It was the first day after the Christmas and New Year break and I was sitting at my desk about to get back into a “work” frame of mind. However this was January 2004 and work for me was completely different from what it was in December. I had decided to set up my own business. This was prompted by a combination of getting an insight into what might be possible when undertaking a project for my then employer and then being made redundant.
Ten years on I have been reflecting on what has happened since then.
Although I initially said that I would offer coaching services, in practice the first contract I got was to be the leader of a training programme that helped prepare people to get back into work. After that I was asked to design and deliver training and to facilitate events. So my current business involves all three. But as time has passed there has been an underlying thread that was there at the start, I just didn’t see it. Or maybe I didn’t value you it. Or maybe it was that those who were keen to give me advice as a new business owner (not always with a positive intention I suspect!) didn’t think it was a serious proposition.
No matter what I am doing with clients now the bottom line is it will involve getting people talking.
Now full disclosure here, I love to chat. However as the years have gone by I realise the value to talking, with a purpose. I recall a conversation with a former (male) colleague when he said that as far as he could see I got paid in that job to blether. I was quick to jump to defend myself but then stopped. I reminded him that we had worked successfully together as he did the technical stuff (the work in his view) and I built relationships with colleagues and clients which kept the business coming in. In essence, not that we talked about things like this in those days, I was playing to my strengths.
This reminded me of the “Tiara Syndrome” which received a lot of attention in 2013 when Helen Fraser, the chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, argued that many young women are “too imbued with professional modesty to shout as loudly as male colleagues about their achievements.” and were waiting to be noticed, to get the recognition they deserve. The term was coined by Dr Deborah Kolb and Carol Frohlinger from Negotiating Women, a US firm that coaches women in leadership skills.
Over the past 10 years I have had many conversations with women about their skills, talents, ambitions and aspirations and so often learn that they are reluctant to talk about them. When working with clients during their job search I encourage them to talk about themselves in a positive and persuasive way. Many of them find it really hard to do that. My big question to them is “If you don’t tell a potential employer what you are good at who will?” No matter how skilled an interviewer is they are rarely mind readers.
Women can and do make great contributions in the workplace just like they do everywhere else. In 2014 the time has come to talk about that because if they don’t we can be pretty sure that that tiara will be ending up on somebody else’s head.
Jackie Cameron is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.
During 2014 Jackie will be developing the theme of “Start Talking” involving a variety of initiatives and projects and will be blogging about them as they happen. She would also love to hear your stories or about things you are involved in on that theme.