Are you as confident as you are competent?

3 ways to communicate your competence with confidence

In speaking with accomplished women from a variety of industries about the value they bring to the table, they often mention their strong work ethic as a top strength. But sometimes, all their hard work brings surprising results.

“I can’t believe it! I worked late for weeks on that pitch, we landed the account and now one of my colleagues, who has a lot less experience than I do, is taking the lead with the client.”

“I had my eye on this conference since last year. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn from and network with industry movers and shakers. But my boss told me he needed me to manage things at the office while he and one of my staff attend!”

“I put in years of hard work to make sure I’d have all the qualifications to manage my department when my boss left. I was shocked when I was passed over for the promotion. They gave the job to someone from a completely different team.”

Situations like this can feel so unfair and leave you feeling bruised, frustrated and demoralized.

After all, one of the lessons we learned in school is that hard work earns us top grades, recognition and confidence in our abilities. But in the workplace, toiling long hours and taking on extra assignments doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. Your diligence can actually have the opposite effect!

“Hard work makes women invisible: When women get noticed for how hard they work, one of two things usually occurs: they become indispensable (reducing their chances to be transitioned into a bigger role) or they become invisible.” (Women Leaders Breaking Through in Their Careers, Women of Influence Inc and Thomson Reuters, 2014).

What’s going on here?

The truth is, while you may have great skills, stellar accomplishments and the ambition to take on greater responsibilities, waiting for your boss to notice and tap you for advancement isn’t a winning strategy.

It’s up to you to know and communicate your value.

But here’s the kicker. Most women, even high-achievers, feel uncomfortable promoting themselves.

Here are 3 strategies that can help you communicate your value with confidence.

  1. Know your value. When was the last time you took an inventory of your skills, accomplishments, client satisfaction surveys, performance reviews, intangible assets and other feedback? If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t done this thoroughly since the last time you were in job search mode and needed to update your resume and LinkedIn profile. Going through this process will give you the information you need to create your value proposition and will also illuminate any gaps you may want to address.
  2. Think beyond yourself. Research shows that when women are asked to negotiate for themselves, they underperform compared to men. But when they are asked to negotiate on behalf of someone they care about, their results are equal to or greater than their male counterparts. To get more comfortable increasing your visibility and communicating your value, shift the focus beyond yourself. Demonstrate how your work and ideas create positive impact for others – your team, customers, organization and community. 
  3. Engage your network. My first rule of networking is to find out what’s important to the other person and ask how I can help. They typically respond by wanting to help me – a win for both of us. If you build a network of people you respect, you can support each other in a way that feels genuine. Female staffers in the Obama administration did this brilliantly by using the “amplification” strategy. In meetings, they repeated each other’s ideas, crediting the women who came up with them. Result: Obama started calling on and consulting with women more often.

Though increasing your visibility may feel uncomfortable, your special talents and leadership can make a much needed difference. Don’t be invisible.

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