I was recently engaged in a search in which very few people in the US are qualified: under 15, to be exact. Interesting enough, the final candidate pool consisted of 2 qualified individuals – a male stepping into the role and a female with a few more years of experience than the male co-candidate. Several rounds of negotiation ensued with both candidates and the end result didn’t surprise me: The male candidate ended up negotiating his compensation to a level more senior than the more experienced female. The male got the job.
“I had a job to do so I did it”, is what my stepdad told me about being a 20 something year old dropped into the middle of Vietnam. He never really talked about Vietnam much but I knew that my stepdad was a true patriot.
Yesterday, as I showed up to the office late, not as put together as I would have liked and otherwise flooding with emotion over personal “nonsense”, she offered another piece of advice that I will keep in my arsenal as I move forward in my career. Interestingly enough, it is one I’ve heard her say to candidates in the past as they consider job offers so that they may not make any decisions with a distracted mind: “The biggest life moves are marriage, children, home buying and career moves. Take a minute. Sleep on it.” I translated this message into the following:
While we love a woman who is articulate, sharp and assertive, we hate to see them fall victim to poor body language. Whether you are the Head Honcho or trying to land that first career defining role, what you say is just as important as what you DON’T say. Below are a few pointers to keep in mind when trying to become an employee, or trying to manage a team of them.
Positioning Yourself in a Conversation While Standing:
It is important to let your audience know you are interested in what they have to say. Squaring your feet, torso and chest with a supervisor or person in charge is a great way to non-verbally assign respect to that person’s position. Make sure to keep your feet close together as a wider stance could signal a desire for domination or automatically jumping on “offense”.
Crossing Your Arms:
If you pay attention throughout the day of how you stand or sit, you may find that you cross your arms simply because it’s comfortable. While this may be an easy way to give your shoulders a break, it can be a sign of a “standoff-ish” attitude and make you seem unapproachable. As a leader, you want your team to be comfortable engaging with you. This increases company morale, and can lead to some excellent team conversations.
You might think you’re presenting confidently like this:
But most people are going to see or feel this:
Opening your hands during a conversation:
Many of us speak with our hands. It is important to be mindful of how aggressively you are using your hands when speaking to or presenting to an audience. Keeping your hands between waist and chest height is a good rule of thumb to begin. Next, extend your arms with palms up and fingers open to show a sign of welcomed input and engagement. Closed fists and flailing arms can be intimidating and distracting.
Present with Pride:
While many of us are able to identify the obvious “do’s and don’t’s” (chewing gum, tapping fingers, shaking legs etc), we often fall short on how we present when we think people are not watching. Standing in a room full of people, it is often easy to let our posture relax. This can be one of the worst mistakes you make in theses social situations. Whether you like it or not, someone is always watching. So if you’re the CEO or the new hire, make sure you present with shoulders back, a level chin and confident presence. Make the middle point in a room your lowest point of vision. If no one is engaging with you, start to move around the room; do not stand and start to sway as this will make you look like you are lacking confidence or you are anxious. Simply put, present like the boss is watching. You got this!
Fall is a great time to start getting out the sweaters, boots and heavy coats. It’s also a great time to start incorporating other fabrics into your wardrobe. Leather (or pleather if you prefer) can be a tricky one, especially in the context of office wear.
During our shopping trip to Ann Taylor, we found two pieces that incorporate “pleather” in this case, without being over the top or trashy looking. The first piece is a shift dress with a wide block of pleather across the neckline, creating flared sleeves on either side. The rest of the dress is a flat black. This is a great mix of both fabrics without being too loud or in your face. (P)Leather is best when it’s not clinging to your skin, rather, a little looser and free moving.
The singular color leaves a lot of room for a patterned heel or earring, but be sure to keep it toned down and “calm” for the office.
If this much (p)leather is too much for you, try incorporating it as an accent fabric. Below, this Ann Taylor grey 3/4 sleeve shift dress uses leather around the neckline and pockets. This is a great way to add some flare to an otherwise pretty basic shift dress. A pair of black (p)leather pumps finish off the look and tie in the trim on the dress perfectly; making for a simple to put together look for fall.