It’s a bit of a jungle out there at the moment, especially if you are an older woman in the job market. Jobs are few and far between and even if you have one, it may not be the job of your dreams. The stats are telling us that women are getting hit disproportionately more than men in the current recession.
Recently the Institute of Leadership and Management identified three main factors stopping women getting to the top. They were:
• Women had less confidence and self belief than men e.g. 20% of men will apply for a role despite only partially meeting its job description, compared to 14% of women.
• Women had varied career paths and had to step off career ladder to have children.
• Women didn’t expect to get senior positions and had lower aspirations than their male counterparts.
The confidence issue is one that comes up time and time again and in this article I’m going to be giving you three tips to help you boost your confidence levels and help raise your self esteem. Over 50% of women admit to feelings of self doubt at work, compared with just over 30% for men.
Why do women appear less confident than men?
But first, just why do women come out as being less confident than men? Here are some of my thoughts:
• Men are known to exaggerate their capabilities and women to downplay their skills and qualities. Put us side by side and any differences are disproportionately highlighted.
• Maybe women give very honest answers to surveys and men say what they think they should be saying? Just a thought…
• Women, more than men, are bombarded with conflicting images of how we should be. It’s not enough to be good; we must be good at work and perfect at home. Impossible standards are set for women which very few of us could aspire to. Hence the feelings of inadequacy.
• The world of work has been designed by men. All the standards have been set by men. This works well if you’re a bloke…but if you’re a woman I believe you’re always working at a slight disadvantage because the type of behaviour which is rewarded is by and large male behaviour. It’s not your instinctive way of behaving. That’s not going to boost your inner confidence, is it!
Tips for boosting your confidence levels
1. Stop bad mouthing yourself- the messages we give ourselves are hugely powerful. My first tip is to stop and to listen to your own inner dialogues, your spam messages, and your internal mail. Take a few moments to jot down all the negative messages you give yourself in the course of the week. They may run something like this-
“I am too old for this”
“I can’t learn new skills”
“I’m hopeless at interviews”
“The job has probably already gone”
“I always mess up”
“I’m not what they’re looking for”
Every time you speak to yourself in this way you are literally allowing your confidence to drain away. I am not suggesting that just by talking positively you’ll get the next job you apply you (I’m not mad,) but I do know that if you have an inner dialogue where you are continually putting yourself down, it will come through at interview. It will show in your body language and in the way you answer questions.
So, your task is to identify what you say to yourself and first, stop saying it (Imagine talking to your best friend like that, you’d never do it). And secondly to replace it with something helpful like
“I am fine with interview”
“I’ve learned masses of skills in my lifetime”
“Even if this job isn’t for me, this is good experience and a possible networking opportunity” and so on. You have to use your own authentic words or you’ll just feel silly. And it takes practice.
2. As an older woman you are hugely experienced at change. There is a myth abroad that older people don’t cope well with change. I’m here to tell you that’s tosh. You are of the generation that has coped with more significant and fast change than any other generation before you. You are amazing!
If you don’t believe me take a sheet of paper and divide it up into the decades of your life. So as I’m 55 I’ll have 6 boxes across the page. In each box list all the changes you have lived through. Take a world view as well as a personal view. Here’s some thoughts-the pill, HRT, space travel, decimalisation, mobile phones, word processors, foreign travel, divorce, gay rights, civil marriages, women bus drivers, and then add your personal stuff. You are a veritable change expert! Employers need that expertise.
3. Love your brain. We now know that brain cell decline is not an inevitable part of ageing and that any deterioration in a healthy adult is pretty minimal, if you use it! So take up something new. You can get a double hit by taking up something that will enhance your employment prospects. Learning a new skill will make you feel better about yourself and also be keeping your brain in tip top shape!
Jane C Woods www.changingpeople.co.uk