Because you’re worth it…

Because you're worth it
I recently ran a peer coaching session with a number of female engineers about difficult conversations. The purpose of the session was to share ideas on how to tackle these conversations. We started talking about salary negotiations, which according to many of the women present, is one of the most difficult conversations to have.
Most of the women in the session hadn’t had a salary conversation in many years, mainly because remuneration no longer forms part of the annual appraisal in many organisations. Why is it so difficult to ask for a salary increase? A conversation about this can be difficult because it touches our identity as a competent person. At work, most of us like to believe we are competent. A conversation about your salary is ultimately a conversation about your professional worth. Your manager could decline, which could mean that you are not competent enough to deserve a pay increase.

It could help to consider yourself a business. You are an enterprise, negotiating the value of a project with another company. By rationalising the situation, you can remove the emotions, including your sense of competency, from the conversation.

Remember too, not asking means not getting. Rarely will employers spontaneously offer a salary increase these days. I wonder if some of the gender pay gap is due to women not asking quite as often as men. You owe it to yourself to regularly assess your market value. If you are not certain whether you deserve a pay increase, speak to people outside your company and compare the market. A recruiter or headhunter can help. They usually have a very good idea of your market value.

When asking for a pay increase, come prepared. List your achievements over the last period, and explain why that deserves a higher salary. This is not bragging, as one of the women in the session pointed out. Especially in large organisations, you have to be your own sponsor. If you don’t publicise your own achievements, they might get lost. Don’t threaten that you will leave if you don’t receive the pay increase. No one likes to be blackmailed. Emphasize the positive aspects of your company instead. Highlight that you really love your work and the organisation, and that you can continue to add value. The message will be just as clear.

I encourage all women engineers to discuss their salary annually. That doesn’t mean you’ll get an increase every year, but at least you will be much closer to your real market value. Because you are worth it…

Change what you can, accept what you can’t … or influence?

Following on from our last blog on unconscious bias, many women (not just engineers) have emailed us asking for advice. If we can’t control the unconscious bias that we face in the recruitment process or even in the daily workplace, what do we do? Do we just work harder, change our attitudes and behaviours to ensure that we get noticed, or just accept what we can’t change?

A lot of popular self help books focus on the mantras “change what you can, accept what you can’t” and “You can only change yourself, not others”. When your career is at stake, I would suggest that is pretty bad advice!

Whilst I understand that it is difficult to change others, you can certainly influence their thoughts and therefore their behaviours.

So in a nutshell: Pre-empt the bias that you face, anticipate it, and address it openly without aggression! There are many instances in the recruitment process and beyond in the workplace where people will be making assumptions about you based on your gender.  You can anticipate these assumptions and address them.

Here are some examples:

1. Applying for a role

Suppose you apply for a role that suits your skillset and experience but that is likely to attract a lot of applications. What will the process look like?  There will be a recruiter sifting through a big pile of applications to generate a longlist of candidates. That initial sifting is not as scientific and objective as we like to think. Ultimately, a person with limited time has to find the candidates that are most likely to get the job. Bias will almost certainly be at play.

If you want to stand out in the process and ensure that you get through to the next phase, follow up your application with a phone call, or an excellent cover letter that gets their attention (and doesn’t reveal your name, and therefore gender until the end of the letter!). Remember, unconscious bias is not a malicious act of discrimination, it is the bucket of stereotypical thoughts that we have been fed throughout our lives and that linger in our brains. Recruiters will have a picture in their head of the ideal candidate, and in most cases (unless you apply for a role as secretary, teacher or nurse), that image will not be female.

2. Interviewing for a role

 Every interviewer knows that they are not allowed to ask the “child-related” questions, yet every hiring manager (male or female), really wants to know the answer to these questions.

This is the internal conversation happening in their head whilst they are talking to you: “Do you have children? …Will you want to have children? …When? …Will you return to work once you have children? … Can I really afford to hire you if you might have children one day and not come back? … I probably shouldn’t, too risky! “

Address them yourself. Why not? Even if you are not entirely sure, there is nothing wrong with answering what is true for you at that very moment. If at that moment in time you genuinely have no plans to start a family any time soon, say so! If at that moment in time you are pregnant, but feel that your career is very important to you and know that you will return to work after 3 or 4 months, say so!

I can almost visibly hear our readers sigh…

Yet consider this: Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, was pregnant when she got the job at Yahoo. I am fairly certain she shared that news and her plans on how she would combine her job as CEO with being a mother. In her case, that meant installing a nursery (at her own expense) next to her office, which off course I realise is not a realistic options for most of us. However, many women do return to work and continue to have successful careers. We do have options, and can combine work with a family as long as we don’t rule ourselves out too quickly.

This leads me to my last example:

3. How to share the news of your pregnancy

 Here is where the bias really hits you. Your boss will be thinking:

“Great, I guess I have to congratulate her! When is it due? Is she feeling healthy, will she start missing work, coming late… How long will she be off?… Oh yes, I can’t ask that… better start thinking about replacement… Who else can do her job?”

You might be thinking:

“I hope I am not going to miss that promotion now. I’m feeling really good and still have lots of energy. Besides, once the commute gets too much I could take the train an hour later and stay longer. The baby is due in June, and I’ll take 4 months off. I’ll be back in October when things are really busy.”

SAY IT! You will not even be considered for a promotion, pay increase or anything anymore if you don’t proactively share your thoughts on the impact of your pregnancy on your work. And that doesn’t have to mean pretending the pregnancy doesn’t impact you and you’ll go on as usual, just to share realistically how you will handle the likely impact on your work.

Many women might not agree with my ideas. At the end of the day, we had to fight for the right to not have to disclose our personal circumstances in an interview, or in the workplace.  I just believe that in this case, more disclosure might benefit us!

How to build your profile using LinkedIn and get noticed!

As a recruiter and headhunter, LinkedIn is a daily tool for me. And as recruiters we assume that everybody uses it the same way we do, and are always taken by surprise when we come across people with fewer than 10 connections, and no explanation of what they do or who they are.

LinkedIn is now the Number 1 tool recruiters (and many hiring managers) use to identify new talent, or to learn more about people they might be interested in hiring. You can influence your ability to be found by creating a good professional image and brand on LinkedIn.
Here are some simple ideas you can use to improve your LinkedIn profile:

1. Create a profile that reads like a professional CV. LinkedIn is a great tool to really showcase who you are and what you are all about. Use the summary to highlight your experience, expertise and interests. Many professionals use LinkedIn to create their professional brand, your employer will think this is normal (that is, not a job-search activity), and it will greatly improve your chances of being on the radar of headhunters and recruiters.

2. Make sure that the expertise you want to be recognised for, or the areas you want to work in, are in your profile so that they show up in keyword searches. As an example, if you are an engineer who really wants to work in healthcare, make sure that you mention that in your summary. This way, your profile will come up when a headhunter is looking to recruit engineers for a healthcare company.

3. Edit your public profile: if you are interested in a career move, ensure that your public profile is visible. LinkedIn gives you an option on what others can see when viewing your profile. You can choose to only show some basic information, which is fine if you value your privacy, yet you need to understand that this makes it harder for headhunters to find you. An experienced resourcer will find their way around this “obstacle”, but do you really want to create hurdles to be found if you want to consider a career move?

4. Use the “advice for contacting…” box to give your contact details if you wish to be approached. If you don’t actively list them here, only your connections can see your contact details. A headhunter or recruiter will have to connect with you through LinkedIn to get in touch. This is fine, but if you don’t check your LinkedIn inbox every day (and very few people do), you might miss out on interesting opportunities.

5. Join groups that are in your field of expertise. Many jobs get advertised or promoted through groups specifically aimed at certain professions; for example, we will use the groups for system engineers to make people aware that we are recruiting in that space. Being a member of profession-specific groups will also help you to be found by headhunters who specialise in that area, or hiring managers who are considering hiring for their teams. By contributing in the group, you can build up a reputation in your area of expertise, which will get you noticed by the hiring community.

Good luck building your professional profile and getting noticed. We will continue to share our tips with you.