Category: Improving Career Skills and Mindset

working mums jumping with joy

The two minute route to self-confidence

When I work with women feeling nervous before a major event, such as their first interview in ten years, I give them an instant self-assurance tip that is often met with a look of incredulity. I recommend that they find a quiet place just before the event and make a ‘Power Pose’ – taking a Wonder Woman stance or adopting the ‘starfish’ pose which Mick Jagger is modelling so effectively in the photo above. This sounds like the type of ‘too-good-to-be-true’ advice that could give psychologists a bad name, but in fact it is based on a convincing body of research evidence.

Amy Cuddy, a Harvard social psychologist, explained in a wonderful 2012 TED talk* how “making yourself big” for just two minutes changes the brain in ways that reduce anxiety, build courage and inspire self-expression and leadership. Changing our body language effectively changes the way we think and feel about ourselves. If you’re interested in the science, lab studies found that a two minute power pose increased the levels of the power chemical testosterone by around 20% and lowered the stress hormone cortisol by about 20%. What’s more, this has a knock-on effect on how we behave, how we are seen by others and the likelihood of positive outcomes. In another study Professor Cuddy reported that people who adopted high-power poses before interviews were overwhelmingly more likely to be offered the job by impartial interviewers.
This week I followed my own advice. My nerves kicked in before my first time on national radio, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to discuss returnships with Jenni Murray, Julie Thornton (Head of HR at Thames Tideway Tunnel) and Carmen Nuzzo, who joined Morgan Stanley in a permanent role following their 2014 Return to Work programme. So if you had walked into the ladies’ toilets in a cafe down the road from Broadcasting House at 9.18am on Wednesday, you might have been surprised to see a blonde middle-aged woman in a green jacket striking a full-on hands-on-hips legs-wide Wonder Woman pose … and now I can personally vouch for the benefits!

julianne&katerinaJulianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

Using your instincts in career decision-making

Using your instincts in career decision-making

“I’m thinking about applying for corporate jobs again and have been approached about a part-time Marketing Director job. I know it would be a good move and work with the family but for some reason I’m putting off making the phone call to the recruiter.”

Marion had left the corporate marketing world 6 years before to spend more time with her two children who were approaching senior school age. She now felt keen to return to work and had been focusing on the logical plan of using her past experience and networks to get back into a leadership position. She’d had a few promising leads but noticed that she was dragging her feet and putting off following up on them. Why was she making this so difficult for herself?

As we talked, I noticed that Marion’s energy soared when she spoke about friends who had set up their own businesses and about her own ‘impractical’ entrepreneurial ideas. When she reverted to talking about the ‘realistic option’ of going back to mainstream corporate life her energy drained away like a pricked balloon. Her tone of voice and body language were telling a different story from her words. As we talked, she identified a strong reluctance to give up her freedom and autonomy and the focus of our conversations switched to the feasibility of entrepreneurship. Having turned down a second round interview for the Marketing Director role, she is now enthusiastically developing her own venture.

Rational vs Instinctive Decision-Making

Many of us tend to believe that our decisions should be directed by our rational brains and we distrust our emotional response. But we need to remember that our experience of working, be it positive or negative, is subjective. Whether we enjoy a job depends just as much on how we feel about it as how good it looks on paper. Our emotions are often linked to underlying values, like Marion’s pull towards freedom. And an instinctive reaction can pick up something intangible (like a company culture or a manager’s personality) that does or doesn’t feel right before you can explain the reason why.

And there’s another reason to listen to your intuition. It’s true that ‘gut feel’ can be misleading and lead to faulty conclusions*. On the other hand, psychology studies show that we do not always think best when we rely on reason alone. For more complex decisions (like career choice) our rational brains can hit information overload. If we put our attention elsewhere and allow our unconscious mind time to work through all the factors and come to a decision, we are more likely to make an ‘instinctive’ choice that we will be happier with over time, even if goes against a logical pros & cons evaluation**.

Ways to incorporate the emotional & instinctive in your decision-making

1. Follow your energy. When you talk about each of your options, notice when your energy levels rise and when they drop. What are you most drawn to investigating? Ask your friends/family what they have noticed too.
2. Try describing yourself out loud in each of the different options: “I’m running my own business”, “I’m a Marketing Director”. Which intuitively feels best? Which feels more like ‘you’?
3. When you find yourself over-deliberating about your options, take a break, engage in an activity that distracts your mind for a few hours and then write down your decision before consciously thinking any more about it.

And in general, when you’re considering your next move, value your emotional reactions just as much as your logical analyses.

Note: names and some details have been changed to maintain confidentiality

Further Reading
* For examples of biases see Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast & Slow
** One study by Dijksterhuis & van Olden asked participants to look at 5 posters and choose which one they liked best using 3 different techniques: 1) pros & cons 2) gut feel 3) look, solve anagrams, look again, decide. A month later the 3rd group were happiest with their choice. This Unconscious Thought Theory effect has been replicated in more complex decisions such as renting an apartment (See Richard Wiseman, 59 Seconds).

julianne&katerinaAuthor: From the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

Powerful women pay a high price for perfectionism

Powerful women pay a high price for perfectionism

Lots of career women are hit by the condition of perfectionism. It makes sense as in order to be successful, we give it all and we set high standards to ensure that we are taken seriously, appreciated and rewarded. However, perfectionism is not doing us always good and can get in the way of our health and happiness.

Perfectionism develops a voice inside us.

Do you recognise this voice: ‘You might be found out. You could have done better. Why did you not put that idea forward? Maybe you should work a little bit harder…. ‘

And even though you want this voice to stop, it is not going to. It will actually get louder and harsher, the more you want it to get quiet. This voice has the power to bring you down.

As with all ‘habits’, such as thriving for perfectionism, over time it becomes ingrained in your thoughts and actions and you keep acting on automatic pilot. And on an unconscious level you give yourself the message that you are only good enough if you do things perfect. This is the message that will bring you down and will hit your confidence. Because every time you deliver ‘nearly’ perfect –which will be most of the time, as perfect doesn’t exist-, you will tell yourself off. This negative way of looking at yourself is harmful. It undermines your confidence, it doesn’t allow for self-acceptance and it causes stress, a lot of stress.

What can you do about this?

1. To stop the little voice, start with acknowledging it. Write down all the messages the voice is telling you.

2. Then make a factual inventory of all the things you do.

3. Be totally honest and write down about every single item how well you perform – in a percentage – 100% is perfect, and 70% is acceptable. This way you can find out how high you set the standards for yourself.

4. Note for every item on the list the minimum and the perfectly acceptable level of performance. Are you within that bandwidth or are you over performing?

5. Now you have the information you need to give yourself a compliment on how well you are doing and you can make a well-informed choice on where you can let go of some effort….

My question to you: would you put the same expectations on your friends or colleagues? If not, let go of that 100% and celebrate the 70% achievement with joy.

Perfectionism lacks the fluidity that allows for creativity and surprises – Dr Mariette Jansen

Author: Dr Mariette Jansen (Dr De-Stress) helps women with the challenge of the balance, and empowers them to create a healthy work-life balance.


The Real Deal – Media Skills for Women

The Real Deal – Media Skills for Women

‘Step up’, ‘sit at the table’, ‘lean in’. But what does all that mean in terms of practical steps? We’ve heard the soundbite responses to the obstacles encountered by women at work, in society and in our own feelings about self-worth.

We know that attitudes and behaviour need to shift in so many areas. There’s an expectation gap between men and women about salaries and promotion. The often-quoted study about women’s lower self-worth (the job advert posting the salary at 50K getting hardly any female applicants whereas the same job advertised at 30K had a huge response from women) is so well-known because it’s so clear.

We know that the thorny issue of gender roles has roots everywhere: little children watching TV unconsciously absorb that 50% of the boy characters solve their own problems as opposed to 35% of the female characters.

woman-reporterWe know that for adolescent girls, being popular and liked is usually more important than it is for adolescent boys.

We know that gender stereotyping can limit girls’ career choices – and that applications from girls to study car mechanics shot up when Kylie Minogue’s character first wielded a spanner in Neighbours.

We know that even when women big up their achievements at work, employing the same strategies as men to get ahead, they may still be overlooked because the problem lies not in their approach but in the reactions and evaluations of the organisation that employs them.

But we know a lot of other stuff too: that for many people job satisfaction is just as important as climbing the greasy pole; that being liked is no bad thing; that we may have different priorities from men and from each other. And that’s all good.
What we all need to do is start from wherever we are and move on into the jungle one step at a time.

At MEDIA SKILLS FOR WOMEN, we come across one very big issue in different guises. Time and again we coach women whose diffidence and self-doubt is holding them back from unlocking their full potential either as speakers or as people who are going to have to handle media interviews. We’ve worked with women who feel inadequate as speakers because they feel they need to emulate someone else’s style; often they feel that in order to be a good speaker, they have to speak like a man.

We’ve worked with women who are about go on BBC’s Question Time because they are senior or hugely expert in their field and yet believe they’re not good enough, that they’re going to mess up.

A woman’s first step therefore is often to acknowledge some lack of confidence. A large part of our work is to assure women that their own voice, their own style and their own message is more than good enough. That’s what we work on.

In the conquering of unhelpful levels of diffidence, however, we in no way encourage women to emulate the worst bits of (stereotypically) male ‘confidence’: winging it, bullshitting, flying on empty. That is self-evidently not confidence at all but bluster – no good to anyone. We don’t want women to fall from the frying pan into the fire: an impenetrable, rock-hard swagger is not what we’re after for our clients. We’re looking for the real deal and that involves painstaking preparation, ruthless editing, crystalline clarity.

Let’s remember, men have it quite tough too – particularly young men – because of the fear they might lose face if they admit to vulnerability or insecurity. Women find it easier to say they’re unsure about something or to ask for help, and that can be a strength.

In the same way, we feel it’s important that women who are working in politics of any kind, as councillors or MPs, don’t fall from one kind of ghettoisation into another: becoming spokespeople solely on ‘women’s issues’, whether that be workplace discrimination, FGM or sexual violence. The last thing we need is to narrow ourselves right back down again. Issues of gender affect us all. Isn’t that the whole point?

Article first published on: Progressive Women

Authors: Rosalind Adler and Lea Sellers from Media Skills for Women. Media Skills for Women’s training encourages women to examine – and maybe shift – their attitudes to themselves. It is aimed at helping you to exploit your own talent and potential and be the best you can – not just for your own sake but because no one wants to be stepping into a jungle. This is what they say: ‘We want to be creating and entering a world – all of us surely? – where the talents of everyone, regardless of gender, are fully realised and fully employed. That’s how we’ll change the planet, after all’. You can follow Rosalind and Lee on Twitter @speaking_women

Professional Working Mums

How to big-up your language to show you mean business

As a professional working mum you need to be visible and cannot afford to be humble. Make sure you remove the words small, only, kind of, just and little when talking about your achievements. Dismiss phrases such as I only work part-time when you work three days a week.

Read more Female Breadwinners, March 2012, Suzanne Doyle-Morris

How to become a confident speaker - or at least looking like one!

How to become a confident speaker – or at least looking like one!

Presenting yourself confidently is a key skill to get where you want, not just for working mums. No matter whether you are starting your own business, are on your way to the top or are returning to work, Sally Hindmarch shares some of the best tips I have ever heard.

When I was about 23 in my first (and pretty much only) true sales role my 54 year old Managing Director turned round to me after a fairly poor presentation on my behalf and said “ Sally you need to be more confident ….. you need to be more like me!”

As advice it has to rank up there as some of the worst I’ve received! Although my MD certainly appeared confident, being more like a confident 54 year old man didn’t sound like the best idea I’d come across – what I wanted was to feel at ease; more comfortable or natural in what for me was an unnatural situation.

What I needed were some techniques that I could use to make me look, sound and feel more confident … and then I would appear to be more competent.

Unfortunately it was another 20 years before I met anyone who knew what those techniques are. And the people who I met are actors who learn these skills at drama school, so for the past 8 or so years I have strived to help people in business learn these techniques from our team of actors so that they can have more impact and come across as confident and competent whatever their role

I can’t cover everything in this short article but below are 8 key points that I wish I had known all those years ago!


Do you slouch? Or do you stand tall? Good posture portrays confidence and competence. As well as optimising breathing, it can also change how you feel about yourself – if you look confident, you’ll feel confident and you’ll be confident!


Where do you breathe? Breathing deeply in the bottom of the lungs creates a more supported voice. The vocal cords are relaxed and the voice is more in control with a richer sound, which adds weight and depth to the message and makes it easier to listen to. The increase in oxygen also helps the brain think more clearly.


Enthusiasm is infectious! If you’re not passionate about your subject then those you’re speaking to won’t be. Find something you’re passionate about – even if it’s “the money I’ll make from the sale”!

Genuine Smiles

Smiling animates the face, warms the voice and makes you appear more personable. When we force a smile we bare our teeth and our eyes are dead like a lot of politicians I could name. For a genuine smile, think of something that makes you smile – a holiday, your children or partner, the person in front of you in their underwear – anything so long as when you greet them you are thinking “Happy”.


When you go into detail and paint pictures you find your gestures, your voice and your thoughts all work in unison – congruence. You have none of that feeling of “what do I do with my hands?” or “my thoughts just don’t match my body language and voice”. You have natural variety, are focused and are ‘in the moment’ when you have images of the things you’re talking about.

Tell it from their point of view

If you tell your story as an experience from the other person’s point of view, then they not only intellectually understand your message, but hear, see and most importantly, feel it. As a result they buy into the message more effectively.

So what?

The “so what” factor is critical. Not what you do but the difference you will make. Start from where they are now and show them where you will take them. This is the so what factor: the value you bring.


Many studies suggest the visual image is remembered longer. If you paint pictures and tell stories with your words the same thing happens. The listener remembers the pictures and stories. They then remember the facts associated with them and retain the information for longer.


Everyone makes mistakes but as the saying goes, when you’ve dropped a brick, don’t kick it around. If you make a mistake – say “YES” (mentally, not out loud!) and move onwards and upwards.

Self Confidence needs work but it is a trait worth working on and continuing to work on. I’m sure you have heard the phrase that life is a self-fulfilling prophecy: picture it going well and it is more likely to. Visualisation and the use of positive affirmation are 2 extra tips I suggest you start using because if you don’t believe in yourself why would anyone else?

Author: Sally Hindmarch from Partners with You has a degree in Psychology & Drama and a career in database marketing. She believes that most problems stem from poor communication and has spent the past 10 years helping businesses and individuals to sell more, develop their staff and collaborate more effectively through improved communication skills. If you would like to boost your communication skills, be more confident and more successful, Sally’s The Lemon Club might just be the thing for you. @SallyHindmarch; @TheLemonClub

How To Create Your Own Luck

How To Create Your Own Luck

 Are you one of those people who think luck is something that happens to other people? Does the toast always fall jam side down for you?  Do others seem blessed to life on easy street while your destiny is one of struggle and hardship?

In my new book Find Your Dream Job, co-written with Sarah Wade, you can read real stories of how ordinary people went from dead-end jobs to finding a job that makes their heart sing.  In short, they created their own luck.

I provide the coaching notes to help you along the way.  It’s on Amazon now and has five gold stars rating – yaayy!

But in the meantime if you want to leverage your own luck it might be time to detox your thoughts as your limiting beliefs could be keeping you stuck in a life of hardship and gloom. 

Lucky charms, magic stones and black cats; use whatever lights your fire when you need to call on Fortuna to deal you a royal flush.  But let me exclusively reveal there is a much more accessible talisman you can personally tune up to attract wealth, opportunity and possibilities.

Here is a simple equation to ponder on:

 The Definition of Luck is When Intention + Preparedness meets Opportunity.

Here are 10 sure-fire ways of increasing your Luck and creating unlimited potential into your life now which I use with my own clients:

  • Have a big dream.  Get really clear about what you want and imagine it every day.  Build a Vision Board of photos and objects which all go to remind you of your dream
  • Act “as if” you already lived your dream.  Relish how it feels to have all you want, walk it, talk it and be it.  You will soon find yourself attracting all sorts of good stuff.
  • Start to tell people about the dream and create a community of like-minded thinkers or well-connected others that can help you.
  • What you focus on expands – so choose to concentrate on positive, hopeful and nurturing things.  Remember, it is a choice.
  • Look at your beliefs.  Are you limiting your own chances of opportunity with thoughts such as “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve”?
  • Could you be sabotaging your own chances of good fortune because deep down the thought of success, happiness or love really frightens you?
  • Decide to ditch the energy vampires – friends or colleagues who drain you, use you or “do down” your ideas and gravitate towards positive, can-do people.
  • Every day take at least one baby step towards your dream – whether it’s researching on the Internet, visiting the library or networking.  Do everything with the intention of creating success.
  • What do you need to let go of or stop tolerating to free up your energy?
  • Hire a coach.  A superb and effortless way of reaching your goals.

Why not have a free half hour trial telephone coaching consultation with me and see how you can double your luck today. Visit and book a sesh with me today.

Author: Carole Ann Rice – Life Coach and Writer

Find your dream job, by: Carole Ann Rice and Sarah Wade

Be successful - strengthen your strengths

Be successful – strengthen your strengths

A major key to success at work is to know what your strengths are and to work on strengthening them.

It reminded me of something I heard about Tiger Woods and one of the things that made him such a successful golf player. You can imagine that, if you are a golf player, you would want to make sure that, if your ball lands in the sand, you can hit it out as cleanly as possible. You would probably practise quite a lot, so that you could be confident of doing that. Not Tiger Woods, though. Instead of practising hitting balls out of sand to compensate for the bad shot that landed the ball in the sand, he concentrated on strengthening his strengths of hitting the ball accurately in the first place, to keep it out of the sand.

So often the training and development offered at work focuses on trying to improve weaknesses, rather than looking at what people are good at and helping them to become even better. Peter Honey, one of the world’s leading guru’s in learning and behaviour, emphasises that building on strengths produces bigger gains than overcoming weaknesses. In his book – Strengthen your Strenghths – he describes 8 self-management skills that underpin personal effectiveness – acting with integrity, being a creative thinker, committing to quality, developing yourself, embracing change, managing unwanted stress, managing your time and motivating yourself. The book includes a checklist for each of the skills, so that you can identify what your current strengths are and where to improve or build on them. Even if you do not analyse your strengths against these particular categories, it is worth standing back every now and then to reflect on what your strongest skills are. I often suggest that my clients ask 5 or 6 people, who know them well in different contexts, to tell them what they think their key skills and strengths are. Try asking your boss, colleagues, friends, your partner, and even your children – the results are often surprising and affirming!

Once you have analysed your strengths and got some third party input to make it more objective, you can look at how you are currently using those strengths in your work. If your work plays to your strengths, great – and what else could you do to develop those strengths by further training and using them more in different tasks or projects? If you are not using your strengths to the full, maybe you could see what opportunities there are around and discuss with your boss what you could do. Strengthening your strengths is more likely to bring job satisfaction and success at work.

If you would like to read more, I can certainly recommend his book: ‘Strengthen your Strengths – A Guide to Enhancing your Self-Management Skills’ by Peter Honey.

Author: Anne Williams of  Transforming Health – Using the power of your mind to improve your health and well-being. Anne works as a coach with a focus on Hypnotherapy, and has many years of experience in coaching women and business people. She is also the mother of two teenagers herself.