The Female Empowerment Of Career Development
Contributor, Kirstie Burn, who has more than 20 years’ worth of recruitment experience, heads up the MERJE Compliance and Financial Crime team in London (also covering Risk and Legal). She is also responsible for the delivery of successful recruitment campaigns, focusing on the Retail Banking and Financial Services sectors. With a background in management development and training, Kirstie has always enjoyed the relationship-building side of the job, whether that is meeting new contacts, networking at any event (particularly if there is a nice cocktail involved), or ensuring that existing relationships are kept strong. Kirstie always has lots of well-laid plans to attend her gym class. However, her appreciation of a crisp white wine means that she is more likely to be found socializing (or networking!) in a city establishment. With three sons at home, she justifies the time out of the house as she can often be found running around the park at the weekends with her children. You can find Kirstie on LinkedIn.
Over my professional life, I have seen a strong percentage of my female candidates needing support and coaching when applying for a new role, positioning themselves for an interview with a potential future employer, or when wishing to consider an internal promotion.
We cannot deny we live in a gender-defined world – from education, social constraints, relationships, media, and well-being/mental health. The awareness of this is key. We can admit and acknowledge this, but we do not, of course, need to conform to a stereotype. Please let me state quickly that I absolutely detest labels and stereotypes, and anyone who knows me will vouch for this – even when I had my first child and was introduced at a baby group as ‘George’s mummy’, I felt an overwhelming wave of possession over my identity to state, yes ‘Kirstie’ (please don’t label me ;)).
However, when it comes to job hunting, interviewing, or negotiating a job offer or internal promotion, many women have a sense of preferring to prove themselves in the role before being considered for a career development opportunity. I have found more male candidates would state their confidence and capability to take on a new role without having to necessarily evidence this in delivery before starting this type of conversation.
A decision in regard to someone’s candidacy for an opportunity certainly does not always need to be proven in delivery before gaining this confidence from a business. We all have seen examples of this. We do not need to demonstrate success in the role first. Women often suggest they should be doing the role for a period of time before being acknowledged for it in title or salary.
To counterbalance our conscious or unconscious bias, we must be able to identify our strengths and competencies, pushing away any constraints that our social gender programming may have created, and then the skill is in how to empower ourselves to demonstrate this when job hunting, interviewing or asking for a promotion.
When looking for a new role, remember that a job description is aspirational. It needs to have some elements of unchartered territory to allow the applicant to feel that there is a growth opportunity. At least a medium-long-term potential where their skills and experience will be enhanced through further personal and professional development and advancement. Once you are aware of the job purpose, consider what competencies and behaviors would support the delivery of this purpose and then reflect – is this you? If so, apply away!
At interviews, instead of using the language, ‘may’, ‘could’, and ‘perhaps’, I would advise that my candidates consider how language creates perception and engenders confidence. A better use of stronger language would be to say ‘I will, do, can’ etc. Try to use the first person so the interviewer can understand your personal contribution to the example you are giving and remember this is your time to shine (as we are often programmed at work to acknowledge the team. This is not that time.
When negotiating an offer do note that more women than men will accept a similar salary or less to get the right role – to buck this trend, I would recommend researching the salary you should be paid and also understand what the remuneration should be to reflect the expectations of the role. To do this, if you are unaware of the salary points within your firm or your future employer, you can search for adverts with similar roles in similar industries and sized companies on job boards (e.g., Indeed, City Jobs etc.) or look on your company/competitor’s career pages, to help open these conversations about your value proposition. If you are being asked what you expect, make sure you don’t only look at a percentage increase on your current. Benchmark where the role sits as a salary level in the market, check your peer group’s salaries if possible or relevant, and talk to a good contact in the recruitment industry (like me!) to ask where they see your salary should be positioned.
CNBC quoted that a majority of women, 60%, say they have never negotiated with an employer over pay. But that may be leading to women changing jobs more frequently, since 72% say they will leave an employer to get a salary bump somewhere else.
Once you understand your ‘value’ proposition, reflect on how much this expectation is being matched by what your employer is offering. There are so many factors as to why people look for a new role: remit/responsibilities, level, salary, title, location, flexibility, benefits, reporting line, team etc. When you are clear on what is most important to you, you can then combine the knowledge of your value vs. what is important for you to have in the role to reach the best outcome for your career. Your personal check-in on this is very important, as you regularly review how any of these factors may change over time.
This by no means reflects all however, if you feel you would benefit from taking a more empowered approach to your career development, reach out to that individual at work or in your personal life who you have seen has taken control and driven their success. Find out what and how they achieved this. Make sure you are as informed as possible about what is happening in your career sphere, outside of your firm (benchmark), and always use a good contact in the recruitment/search industry for advice. Good luck!
One piece of advice for your younger self
Ask for more feedback and listen to learn – don’t be afraid to hear.
If you had to choose an alternative career, what would you be doing now?
Party Planning & Event Hosting.
If you were to sit and reflect at the end of your career, what one hope do you have?
That I am happy with how I balanced my life between personal and professional goals and that I have made those around me proud of my achievements.