I’ve been in the business world most of my adult life—it’s always been something I was naturally drawn to. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, having my own business was never a matter of “if”, but simply a matter of “when”. “When” came at a somewhat inopportune time for me, as I had just given birth to my third child and learned that my dad had cancer. These two life changes caused me to do a lot of introspection, which helped me decide to do something positive with my energy and abilities.
When I had my daughter, I was taken completely off guard by my urge to get back out in the workforce. It had nothing to do with a lack of desire to spend time with my little princess, but I felt an overwhelming responsibility to be a role model to her—to show her that women could do it all. I’d never felt that with my boys and was perfectly content to take a few years off when my second son was born. Jessica’s birth and my dad’s illness served as reminders to me of the beauty and fragility of life. As such, I jumped into my business with both feet and have never looked back. I’m an all or nothing type of gal.
It’s funny how impressed people are when they find out you own a business. Without a doubt, I love being my own boss, calling the shots and taking a concept that I had and turning it into something I’m immensely proud of. On the other side, owning a business is hard and requires tons of sacrifice, time, money, sweat and an occasional tear. I spent 10 plus years in the corporate world, which was filled with IT departments, HR departments, a multitude of computer programs, call centers and janitors. While I do outsource some things, for the most part I do all of these jobs and a lot more on a daily basis. My intent is not to discourage any of you from starting a business; I think entrepreneurs are the backbone of the economy and the catalyst for innovation. My intent is to give you a realistic idea of my experience in the effort it takes to make a business flourish. It’s physically and mentally demanding, but the rewards are immeasurable to those with the stick-to-itiveness and drive necessary for success. As the legendary Vince Lombardi once said, “The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
Whether you are in the business world as an owner, executive or entry level, exuding credibility and professionalism is key. Here are my tips on a few simple things that go a long way.
Speak with authority
This is imperative for women! Speaking with authority is not about being aggressive or combative—it’s about clearly stating your message so the intended meaning reaches your listener. I have found that many women tend to qualify what they’re saying, purposely or unwittingly, but in doing so limit the weight of their words. Take the following two statements as an example: “I think we should consider moving forward this way,” versus, “I recommend that we move forward this way”. The first illustration leaves the impression that the speaker is unsure and looking for consensus and/or approval. The latter statement is direct and confident, which lends itself to credibility. Pay attention to your speech patterns to see if there are things you’re doing that detract from your point.
Exhibit confident body language
The way you carry yourself, your body language, is an outward reflection of your internal thoughts and emotions. Women in business can use body language to position themselves as a confident professional. One of the ways to accomplish this is to make appropriate eye contact when participating in a conversation. Proper eye contact tells the person you’re listening to that you are engaged in the conversation. When you are the person talking, it tells others that you are confident, honest and trustworthy. Posture is another important body language cue. Strong professional women, whether walking or sitting, make sure to keep their head held high and their shoulders back.
Look the Part
I know it seems cliché, but “dress for success” is still sound advice. Looking the part is one of the keys to professional success. Success-wear needn’t be boring, unfashionable or masculine. As a matter of fact, it’s important to dress in a way that is current and authentically represents you as an individual. Appearance accounts for 55% of the way others perceive us, so the goal should be to put yourself together with intention. Fit is a big factor in professional dress. Ill fitting clothing is visually distracting and can send unintended messages. Pants and skirts should hang straight down from your backside and camisoles should be worn with appropriate necklines at the office. Buttons and closures should close easily and never look like they are pulling or tugging. Use accessories to spice up your outfit and show your personality. A great pair of shoes (my favorite accessory!), an eye catching bracelet or a statement necklace can make even the most traditional outfit fun and unique. I recommend when you leave the house each day you make sure to dress appropriately for the circumstances, yet polished enough to bump into your key clients.
You have what it takes to leave your mark on the world—make sure you look smashing when the time comes!