Top ‘stand out’ tips to nail that perfect job

Our guest blogger is Nicole Holden one of the team from Flexibility Matters.  With flexible working hitting the headlines now Nicole gives you her top tips about how to stand out.

It can be hard coming back to work after maternity leave or a long absence and there’s a lot of women out there who want to work part-time.   It’s the answer for many of us in order to get the right work-life balance but I know that competition for the available work is fierce.   I’ve found that you need to step up your job hunting tools to stand out, get a dazzling CV,a cracking cover letterand make the right impression once you get to the interview to get the job that’s really right for you.

 

YOUR CV

 

  • Personalised gets picked: Tailor your CV content to individual roles. Take the job requirements and match them to your skills and achievements from your most recent roles.
  • Catch the eye:Make sure your CV format fits the position you are going for. If it’s a creative role, for example, then how it looks is important.
  • Highlight transferable skills. Especially important if you are making a career change. Highlight in the first page your relevant skills and experience drawn from your entire career history and make the connections explicit, so employers recognise them as transferable to the role.
  • Nail it with the opening statement. Think about the recruiter and what they would need to know immediately. A succinct opening statement, tailored to the specific role, could make all the difference, especially when CVs are scanned.
  • Keep it short:The maximum length for a CV is 2 pages, so focus onmaking relevant your two most recent roles and pulling out transferable skills from previous roles into an overall competencies section.
  • Edit and edit again. Make sure there are no typos in your CV. As well as self-editing, get a friend to check through it too. Nothing screams sloppy worker than a spelling mistake on a CV.

 

YOUR COVER LETTER

 

  • Do your research:Demonstrate that you are up to date and have done your homework on the company, perhaps citing challenges, impending regulations and recent trends in the sector relevant to the position.
  • A dazzling opening paragraph: The perfect opening paragraph should contain who youare and why you are so excited to be applying for the role. It’s your opportunity to impress them with your personality and how much you know about their work.
  • Tick-off the must-haves:Follow the introduction byhighlighting what you understand the role to be and how you match the job description must-haves.
  • Concise and clear:Keep sentences short. Edit and edit again the next day with fresh eyes. Read it aloud and then get a friend to check it.
  • Finish strong:The closing line is your last chance to underline your interest in the company and how you’d be a great fit for the position. It could be a personalised version of:“I’m excited by the opportunity and look forward to speaking to you about how I can contribute”
  • Don’t send your CV without one: The cover letter is your chance to write about how committed you are to the role and the company. If its optional in an application or doesn’t ask for one, always provide one anyway.

 

THE INTERVIEW

 

  • First impressions last: Given that employers come to conclusions about a person in the first minute, first impressions are key. Be smart and punctual. Offer a confident hand-shake with lots of eye contact and be genuine.
  • Do your homework: Demonstrate that you have fully researched the company’s background, current challenges and recent trends within the sector.
  • Know your CV: Your CV will generally structure the process. Knowing it inside out and preparing what your project and competency examples are that match the job spec is fundamental.
  • Show your social side: Building a rapport with the interviewer can be as important as matching the skills criteria and will demonstrate that you are pleasant to work with. It’s notjust about smiling. Use your body language to display interest – nod in agreement, maintain eye contact and no slouching.
  • Identify your expectations: Knowing what you expect of the role and respectfully seeking the answers to ensure the company is a good fit for you too is important and demonstrates confidence.
  • Be ready to ask questions: It’s important to have a few questions in mind to ask at the end of the interview. They can be about the company, the role, or the team. They will demonstrate your assertiveness and enthusiasm in being the right fit.
  • A good follow up: It’s a nice touch and not something often remembered to follow up with a thank you email letting them know you are looking forward to hearing from them.

 

Good luck!

 

 

Flexi-working and flexi-schooling

Our guest blogger is Dushana Pinfield who faced a dilemma that all working mums face: how to carry on working whilst giving her family the attention she thought they needed.  Dushana decided to choose a creative way to solve her problem of getting her work-life balance right for her.

I am a part-time freelancing mum because we are choosing to flexi-school our children. Being a working mum can be tough. You always seem to making some sort of sacrifice but I continue striving to achieve the balance between the ‘career me’ and the ‘mum me’. I’m not sure I’m exactly winning, but it feels like the right choice.  In this blog I share how I am doing it and a bit more about why.

In 2015, with a 4 year old and a one year old, I was working part-time in an office and taking on the child care the rest of the week.  I was ‘time poor’ and felt I was not really achieving with either! This all came to head in the September when my eldest son started school and we chose to part-time school him. I needed to work differently in order to free up some more time to add flexi-schooling into our family mix.

Flexi-schooling is when your child is in school part time and home schooled for part of the week. For me this is 2 days a week at home with the kids and 3 days (+++) trying to keep my business and career on the track that I want.

England is one of the few countries that sends its children to school at 4 years old (88% of the world’s school starting age is between 6-7).  We felt it was too much too soon and flexi-schooling seemed like the perfect solution. It’s a constant battle to get the school to allow us to continue flexi-schooling.  It’s down to the headteacher’s discretion and in a busy, oversubscribed London school it’s hard to get them to support our thinking, but maybe this is for another blog…

So I decided to set myself up as a freelance event management specialist.  I left behind the security of a regular salary, sick pay and holidays and in return I got a chance to fit my working life around my family life.

It’s not easy.  I am competing in a job market where the majority of employers still prefer full time working, and a bum on a seat, 9-5pm.  This dwindles your job pool significantly and might be why my contracts so far have been with past colleagues!

And that’s how I started.  I contacted friends and former colleagues letting them know that I’d set up on my own and was available for work if they ever needed it.  I didn’t set myself up as a limited company. I didn’t spend hours creating a website. Whilst I may do this at some point, I have been lucky so far and the network of contacts I have built up over my career has been invaluable.

I have had to learn to work differently. Gone are the days when I had the luxury of an 8 hour day to manage my workload.  You learn to break up work tasks into 1-2hr chunks.

I prioritise deadlines, meetings, liaising with external organisations etc during core business hours (when everyone else is at their desks!). I keep the background tasks that do not need immediate collaboration on to evenings, weekends.

I put in extra hours during crunch times and I’ve learned to ask for help from family.

Most importantly is that even though I may not at my desk, working on my laptop, during work hours I am available on the phone.  Always. (well nearly…). I may have a child in the background shouting on repeat ‘who are you talking to mummy… Mummy? … MUUUMMYY?’ but I’m contactable.

And what do I get in return? 2 days a week with my children to explore life and learn outside of the classroom.  This for my 4 and 7 year old is currently dinosaurs, monster trucks, biking, skateboarding, museums, supercar spotting and most importantly – one to one time.  Learning in outdoor spaces – bug hunting in the forest, snail racing, supermarket trips – adding up your shop, counting people getting on the bus.

Is this the work/life balance thing that they talk about?

It’s pretty hectic, but freelancing has definitely made this balance achievable for me and I enjoy it. Working on contracts keeps things interesting and fresh. You aren’t bogged down by an organisation’s politics as you parachute in and are that fresh pair of eyes that can refocus a project. You get to learn your trade inside out (in my case organising events) as you have just been hired to do this one job for each client. Working from home means I don’t spend time commuting to and from an office. There are no work interruptions. These all definitely help with getting as much out in the short time before I’m back being a mum/teacher!

And this is my motivation and the compromise.  Time is precious and my children are growing up fast.  I am taking this time to see them grow and educate them outside of the norm.

Reasons to be Brave

Our guest blog is from Tania Pieri.  A talented singer, songwriter she also runs PA for creatives.  Her blog deals with something that we all face at some time in our lives – being scared. 

Fragility, Fear and Bravery. Do they all fit together? And what do we need, to face our fears and do something brave? To go and do that thing that scares us even though it’s absolutely, well….. Scary?!

I repeatedly find myself in situations requiring bravery. It always feels the same: Huge, Big, and Scary, and always feels like the first time I have ever had to face a scary task. Which of course it isn’t at all. Being an introverted performer – singer & dancer – I have faced many of these feelings time and time again. I have been through endless situations where I have had to find my inner strength and yet each time feels new. You might think it would get easier to face these things, but often to me, they are still big mountains.

And yet, climb them I must. Every, single, time. Sounds like a person who likes a bit of torture right? But no… So why do I do it? What drives me? I believe it is because of my ‘Why’. My driving force in life. When we can recognise this in ourselves it can help give us strength when we need it.

Personally, my ‘why’ is all about growth, development and sharing my voice. Therefore, I have to do the scary things that I am faced with so that I may continue to grow. Perhaps knowing what drives us helps us to face things with even greater Bravery because you know it will be beneficial to you.

Another great thing about feeling fear is it gives us the chance to exercise our bravery muscles. So each time we can choose to face slightly bigger or more challenging tasks. Also, we can’t know how strong we really are until we have something that tests us.

The timing of writing this post couldn’t be more fitting because I am just about to face something that needs my own brave-self to come out and present its self. I am having to dig deep, as it’s something that makes me feel pretty sensitive, but I know out of that, my strength will rise. I know, too, that if I don’t face it I won’t be able to live with myself and I will feel even worse for not having the courage to even try. So try I must. Whatever the outcome.

We can’t hide from opportunities for fear of failing. But we can grow through trying! So onwards we go….

If you want to find out what drives you I recommend this short quiz: https://wwwviacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey

The Today, Tonight and Tomorrow of Networking

Our guest blogger is businesswoman Hilary Fraser.With her years of experience  she has some great hints on something that can raise anxieties in all of us: networking.

Life’s better when we’re connected! What do we mean by connection?  Social media is a powerful way to keep in touch and raise your profile.  Don’t, however, mistake connections online for the real, human contact that comes with shaking someone’s hand, sharing eye contact, speaking and listening together, in the same place at the same time.

Here’s how to think more strategically about your networking. There are three categories to be aware of and by consciously choosing to develop each kind, you will gain maximum benefit in the short and long term.

1. TODAY
You don’t usually get to choose who you have to work with on your daily projects and tasks. There can be a lot of contacts needed to get things done, all connecting via you in some way. If you view yourself as a facilitator of this de facto network, you can build trust and enhance relationships which will lead to significant business benefits of speed, efficiency, collaboration and product or service quality. Plus you will have more fun doing the job!
Ways to do this include ensuring introductions are always made on conference calls,asking people to share something that’s going on for them at the start of a meeting, or using the phone to talk and build the relationship instead of sending an email.

2. TONIGHT
Find stimulation, creativity, referrals, useful information and personal development from networking with people outside of your day job. What are your interests? Study groups, sports, theatre, school governorships, volunteering – when you connect widely, opening up to new people and new experiences, life gets richer.

One challenge women especially find is that we may need to delegate more to ensure we make time for ‘Tonight’ networking.  Can you re-jig your resources and priorities to claim this investment in yourself?

3. TOMORROW
Take a strategic view.  Build and maintain a network of internal and external contacts who will matter as you progress in your career.  Try to see this network-building through the lens of your future interests, needs, priorities and challenges. It’s about finding supporters, mentors and those who will influence you and/or be influenced by you. It can be hard to know who will be relevant; and it can be a mindset-shift to not see this as ‘politics’ but as an essential aspect of your successful journey.

Finally, some tips for successful networking:
– reciprocity is better when you give before you expect to receive. (It feels good – but remember to ask for something in return before too long)
– personal brand matters, so be consistent and make it easy for people to know who you are
– ease your way into a conversation with small talk but don’t forget to talk about business
– keep it two-way. Do avoid both interrogation and taking excess airtime to talk about yourself
– bring the interaction to an end positively and authentically, e.g. “It’s been very interesting talking to you and now I must move on. Thank you!”

A Missed Opportunity

Our guest blogger, Elizabeth, has a tale to tell which we all should heed about how one wrong decision can totally transform your life and work prospects. Some might find this too distressing but we believe it an important message to pass on.

This is the story of what might have been the biggest missed opportunity of my 62-year old life. Ironically, it would only have taken a few minutes, didn’t require any qualifications and wouldn’t have cost me any money.

Life was pretty good in 2007. I was 50, had a reasonably well paid job, happy relationship, a mortgage free home and no real cause to worry about my health. So, in 2016, when I developed a yellow vaginal discharge I wasn’t especially concerned. However 3 months later the ‘infection’ hadn’t cleared up and the GP referred me for a.  Whilst waiting for my referral I had a vaginal bleed just like a period, not right given I was post-menopausal, and that’s when the panic set in.

The next I know biopsies are being taken and I received the diagnosis no one wants. “Squamous cell cancer of the cervix”. I had a radical hysterectomy, my pelvic lymph nodes were removed and 6 sessions of chemotherapy, 27 sessions of radiotherapy.   18 months later and cancer-wise, so far so good.  But the long-term side effects have not been so good.

The surgery caused a lot of nerve damage and I, very unusually it seems, now suffer from urinary retention. I have to constantly self-catheterise and the lymphoedema in one of my legs and lower abdomen means I have to wear compression tights/stockings which fit so snugly I have to use garden gloves to get them on and off.

Because of these side-effects I had to give up my job as they made it hard to function well in a demanding fast paced role. If I was younger, I would also have to cope with a premature menopause and infertility.

Perhaps the saddest part of the tale is that my cancer might have been prevented, had I kept up to date with my screening tests. So, if you haven’t guessed already, my big missed opportunity was not taking up my invitations for cervical screening.

I chose to start this story from the year 2007 as this was when, age 50, that I stopped going for screening. I gave myself reasons/excuses for not going such as: ‘it might be painful’, ‘it’s not going to happen to me’, I’m low risk’ etc. WRONG! With glorious hindsight, a minute or so of unpleasantness really is a very small price to pay for something that could prevent a cancer.

I’m not alone: 1 in 4 women, between 25 and 64 don’t get screened despite receiving reminders. Please ladies, don’t ignore or overthink it, just make the appointment and go.  Or, if you feel you really can’t face the test, how about making an appointment with your GP to discuss your concerns – you can always ask to see a female doctor.

I am now passionate about raising awareness of the importance of cervical screening and the wonderful work of Jo’s Trust. Some women really do need an extra bit of support to go for their tests, I know I did.  Mutual support is effective and I encourage women, and sometimes men, to check if their partners, friends, sisters, daughters, nieces, mother etc. are getting tested.  That simple caring thing could prevent a lot of suffering, save a career  or even save a life.

Inspiration: where do YOU get it from?

Picture of woman on the beachOur guest blogger is Katie Day from RDPI.  Katy has run a number of businesses in her career and is particularly keen to help women develop as leaders in their organisations.  Katie has her own way of being inspired and is sharing that with us.

 As women, we have to be all things to all people, all of the time!  Exhausting in the extreme.  So, as we inspire others around us to be the best they can be, who is inspiring us?  Are we so bogged down with ‘life’ that we sometimes forget to stop and listen to our subconscious mind?  We have all the answers we need, we simply don’t sit still long enough to hear!  Here’s what I do when I need a little inspiration for my business and / or my life.

I pretend to be six years old!  I have a ‘play box’ at my office that is filled with all sorts of random items – a heart shaped small cushion, cufflinks, a woolly hat, a leaf, dried flowers, coloured pens and crayons, anything that catches my eye as I’m out and about walking or in novelty shops.  When I’m stuck and need inspiration I close my eyes and rummage around in the box and pull something out.  I then look at the item and allow my conscious brain to be still and quiet so that my subconscious brain can be creative and bubble up with an idea or thought.

Daydreaming is essential, for our emotional and creative health.  Einstein credited daydreaming for all his genius, as adults we should allow ourselves legitimate daydreaming time every day.  That could be sitting at our desks and just looking out of the window or going for a walk.

Living by the sea I try and walk every day looking at the waves, whatever the weather.  The sea is especially brilliant when I feel stuck for ideas or inspiration.  I just stand by the water’s edge and when the waves come in I imagine my ‘stuck-ness’ being picked up by the water and washed out to sea and taken away from me.  When I feel that enough has been washed away, I then look at the waves coming in and imagine new ideas and creative thoughts being held in the water and I visualise those ideas washing over me as the waves break on the shore.  If you don’t live by water, you could do this by simply walking in nature – in a park in a busy city will do too.  The trees could do the same for you – imagine your ‘stuck-ness’ being sucked in by the roots of the trees and dispersed underground and then imagine the branches and leaves full of creative ideas and inspiration and shaking them out to fall all over you.

People watching can be hugely inspiring.  If I feel really caught up in my own thoughts going round and round in my head, I’ll take myself off to a café for a coffee and just people watch.  The dynamics of human interactions can be incredibly inspiring, we just need to allow our own imaginations to have free reign without judgement or censor.  We can imagine all kinds of scenarios for the people we are watching and observing.  I have found this can suddenly spark an idea for a training course about leadership or communication.

I live my life like a triple A battery, I try to always be: Alert – Awake – Aware.

So, go back to the carefree days of childhood, where everything was possible and creative inspiration surrounded us in its wonderful randomness.

We all need support

Our guest blog is from Shirley Wardell For many years Shirley has been working with teams on developing leadership skills and was one of the first people in the UK to embrace Nancy Klein’s Thinking Environment approach to her work.

When you listen to people they feel supported, this is what participants on the Research Team Leadership programme tell us. Support is something that stops things from collapsing or crumbling; support is a critical function of a leader, a colleague and a friend.

We all need support for the task we are undertaking, support for our team, if we are lucky enough to have one, and support for ourselves. I turn to Nancy Kline’s Thinking Partnerships® to think about how to get the support I need, but don’t always want.

Thinking Partnerships provide a rare opportunity to think aloud with someone listening profoundly. I have lots of colleagues who can do this and I am also happy to pay for it. Nancy Kline’s suggestion ‘if in doubt, ask’ seems like a good maxim when deciding how to support anyone, including myself.

Here is a glimpse of what ideas came up for me during my thinking time, and thank you to Caroline Homfray, my thinking partner:

Take time to think
Be aware of the needs of others
Create a supportive atmosphere
Be responsive to my feelings
Ask for the support I need early
Facilitate social activity and have fun
Resolve conflicts quickly

What I need often is a listening buddy. When I don’t have one, I crumble a bit and slow down. When I have one I feel I can get around anything. Do you have one?  I would recommend that you do.  If you both learn to listen you can help each other.

When music really can change lives

Our guest blogger is Jade Powers. She has spent a lifetime in music and theatre, both as a performer and director, travelling the world as a result.  She has been involved for a number of years with the popular Sussex Dance Studios:  her latest ventures being The Broadway Players and Jade Powers Entertainments.

 Jade Powers is your stage name so how did you start in the business?

 Where do I begin…. Cue for a song – my life has been based on Theatre – and I guess to this day this is one of my favourite songs – back in the 60’s as a little girl my passion for performing started with the church and school choirs and they told my Mum I had a big voice – so after many years of training -in the 80’s JADE POWERS was born.

When you sang for the King of Tonga in 1990 you said it was a life changing experience. Why?

I was introduced to many local Zimbabwe dignitaries – and over my time with them I was so privileged to visit places of interest as a VIP and making friends with the locals enabled me to then teach Drama / Dance and Singing to the Outback children – this was the life changing bit seeing how they lived in mud huts and their staple diet of mealy meal – a corn meal mixed with water which tasted disgusting and added with potatoes – yet they were so happy – I loved going to see them – and I had been back in UK over a year when Zimbabwe Sun – sent me a brochure – and there I was in the middle with a huge feature on what I had done for the local children – I was so humbled.

You went from performing to teaching and producing/directing after having your daughter.   What was it like shifting from one to the other?  What did you learn about yourself?  What advice would you give to other young mums in a similar situation?

I never gave up performing just the balance turned round more performing became more teaching and less performing which was easier when Bethany was little as I could take her to work with me – shifting my goal posts was relatively easy – because I was still totally absorbed in show business – any other young Mums facing difficulties with work and home balance – don’t give up on your dreams – if you have a good family support network they will rally round to allow you to work and fulfil yourself as a woman – my ethos has always been total organisation – thinking ahead – being prepared – and keeping calm. Now in my fifties the balance has changed again – and I now find there is just not enough hours in a day to fit it all in – but I can’t cull in any area to ease my load ………… Dedication

You started a theatre group for autistic children. What motivated you to do that?  What lessons can you pass on about the skills you developed, or the awareness of what you felt you had to do?

The Power Project – was always something I had in the back of my mind – I have such empathy for those not so fortunate – I just needed to be 100% confident in my abilities and sure of myself – and comfortable in my own world to have the confidence to put the wheels in motion for this – which I felt the time was right over the last 5 years – the skills I learnt during this period of my life – were compassion for others and amazement at what families go through to look after these wonderful young challenging people – the pure joy on their faces when they learn and perform and feel INCLUDED means the world.

And then life changed direction again?

Yes, I found my Perfect Partner Pete who is so supportive of all my work – I have been so lucky to work in many theatrical fields that have made me so happy with the passion and love of what I do – 3 years ago my dreams came true again with the start of my own production company The Broadway Players – this has also swept me off my feet with the acclamations I have received as a producer and director – I have learnt so many skills over the 40 years in professional theatre – now as a collective Jade Powers Entertainments  – I gig approx. 12 times a month at various dementia care homes which give me so much pleasure to see smiling faces of the elderly as they remember the tunes I sing – so rewarding, I guess I have a perfect life.

You say this is not a job, it is a very happy and rewarding life choice. What advice would you give to women who haven’t yet been lucky enough to find that?

I have spent my whole working life doing something I love  – this is not always possible for a lot of people male and female – but if you have passion and drive – just believe in yourself and you CAN achieve anything – I did and look how I spend my time – I am never bored always passionate and happy – REMBEMBER you only get back what you put in.

The Power of No

Our guest blog  comes from Beverley Thompson, former BBC Journalist and Presenter now Campaigns and Community Engagement Manager at Southern Water. For anyone who’s been demoralised by rejection, this is definitely a must read!

I am incredibly lucky. My current job allows me to work with colleagues, charities and communities to make a positive difference. Twenty five years ago – an incredible quarter of a century – I would never have dreamed I would be working for a major utility with three million plus customers, and me overseeing the campaigns and projects that impact our most precious resource – water.

I also have twenty years’ experience as a journalist and broadcaster and I have worked all over the world. I am really proud of what I achieved then and what I’m doing now.

So how did I do it? Well I have a history of taking risks and making the most of the chances that we are all offered IF we choose to recognise them as positive and empowering. So here’s the trick – and it is so simple you may find it ludicrous – but just try it!

Never be afraid to ask –to be rejected or disappointed. The answer NO is usually the worst that can happen- and to my knowledge that two letter word has no lasting physical effects and with a positive outlook NO can be the incentive to move on and achieve.

My first big chance came along when I was just 20. I had finished a degree and was part way through a Post Graduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism. One day – looking through the Media section in the Guardian, (these are the days before the internet, linked in etc.!) I saw an advertisement for a TV newsreader for BBC Wales in Cardiff. Now let’s be clear – this was a chance and a risk of the first order. I had little experience as a journalist and I had never been on TV. I did have one card – I could speak Welsh. I had been to a secondary school in Wales. This was my first big job interview and I travelled to Cardiff in absolute terror! Just before I went in, I thought, what is the worst that can happen here? I won’t get it – they will say NO – I will be rejected. Actually when you weigh that up against the best that can happen – I will get it – they will say yes – I will be at the start of my career – there’s no contest is there? NO won’t kill you! I went through the interview or board as the BBC calls it and I did get the job.

My time at the BBC was peppered with chances offered and risks to be taken. I put myself forward for jobs that in truth both terrified and inspired me. How was I hosting a live TV debate with four guests and one hundred guests? How was I hosting a live radio phone in? The answer is that I applied for the positions – laughed at the notion of NO and went for it.

When I did confront NO – I treated it like an occupational hazard – it wasn’t a judgement about me and my abilities – it was about business, skill sets and maybe a personality issue. The fact is NO hasn’t harmed or changed me.

Today, I find myself in the position of interviewing and managing people. It is a huge responsibility and the pressures on candidates and colleagues are still immense. However, I believe you can spot the ones who have faced down their fear of NO. They are the ones who if unsuccessful ask for feedback and advice, they use NO to inform their next application and interview – they work to turn NO into their YES.

You see NO is a negative word – but it doesn’t have to be. Change your relationship with the word NO and embrace the risks and chances that life brings! You will fly!

‘You are that talented woman who doesn’t see how talented she is’

Our guest blogger Sarah Fox landed up as a speaker and as a construction solicitor as a happy result of the suggestions of a partner in her law firm who believed Sarah had the right skills before Sarah believed it. Alison was her boss, then friend, and they are still in touch today, although they haven’t worked together for over 10 years.

Four years ago I was chatting to my sister over coffee, in Ed’s diner near Euston, waiting for a train home. She wanted to know why I was different – something she’d had to ask herself regularly since she was my identical twin. I’d been waffling in a rather lawyerly fashion about my business and she was getting bored…

She kept asking and I kept blustering.

Just before my train was due I proudly declared that the reason I was different was that – unlike my contemporaries and peers in the legal industry – I could write a construction contract in 500 words. I’m not sure where that gem came from and I guess my reticence showed in my face. She challenged me, menacingly asking “What… really? Really really?”

It was a matter of weeks later that I had written the contract, and, having ticked that task off, I showed it to her. Ta-da. Mission accomplished.

Success was mine.

And what did I do with this idea? I sat on it. I showed it to a few select friends and when one of my lawyer friends was scathing, I got scared.

Who was I, I thought to myself, to challenge the received wisdom that contracts had to be long and complex? Who was I, female upstart, to try and simplify the standard industry contracts down from 50,000 words to a mere 500? Who was I, an imposter, to do something new and innovative?

Writing the contract was just the start of my journey. I didn’t consider myself an expert (despite having 20 years’ experience in writing construction contracts, at least the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell refers to in Outliers). I didn’t appreciate what I did know that others didn’t. I didn’t value my talents and expertise.

It didn’t matter that I started to use the contract in training workshops and be asked if I would sell it to them. It didn’t matter that people learnt about it and it piqued their interest. It didn’t even matter when others started to say it was what the industry needed.

I continued to sit on my idea.

So what changed? There was a glorious synchronicity of events…

First, this quote from Playing Big by Tara Mohr slapped me around the face and woke me up: “To us, you are that talented woman who doesn’t see how talented she is. You are the woman who – it’s clear to us – could start an innovative company or pull one out of the dysfunction it’s in, improve the local schools, or write a book that would change thousands of lives. You are that fabulous, we-wish-she-was-speaking-up-more woman.”

Second, I got a mentor who I really trusted and he made it clear that sitting on my idea was not an option.

Third, I got the courage to send it to an industry commentator who immediately emailed me that he loved it. Wow!

With those events in place, I realised that playing small and considering myself an imposter was not helping me to serve others. That was when I decided that I could challenge the received wisdom, simplify contracts and do something new and innovative.

Sometimes it is not just about the knowledge, skills, and expertise you have. Sometimes success depends on having the character, the confidence and the support to make a difference.

 

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