-term. Perseverance is the key.

2. Adapt to new role, culture and people.

Don’t just focus on getting the work done. Every Industry or company has unique characteristics and a unique culture. You need to not only adapt yourself to the new role  & its responsibilities but also to the new organization and its way of life. You need to assimilate into the new company/Industry’s culture and become one with its people, processes and the way things work. Work relationships, networking and managing stakeholders expectations are critical to success in any role and you should start working on these from day 1. You get only one chance to make the right first impression. Don’t lose that chance.

3. Reflect. Realize . Reverse the decision

Not all changes are successful. If possible, keep the lines open in your last company, Industry and networks. However things might appear from outside, there is nothing like first hand experience. Give yourself at least 6 months in the new role. Keep reflecting on your experiences and evaluating if your expectations are met. If you realize, this is not what you wanted and want to go back to what you were doing, do not waste further time and try to reverse the switch as soon as possible. Be careful to realistically evaluate if the problem is not in job profile but in your ability to settle down in any role and looking for change all the time. If it is latter, you need to work on it and fix it before attempting any more switch.

Successful career transitions are all about first seeking the change and then embracing it with all your heart and might. With lot of introspection, effort and bit luck, if you are able to successfully transition to a new career, the decision to change could transform your life. Afterall, nothing is worth it, if you are not happy.

How Technology Disruptions are Empowering Women

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Technology disruptions are transforming how we live our lives. Even if we may realize or not, we are benefiting from the breakthroughs in technology. As a woman, I feel blessed to be witnessing the technology disruptions and experience it in our daily life. In the last decade or so, there have been many groundbreaking business disruptions enabled by technology such as smartphones, high-speed internet, taxi apps, social media apps and so on. These innovations have not only transformed lives of billions of people across the world but also empowered women by making their lives easier, safer and more productive.

Here are key technology led business disruptors empowering women specially working women and are contributing indirectly in closing gender gap in workplace and society.

1. Taxi hailing apps. [Uber, Ola] Increase mobility. Affordable and safe travel.

2. Digital wallets.[Paytm, Freecharge]  Money at your fingertips rather than wallet

3. Online Retail. [Big Basket, Myntra]Freed time from shopping. Better work life balance

4. Social Media apps.[Facebook, LinkedIn] More business and networking opportunities

5. Freelancing apps. [ Upwork ]. Flexible work time and work type opportunities.

6. Free Blogspace [ WordPress]. Blogging revolution – food, fashion, you name it blogs

7. Messenger apps [Whatsapp] . New ways of selling. New business opportunities

8. Food  ordering apps[ Fresh Menu] : Less time in kitchen, more time for yourself.

9. Wearable tech [Fitbit]. Helps in staying fit and watching your diet.

10. Location tracking and safety apps[Staysafe]. : Track location and SOS calling.

11. Home and Local services apps [Urbanclap, Housejoy]. Order online, get serviced at home

Here is how these technology and business disruptions have empowered women:

1. Making day-to-day travel easier, safer and affordable

Before Uber and Ola, Autos and public transport buses were the only refuge of women for day-to-day travel. Public transportations do not give you flexibility of traveling at your choice of time. Autos are not safe and reliable. Hailing taxi through an app on your smartphone is relatively safer(not completely though), highly flexible and affordable. Taxi apps have made women more independent and in control of their day-to-day travel plans.

2. Improved work life balance for working women

It is a reality that working women are managing 2 full-time jobs, one at home and another at office. While there is little scope for maneuver to free time at office, one can work to save time spent in managing daily household chores. The boom of internet companies offering products or services delivered to your home have empowered women by helping them save time spent in managing household responsibilities. Online ordering and home delivery of key recurring purchases save time spent in physically visiting stores and shopping. This extra time gained can be spent with husband, children and on themselves. .

3. Improved safety and ability to get help in case of emergency

All smartphones are equipped with GPS and there are many safety apps which tracks your location and enables you to make SOS call in an emergency. Similarly school buses have GPS installed and you can track location of buses in which your children are traveling.

4. Flexibility in work and choice of new career opportunities

Women need flexibility of work hours, location and type of work during different stages of life. New economy jobs has empowered such women. There are many more options of part-time work through freelancing job marketplaces such as Upwork which enable women to work online and choose place, time and hours of work which suits their needs. Women are also able to choose and pursue new careers such as blogging through free blogspace providers such as wordPress. New channels of sales and marketing such ass Facebook, Instagram and whatsapp have empowered women running small businesses.

Some desired futuristic innovation and Tech disruptions which would really empower women and make their lives better.

1. Artificial Intelligence based products in following roles:

  • Virtual assistant : Assist us in running our daily lives. Take care of reading emails, sets reminders, reminds us for urgent tasks, tracks school buses , makes to do list and so on.( a la advanced version of Siri)
  • A virtual friend, philosopher and guide : Somebody who can keep us company all the time, somebody we can talk to and share our feelings( a la movie ” Her”). Built in intelligence to advice on important matters and help us in making key and trivial decisions. (a la IBM’s Watson)

2.  Advanced robots as house helps : Helps in cleaning, cooking, even babysitting.

3. Automated kitchens: Women really need some path breaking appliances which are affordable and reduce significantly the time spent in kitchen.  Indian cooking is really time intensive and women  desperately need next generation intelligent appliances. Wishlist – Roti maker, Dosa maker, currymaker.

4. Driverless cars : It is around the corner but hopefully is available soon in developing world too. Many women don’t know how to drive and not being in driving seat also give you extra time which can be utilised to get work done. Driverless cars might also be safer than traveling in taxis with drivers who are strangers to you.

Technology is touching and altering everybody’s life-like never before and I am a big fan and an early adopter of technology led products/services. I truly hope technology continues to keep disrupting the social order and keep empowering women and helping them in closing the gender gap.

Speak Up. Be Heard. Be Noticed

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Image Source: LinkedIn

Women speak up less than men do in work settings at least and I have noticed this throughout my career. If I have only one advice to give to working women to advance their career, it would be to “speak up”. When you speak up, you make your presence felt and shine the light on your potential. It can take courage to speak up – whether for your rights, your opinions, or for something in which you believe deeply. This single most change of speaking up more can empower women not only in workplaces but in overall society.

Why should women speak up more in workplace ?

  1. To make your presence felt. To be heard and noticed. To add value

In global economy and workplaces, not all meetings are in person. In a telecon meeting, if you don’t announce yourself and don’t speak up at all, you very well might not have been attended the meeting. It is important to make your presence felt by participating and contributing to a discussion. There is a reason why you have been included in a meeting and you should strive to earn your seat in a meeting and add value to it.

2.  Speaking up is critical to your growth at the company

Every meeting is an opportunity to  display your leadership potential and to build your professional brand. One can  achieve it  through speaking up at appropriate moments. Every time you remain silent, treat it as an opportunity lost. Keep a count of it and you would start speaking up. You need to earn believers in your ability to advance ahead. Speaking up more has been linked to displaying leadership potential. You earn your mentors and sponsors by speaking up and displaying potential.

 

3. Speaking up builds self-confidence – the secret ingredient for long-term success.

Confidence is not a static thing It keeps changing and you need to keep replenishing any loss of it. Speaking up has been found to be helpful in building confidence not only in yourself but of others in you. Mustering the courage to speak up can add volumes to your confidence. Just hearing your own voice in a meeting has been linked to contribute to an increased self-esteem.

4. Speaking up can get you promotions, salary raises and help

Humility is a great virtue but not so in workplace. Do not silently keep toiling and expect others to make a note of it and reward you. You shouldn’t be hesitant to ask for a promotion or to be recognised for your contributions. Do not maintain a stoic silence in those crucial performance appraisal discussions. Speak up for yourself and your efforts. In juggling between dual responsibilities of office and home, do not be afraid to ask for flexibility in work or any considerations which might help you in your work. Make your case and put it across assertively. If you don’t ask for it, you would never get it.  If you ask for it, you may or may not get it but you still at least have a shot at it.

5. Lastly, Speak up when something’s not right

Sometimes people cross lines in behaviour. You need to speak up the first time it happens. Speak up and say no firmly to an inappropriate behaviour or request. Do not be afraid of consequences. Do not let your silence be misunderstood for tacit approval.

Here are some tips on how you can speak up more and make your presence felt.

  1. speak-up-2Believe in yourself. Don’t be hesitant to put your thoughts across

Most of the things come down to your self-confidence. Speaking up publicly not only requires good communication skills and good content but also confidence and courage within. Women need to keep working on their self-confidence and self worth.It is a known fact that women speak less in meetings not because they don’t have anything to say but because they are not confident that they would add value. Even when they speak, they are apologetic about interrupting or making a point.  Don’t hesitate or apologise. Just speak up.

2. Do not judge and disqualify your opinion as not worthy of mention.

As many a times, women out themselves from a race to the top, so do women themselves disqualify their point of views as something which would not add value to the discussion. You don’t decide that. In fact you earn your seat in meeting and add value by contributing to the discussion. If you are merely present and just absorbing information, you are not adding value to others and to the discussion.

3. Be prepared. Do your homework. Make your notes.

Prepare for your meetings and presentations. Go over the agenda, brainstorm and make notes of points you would like to make. Make notes while meeting is going on. Being prepared would not only add  value to quality of your point of view but also to your self-confidence. Being prepared makes you feel ready and you look forward to the meeting to participate and contribute.

4. Learn the language of assertiveness

Using correct language can help in being assertive. Women tend to tone down assertiveness with use of defensive language and starting sentences with phrases such as ” I think” or “I feel”. Sometimes these might indicate you are not sure of your opinions. Rather use starting sentences which convey certainty such as ” I believe”, ” I am sure” or “from my experience , this is what i have seen”. Handle interruptions with declarative sentences such as ” I haven’t  finished what I am saying”. Be assertive.

4. Practice, Practice and more Practice

Practice makes perfect. Start with small meetings. Build confidence. After a while speaking up in meetings would start coming naturally to you. Even if you have been the silent majority in meetings, make an effort. If speaking up doesn’t come naturally to you, force yourself to speak up at least once in a meeting to start with. Once you are comfortable with speaking up, focus on content and adding value through the quality of your point of view.

It is not that women act differently in workplace and outside of it. A confident women who is not hesitant to voice her opinion would most likely do the same wherever she is – in office, at home or a party. To be a confident woman in workplace one day, a girl needs to grow up to be a confident woman with a mind of her own. Parents need to encourage their daughters to speak up more. Teachers need to be cognizant of giving equal opportunity to a raised hand of a girl in class. Community needs to not shut up a girl when she tries to make a point. Nobody should dismiss a girl’s point of view because well, it’s a girl’s point of view. Girls should be taught to not only have a point of view but to also have enough encourage to put across their point of view. Speaking up is akin to standing up for your opinion and for yourself.

 

Power Dressing for Success

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“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it”. – Edith Head

“Dress shabbily and people will remember the dress, dress impeccably and people will remember the woman”. – Coco Chanel

We may not like it but it is a fact that we all judge people by the first impressions they make. Your image is important. According to a survey of business leaders published this year by the Center of Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, two-thirds said that when it comes to getting ahead, image makes a major impact.  Clothes we wear impact not only how we feel about ourselves but also our performance and productivity at work. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, subjects who donned doctors’ lab coats scored higher on attention-related tasks than did those who did not. Power dressing is a tool to convey the message that you are competent, able, ambitious, self-confident, reliable and authoritative. Definition of power dressing as per wikipedia is ” power dressing is a fashion style that enables women to establish their authority in a professional and political environment traditionally dominated by men.” Margaret Thatcher, one of the first female icons of power dressing summed up when asked how power dressing should be for women  “never flashy, just appropriate“.  Power dressing is particularly useful in leadership roles where trust and authority is expected.

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Image Source:Van Heusen
  1. When in doubt, choose formal over casual: Better to end up more formally dressed than casually: Higher the position, more formal the dress code. Formals such as business suit make you look put-together, competent, and trustworthy. Irrespective of context of a meeting, for a leader it is safer to be formally dressed rather than err on casual dressing. If you would have noticed, Men CXOs can hardly be seen in anything other than business suits at least when it comes to business meetings. Unfortunately and fortunately women do not have a single approved dress code like  a business suit when it comes to power dressing. There is lot of variety of what all a  women can wear to work hence leaving scope for subjective judgement which can be good or bad depending on the person. If you are not sure, stick to commonly accepted formals for women such as pantsuits in western wear and churidar kurta in formal fabric such as cotton in Indian wear.
  2. Comfort is king or rather queen: Wear something which you are comfortable in and used to wearing. Do not attempt new styles for any important meeting where the discomfort from dress can distract you or make you conscious and less confident.
  3. Dress appropriately keeping in mind the audience and place. Be Roman in Rome. . Always factor in cultural sensitivities and mix of people you are going to meet.  Make sure what is normal for you for example short skirt or sleeveless top will be not be too bold for a conservative audience and place. If you are going to err, it’s better to be on conservative side than bold side
  4. Avoid revealing and bold clothes: You objective is to not look desirable rather to look business like and keep audience comfortable and focused on your capability rather than on your physical appearance. Studies have shown that wearing revealing clothes to work is negatively correlated with a positive opinion about woman’s capability. Stay away from low necklines, too tight clothes and bling jewellery.
  5. Choose the colors judiciously: Colours of your clothes play an important role in exhibiting power and confidence as colors already have established connotations. Accepted work colours are black (chic), navy (trustworthy), red (dynamic, aggressive), grey (conservative). Go for neutral colors and avoid bright ones like hot pinks, oranges and neons.
  6.  Appear groomed: Hair should be clean and set and should not appear unruly or unkempt. Studies have shown that makeup increases a woman’s confidence but keep makeup discrete and don’t overdo it. Clothes should be clean and ironed properly.
  7.  Wear well fitted clothes : Fit of clothes you wear is more important than your body size/shape and brands of clothes.. Do not opt for either too loose or too tight clothes.

Clothing sends out very powerful messages about who we are, so dress to make a positive impression, dressing for success is a necessary precursor to obtaining it.