If you have decided to ignore all the advice of well-meaning individuals and friends and have still gone ahead to start a business this year, you must have some real guts. Starting a business is no easy task. There are endless challenges that often discourage you from even starting.
When looking at all the challenges entrepreneurs face, it’s easy to question how your business would thrive. If your business was a soft, supple, newborn baby, your goals as a business owner is to see that this business survives its first years.
But how do you achieve this and start your business like a boss?
1. Face your fears
Spending nights rolling on your bed, worrying about your business goals won’t make you cause you to achieve them. Unfortunately just thinking about your business will not turn it into reality. You may have several doubts about the likelihood of people getting your products and services, but until you put your business out there you won’t know for sure.
Start by creating your sample products, sell them to family and friends and get feedback about them. With every action, you take you to become less and less afraid. Every action you accomplish will help your confidence grow and you’ll begin to see your fear diminish.
2. Surround yourself with positive people
Surrounding yourself with positive people can make a huge difference on the success of your business. There are people who would do nothing to encourage you and will not give any positive feedback. If you stay close to such people, you will begin to doubt your ability to reach your business goals.
The truth is, the people closest to you may be more susceptible about your business than strangers. Expect it. They may not believe in your ability to drive your business to fruition, you shouldn’t make it your aim to prove that point to them.
On the other hand, having a supportive people chip in a suggestion or two will stir your faith in your business, you’d start to believe in this brand becoming tangible as you hear them talk about it like it already exists.
3. Be Patient
If there is one thing you will most likely encounter, is roadblocks! And when you do, you will need lots of patience. When things get tough, don’t through your hands in the air and shout “I don’t have time for this”.
Firstly, try and understand that the problem you face is not always your fault. If you cannot go through the problem, find a way to go around it. Do not compare yourself with what you see on the news and social media. Seeing everyone move on a much faster pace may be discouraging.
When you do his a roadblock on your journey, figure out how to deal with it while putting other aspects of your business in track. You should always be ready to take off when the roadblock is removed.
4. Dance upon disappointment
As an entrepreneur, managing disappointment is a skill you can’t afford to live without. So what if things do not work out as you plan? What if a key team member decides to leave at the last minute, or a trusted supplier fails to supply your ingredients on time? What would you do when people fail you?
You cannot always control all circumstances when working with people. When things go wrong, you shouldn’t beat yourself over. Try and come up with new alternatives. Though this may be tough, it will become a lot easier if you stay positive about it.
Take a break, play some music and dance away your disappointments. You can also create a warm environment where everyone can come together and decide on the next steps for the business will be.
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You have managed to leap off the pages of your curriculum vitae and cover letter and have been invited to a job interview for a prospective job role.
Of course, you are stressing out, yes you are one step closer to grabbing that dream but the pressure is mounting and you have to prove yourself one more time (and now there is no paper to hide behind!).
How do you ensure that you are successful in your next job interview?
Prepare and prepare and prepare
Preparation is your friend and is going to ensure your success. One of the first steps should be to find out from your future employer if there is anything you can prepare ahead of the interview.
If they are obliging, you could go further to find out the format of the interview and who will be on the interview panel. This is something you can (and should) also find out from current employees.
Read over your curriculum vitae and cover letter, be familiar enough with them so that you can address any questions on them. Know why you included specific details – what were you trying to get across about yourself?
If this is the first time you are applying for a job, make sure you are able to highlight how your background has equipped you for this position. The same goes for a position you are applying for within the same sector as you are currently employed.
If you are looking at branching out from what you have previously done then it is necessary to be able to illustrate how your skills are transferable.
For example, if you all your experience is limited to corporate and now you intend on moving to a government department, detail skills you acquired during your corporate experience and how these could be applied in your new setting.
Preparing for this pre-empts the inevitable question about why you are making a change and goes one step further in showing that you have thought about how your past experience, although different, translates.
You could go about practicing by either going through a mock interview or even more informally just chatting through some questions. This is a must in ensuring that the actual interview is not daunting.
Work through some basic questions such as personal background to start off with. Then move on to specific experience and education. Make sure you can also address questions about the new position and company.
Would you be able to answer why you are leaving your current position? Or some of the more sticky questions such as what makes you different; what is the biggest challenge you have faced and what is one quality you would change about yourself.
Make sure that you do not over-practice, you do not want to come across as rehearsed during the actual interview. So walk that fine line between practicing and coming across as rehearsed!
During the latter part of an interview, it is inevitable that you will be asked whether you have any questions for your prospective employers. It is imperative to ask questions and in order to be able to do so, you need to factor this into your preparation.
Questions can relate to the working environment; the type of clients and if you are aware of who the interview panel will be ahead of time – questions can then be addressed to specific people.
For example, if you know the head of the department will be part of the interview, try to research some of the work she or he has recently been a part of so you can ask a more detailed question.
Remember, inasmuch as an interview is about you being judged, it is also your opportunity to assess whether this position is the best fit for you. So if work/life balance is integral to your happiness then be sure to ask about this in the interview.
Try to connect with current employees. They can assist in shedding light on what the work environment is like and what the position you are applying for entails. A good starting point for connecting is LinkedIn.
More often than not you will have connections in common, which makes connecting a lot easier.
They can also help you figure out if the position advertised is really what is described or in substance is something else. Current employees can be a great resource for understanding our potential work environment and role.
Outcome of the Interview
Before you leave the interview, be sure to find out how the communication following the interview will go and who you can contact if you would like feedback.
Whether you secure the position or not, feedback is key. You have an idea of how you would like to come across but did that materialize and is there anything you could have done better?
Of course, these are more critical to know if you did not secure the position. So often when we fail we want to forget about the experience entirely. But knowing what did not work will put you one step ahead in terms of preparing for the next interview.
Do not read notes up until the last moment before you enter the interview. Take some time before to try to relax! It is really difficult to do, especially when you know you need to ace the interview, but having that sense of calm will translate when you go into the interview.
Small things like speaking slowly are also important and are sure to ask for a minute to think something over if you are unsure – there is no need to answer immediately!
And lastly but most importantly, be yourself and do your best.
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I wear 2 caps – Beauty Blogger and Marketing /PR Professional. In this article, I would like to put on my corporate hat and share a few key lessons I learned about job hunting in Ghana since I recently started at a new position at a Reputation Management Agency.
I completed my Master’s degree in the UK (MSc Marketing, Distinction) in September 2016 and graduated in January 2017. I returned to Ghana in September 2016 and did not find a job until April 2017, almost 6 months later.
Afterwards, I took a well-deserved break from September 2016 – November 2016 and took the time to catch up with friends and family I had neglected during my intensive 1-year programme.
In November, I began to send out emails to some of my past professional contacts and networks to let them know I was back in town and looking for a job.
Most of the responses I got were “No one is really hiring at this time of the year, it will be better to start in the New Year.” So I slowed down in December / early January / until I returned from my graduation and then I switched gears at the end of January.
I sent my CV and cover letter to any and everyone I knew in the industry and signed up and with some recruitment agencies.The most important point for me was that I did not want to get hired because of nepotism or as a favor. I wanted my CV and experience to speak for itself so that whoever was going to hire me would really see the value I would be bringing to the table.
I went for a few interviews, but none of the positions sparked the interest I knew I needed in order to be happy with the job. Long story short, one of the professional contacts I got in touch with responded and let me know there was availability and the rest is history.
Here are 10 key lessons I have learned during the 6 months I was job hunting in Ghana:
1. You will be ignored and rejected
You will receive various emails saying – “I regret to inform you that your qualifications do not match our requirements at this time”.
Do not let this get to you, continue to prepare for individual jobs/interviews, make sure you know your strong points and are selling them to each company in the appropriate manner.
2. Experience matters
As much as you can, do not leave too many gaps in your CV as this puts many employers off. Try as much as possible to list your experience chronologically and continue to reiterate it in interviews. Sometimes, experience trumps qualifications
3. Figure out your Unique Selling Point
Figure out what your strengths are and when you have been able to apply them during your career. Focus on these points during your interview. Try not to be a jack of all trades, pick a few skills you have and build on them
4. CV matters
Your CV is the first impression your potential employer has of you, make sure to wow them. Keep the CV short and simple, with bullet points and short, sharp quantifiable experience.
5. You might start at the bottom
In Ghana, it is very difficult to start a job at the position you think reflects your qualification and experience. Be patient, give each challenge your all and you will be able to rise through the ranks quickly!
It is especially important that you let your potential employer know that you are looking to be promoted within 6 months during the later stages of your interviews so they are aware that you are willing to work hard. Don’t confuse starting at the bottom with starting with a completely different job in a different department.
The best example I can give for this would be starting as an Account Executive at an agency when you should actually be an Account Manager
6. Have patience and humility
During the time of your hunt, you are going to need to be extremely patient with yourself, with your potential employers and even with your friends and family who may be pressurizing you to look into other industries / other positions.
Stick with your goals and continue to work towards what you think is best for you
7. Keep an open mind
This is related to points 5 & 6 – keep an open mind with regards to different positions you might enjoy, timelines for hiring and even salaries. You might need to be a bit flexible in the first few months to ensure you get a position you enjoy
8. Connections and networks are important
These are not necessarily personal connections but it is advisable to attend industry events in order to generate strong networks you can fall back on when it comes to time to look for a job. Don’t ignore the power of LinkedIn!
9. You will be pressurized
You will definitely start feeling pressurized by your family/friends and even by yourself especially if it is taking a while to get a job. Stand firm in your beliefs and continue to re-evaluate your choices, keeping your goals in mind
10. Qualifications don’t always matter
Sometimes, your qualifications don’t always matter. You will see people in your position or higher who don’t have the same qualifications as you. That is fine as your education opens up your mind and allows you to think of solutions in different ways.
These qualifications may not necessarily matter on paper but they open your mind up beyond what it would have been able to process before you got the degree
My personal advice is to figure out what career path you would like to take based on your personality, your interests, your likes and dislikes and then find a position that is best suited for you.
It may not be a perfect fit but if it ticks 8 out of 10 boxes, then it’s a good fit. Stand firm in your choices; do not get swayed by others who may not necessarily know what your end goal might be.
Resources to check out for job hunting in Ghana
African Bagg Recruitment
What key lessons have you learned from job hunting in your country? Share your experience with us here.
So the holiday season is here, and whilst everybody is in a tizzy over year-end functions, pre Christmas plans, decorations and basically bawling over the holiday season… You or perhaps someone you know, maybe thinking well now that the semester has come to an end; what to do?
Quite the temerity it must be; deciding whether to lounge around and have a jam all summer, or work towards building your portfolio to be industry ready.
In as much as the season may leave many of us with a lot FOMO as a result of Instagram lifestyles, we need to stay the course in our personal journey towards achieving the goals we have set for ourselves. It is never too late to jump back onto the bandwagon!
What to do? Christmas is generally a season where everyone is spending copious amounts of money, sometimes even to their detriment.
And the social media platforms are an absolute field trip for the type of lifestyle one should be engaging in, consumerism is a monster unleashed.
As a student, graduate, or a job hunter, your best bet would be to look up any vacation work that may be offered by corporations or NGO’s. This will not only aid in keeping you from spending money which you (or your parents) don’t have, but it will propel you a few steps closer to the career you want to find yourself in.
What is better time there to start actualizing your dreams and aspirations than the Christmas season with all its good cheer and positive vibrations?
There are undoubtedly a plethora of benefits when it comes to taking up vacation work, however, here is a narrowed down five points to bring the thought home:
1. Vac work will aid in establishing whether the career field of choice is the right one.
It is always better to know before making a long commitment to a particular trade service, whether or not it is what you want to be doing for the rest of your life.
Nothing brings more clarity than having a real-time experience of a work environment to further solidify your stance.
2. Extra flow of income, if it is a paying gig.
Vac work may not always have a monetary benefit if it does, however, that means Christmas spoils for yourself and some money to put towards the savings account.
In the instance that it is not a paying gig; there is a lot that could be made up for that in the form of experience. It would be important in this instance to ensure that wherever you’ll be taking your vacation job, there are individuals who are open to and willing to mentor and guide you.
3. New experiences and encounters.
This is self-explanatory, having a chance to experience new things generally is always a plus. At no extra cost to you, nothing brings about rejuvenation and perspective like exposure to a way of being that is different to yours.
4. Showcasing a level of responsibility to the parents.
Parents want to know that their children are ready to take up adulting and the responsibilities that come with that. Nothing spells grown up more than taking charge of one’s life and journey.
5. A sense of accomplishment.
Nothing brings on a booster more than a sense of achievement. No matter how small the feat or how insignificant the milestone may seem; but to you, it is a step in the right direction.
You can always be proud of yourself for doing the work of being a better version of you.
You were born for this…
Do you boo! You are able to do everything you set your mind to. You just ought to get up and show up in your life. It is important to hold yourself accountable for the life you want to live.
It is equally important to ensure that no Christmas splurge fest formed against you shall prosper.
Time to enjoy the holidays, hone your craft and Merry Christmas!
Sandy Dorsey, MA, CCC-SLP has spent over 15 years as a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). An SLP is a highly trained professional who evaluates and treats, children and adults, who have speech (coordinating sound to talk) and language (understanding others and/or expressing thoughts and feelings) disorders, as well as difficulties swallowing.
Sandy’s journey as an SLP started out as a simple case of curiosity. As a young girl, her uncle Henry developed Alzheimer’s disease, and for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out why he struggled with communication.
She took that curiosity to the next level later on in life and entered Howard University to major in Speech-Language Pathology. During this time, she became the President of the National Student Speech and Hearing Association; her active involvement with the American Speech Language and Hearing Association led her to being offered a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee.
Sandy later went on to become the founder of All About Speech LLC; a professional Speech-Pathology practice that focuses on the individual’s strengths and has helped countless individuals ranging from young children to seniors with a wide range of speech-language and swallowing disorders.
Sandy approaches each client with the belief that no two cases are the same and believes in taking a holistic approach to accurately assess and personalize each therapy plan. Patience, persistence and her upbeat personality helps her clients succeed in meeting their goals. This past July, Sandy’s commitment for helping others prompted her to start a non-profit organization, Smiles for Speech Inc. ; which provides speech, language and educational resources, as well as oral care items for children in impoverished communities. It’s safe to say her life and work are intricately entwined.
Sandy has found that to be a successful Speech Language Pathologist, one should know the following:
What you learn at school may feel very different on the job
If you are a new grad, it is normal to feel that you don’t know everything at your first job. Graduate externships are a great first step in learning, the expectation to be independent changes everything. It is not until you are officially working that you feel the weight and responsibilities that come with your managing your time effectively with a big caseload and report deadlines.
This is why the clinical fellowship year (CFY) is so important. To be a certified SLP, you must have 9 months of supervised work after graduate school and pass the Praxis in order to be licensed and certified. So, don’t panic, learn as much as you can from your supervisor and remember you know a lot more than you think you do!
Gather as much information as you can on each child/client you work with
Approach the client in a holistic way. At Sandy’s first job working with teenagers in Harlem, New York, in the late 90’s, many children had parents that had a limited education and/or working multiple jobs with very little time, which made them unable to offer their child the academic support they need at home to really excel in school.
Therefore at times before therapy can begin and to truly be effective, in the morning you may have to provide breakfast for the children if they came to school hungry. So, make a brief assessment of any conditions that may affect their therapy session.
Some things may not change for example, the discomfort of not wearing a clean shirt or shoes that fit properly. But talking about these challenges and discoveries is often very much needed to begin to break the barrier to success.
Adopt a positive attitude
When it comes to this career path, you will need loads of patience, compassion, and self-motivation to succeed. You have to be able to offer support and nurture your clients, while firmly encouraging them to move forward to achieve their goals.
You will also need a positive attitude in order to encourage and motivate individuals not to give up. It is not easy to be vulnerable and children can be easily frustrated. Therefore it is up to you to make it fun and push enough for progress, but know the limits that may lead to the individual giving up.
Everyone wants to feel successful, so being that cheerleader ready to celebrate every small gain, especially when the progress may be slow, is key!
Always be prepared with the materials needed and have a backup plan
When you are first starting out as a new therapist, you may not have materials available to you, depending on the setting. For this reason, you need to build up your go-to materials to keep on hand, based on the population you are serving. Also, always bring more than you think you may need in your therapy session, in case you have to change something on the spot.
You may think a new activity will work, but you don’t know until you try. Being prepared is always best! Working with children and adults alike, you want to be ready for any surprises or glitches.
With experience, you will learn how to quickly adapt and modify as you go, but starting off, it is much better to have a supply of your own materials that you are already comfortable working with. Teachers pay teachers is a great resource for getting materials that you can print and that are more DIY, so you don’t need to buy everything which can tend to get pricey.
Be an advocate
With so many professionals involved in the care of your client, remember you are the expert in this field. You must be an advocate for your clients and speak up for what you think is right. Especially when you work with communication and clients that may not be able to speak for themselves.
If you feel that an individual needs extra support outside of your scope of practice, be sure to refer them. We are the eyes and ears for our clients, especially with children in early intervention.
Be creative, flexible and dynamic
You will need creativity when dealing with clients, continually seek ways to help your clients learn and grow. With children, try to discover their learning style and celebrate their individuality.
Sometimes these methods might be unconventional, but may work for that child. Always look for ways to get deeper insight into your clients’ needs that can be motivating for them to push forward.
Things can change daily when it comes to serving students as well as adults. Be so prepared to be flexible and adapt to any schedule or MOOD. Things can change from day to day so you gotta roll with the punches! Sometimes literally!
Establish great relationships / mentors
As in any profession, mentors are key. Starting with undergraduate school, focus on building relationships with everyone you can. That is your professors, clinical supervisors and colleagues. It is an extremely small profession, so you want to know as many people as possible.
Stay relevant by taking courses and being adept with new trends and techniques
In other to excel in any profession you need to stay relevant. Staying relevant means being adept with all trends and techniques in your field of work. Current trends for SLP’s are:
Telepractice – this involves receiving speech therapy services online through skype and other means. It allows children in areas in remote areas or with a limited number of to SLPs to get gain access to speech services.
Transgender communication – an elective service to focus on voice, verbal and nonverbal communication skills that applies to the way the individual identifies his/herself.
APPs – there are many great apps SLPs are more frequently in treatment, while some use as reinforcement at the end of the session.
Give your best always and keep your communication lines open
It is extremely important to keep a healthy relationship with everyone you work with and don’t burn any bridges. Speech Language Pathology is a small profession and word travels fast.
Don’t assume that people know what you do, demystify the process
One of the challenges you will face as an SLP is that people may not know who you are and what exactly you do. With few people entering the profession, it is no surprise that people would not know exactly what you do.
Teachers and families may hear from their children that all they do in speech therapy is play. In our field, play is therapy. Yes, we try to make therapy as fun as possible, so people may seem to think we are having too much fun!
But that should not discourage you from doing what you gotta do. As busy as you may be, take some time to educate people when they ask. In most settings, you may need to do an in service, distribute information about who you are and what you do.
Are you a professional or aspiring speech language pathologist? Or do you work in a rarely known industry? Do you have some key lessons to share?
A few days ago, I was reading a piece by one of my favorite bloggers and it started like this: “There will come a moment when all that matters to you is that you experience growth, not comfort. When that time comes, it will shake your world up. It will cause you to expand into areas of thought that you never thought possible”. As I read those first sentences, the words jumped out at me, and me stand up.
Those first few sentences resonated strongly with me because it took me back to how I felt at the beginning of this year. I have noticed many of us desire growth, but we never really actively work towards it. On the other hand, some of us actually start to work towards it, but we never grow all the way because we lack a few things. One of the things that I discovered going into this year, is that I had been lacking having a mentor, specifically for my career path.
The truth is many of us have people we look up to from a distance. We admire them, we even observe what they do and try to emulate them. Very often, I would hear people refer to such individuals as their mentors. Can we really regard them as mentors if there is no interaction with them at all?
Can you imagine if these same people you refer to as your mentors actually had conversations with you on a monthly basis or quarterly basis? Imagine you being able to reach out to them whenever you needed advice, insight or help navigating a difficult stage in your life, job, business, academics or ministry. When these kind of interactions begin to happen, that’s where active mentoring takes place.
A mentor is someone who takes the initiative to join you on your life’s journey and willingly helps you become all that you were born to be, so that you are able to do all that you were born to do. A mentor can also be described as someone who gives you a vital push at a certain stage in your life and without whom you may not have done so well.
Sounds like a real life superhero right? Believe the hype! A great mentor is an invaluable asset to anyone who wants to grow. But how does one approach and connect with a mentor especially when the person is far away or sometimes has no idea that you need them? I will share three steps I have learned to use this year.
Step 1: Identify your Mentor
Approaching the right mentor to come along on your journey is extremely critical. In very rare cases, will your mentor approach you offering ‘mentoring’ services. Usually, it’s the person who wants to be mentored who will need to take the initiative.
In this step, it is also very important that you have a good grasp on who you are, where you want to go, and most importantly, why you need a mentor. You can’t invite someone to help you on your journey if you have no idea where you want to go.
After you have answered these questions, you can now begin to look for someone you would want to have by your side on your journey – as a student, wife, parent, entrepreneur, working professional, creative etc.
Great mentors have a variety of characteristics but here are a few that you can be on the lookout for. A great mentor is someone:
Who has achieved what you hope to achieve, and could potentially provide you a platform to get started.
Who could give you advice or insight and help you see the bigger picture.
Who has values you would want to emulate.
That can help you navigate difficult terrain.
After identifying this person, get your hands on any material about the person, do your research so that you are able to establish if the person is a good match.
Step 2: Making the First Connection
You will need to reach out. This is usually where most of us get stuck because we don’t know what to say. You can reach out physically if the person is close by, but if the person is in another city or country, you will need to reach out virtually. Email is a great way to make a first connection, but when email fails, try social media. In addition, if you know someone who already knows your mentor, you can ask the person to make an introduction on your behalf.
When it comes to what you have to say, keep it simple. Start by telling the person a little about who you are. Next, tell the person where you are right now and where you are hoping to go. This is a great time to share your story. Follow up with why you need a mentor and end by telling the person why you want him/her to mentor you. Be honest. Be real. Mentors see through ‘fakeness’ and flattery.
Step 3: The Pursuit
This can be one of the hardest aspects of establishing an active mentoring relationship. But when you know how valuable a mentor can be to your success, you’ll take this last step seriously. The pursuit involves following up, especially when the mentor is far away, in a different city, country or time zone. You will need to be deliberate and intentional about communicating, asking questions, and giving your mentor feedback on what is happening with you, so they are able to give you the input you need for your next step.
Be serious about the mentoring relationship. Even when you aren’t having that physical interaction in person, endeavor to keep learning from them. If they have books, blogs, or other material- read them. If they are active on social media – participate with them on those platforms. If they are members of a particular organization, volunteer at that organization. Observe what they do, and always keep a book of questions.
Finally, this year I’ve learnt and seen first-hand how valuable having an active mentor is for one’s growth. Mentors are growth catalysts that many of us are not exploring. My dad said something few months ago, that I can’t forget: “When people don’t know what they can become, what they have become blinds them.”.
That’s what I love about mentors- they make sure we see much more than we possibly could by ourselves. So take the plunge today, find a mentor who is willing to come along on your journey. Happy Growing!
Do you have an inspiring mentorship story to share?
Graduating with a degree in Communications or Public Relations (PR) will indeed feel like a great accomplishment when you have your degree in hand. Many students, graduates or young professionals will agree that when it comes to a PR career, it really can be a tug of war scenario where you get pulled in different directions, until you finally find what works for you. There’s the option to work in agency or in-house, but without real knowledge of how it all works, how do you go about making the right decision?
If you are an aspiring PR girl, or in the early stages of your career, but still haven’t found your silver lining, here are some pearls of wisdom to help navigate your PR career.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Before you even begin the job hunting process write this down somewhere: “don’t take anything personally.” As with any creative role, you’ll be asked to come up with a whole bunch of out of the box ideas and work well in a team. This will often be epic campaigns, newsworthy story ideas, client management and working well under tight deadlines.
With this, can come a great deal of internal conflict. You have to learn to manage yourself well when your ideas aren’t received well, or a journalist belittles the relevance of your hard work on a press release.
In theory you might be thinking nothing can shake you, but until you are in this situation, you will find true meaning to these words. If you learn to brush it off quickly before it gets to you, you will develop a thick skin that will give you that Olivia Pope “gladiator status.”
There was a post on LinkedIn that every young professional and hiring manager/trainer should read:
If we want our juniors lawyers to be great then we need to see things for what they are. In terms of the somewhat unpredictable boss buffet, I was extremely lucky, I started out my legal career with the best possible boss a junior lawyer could have.
I was always supported, never scapegoated or scared to ask questions or admit mistakes. I was given responsibility, lots of client contact and lots of coffee. I was allowed to be me and do things my way (to a reasonable degree and supervised, of course!) The poor man had to put up with me working Beastie Boys references into my first ever firm presentation (admittedly this was for the firm only not for clients). I’ll stir fry you in my wok!
I once remember a client calling me and, after a brief discussion, demanding to be put through to my former boss. My boss took the call and said loudly (so that I could hear him) that everything I’d told the client was correct and he couldn’t have said it better himself.
We all know some lawyers who aren’t good at managing people. But this isn’t good enough because junior lawyers can’t grow into something great unless the senior lawyers around them are willing to support and mentor them, especially in their early years. Eyes on them because their eyes are very likely on you. -Eleni P (Lawyer)
Linking it all back to PR, this reflection from Eleni should serve as a reminder that when you place yourself in the right environment, you will flourish. But if you find yourself hard pressed for options, and in spaces that don’t allow you to grow, never stop searching; whether its through mentors, old college professors or anyone who knows and understands how the PR industry works.
The Learning Never Stops
Just because you have your shiny degree doesn’t make you an automatic PR expert. You have to keep pushing the boundaries and challenging even the very information that was fed down your throat by lecturers, stay hungry and don’t become complacent.
Lerato Chiyangwa, an Account Executive for Djembe Communications and contributing writer for various platforms says: never stop asking questions. If you want to show how valuable you are, consistency and practice are key.
Have a go- to person
Never underestimate the ability of having a go- to person who knows and understands the industry well. This might be a hard one because everyone is so time poor, so it might take a while to find someone who is willing to invest in you and serve as a guide from time to time.
In the meantime, reading articles such as this one is a great place to start. From here you start to unpack different elements of your career journey, take what works for you, leave what doesn’t and keep fighting the good fight.
These are just a few tips to be mindful of when stepping out into the real world and figuring things out for yourself early on in your PR career. Remember, there will be bitter failures along the way, but also success. Take the good with the bad. If PR is what sets your heart on fire every morning, you will find the right fit.
Do you have career tips for an aspiring PR student?
Basirat Razaq-Shuaib is a Chartered Accountant, Business Strategist and Social Entrepreneur. She started her career at Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Nigeria, as an Executive Trainee in Financial Control back in 2004 and, until recently, was the Deputy CFO at UBL UK- A UK retail bank.
She now runs her own firm – Actify Consulting Limited where she helps small businesses move from emerging to established, by developing their business and financial plans; and implementing business processes.
Basirat Razaq-Shuaib is also the founder of The Winford Centre for Children and Women- a charity supporting children with developmental challenges both in Nigeria and the UK. She shares on how to excel in a male dominated sector.
How were you able to cope in a male-dominated sector?
Firstly, I was assertive and very resolved about what I wanted to achieve by working in the first place. I was able to learn very early in my career to speak for myself, and speak to the ears that matter. This means you can’t afford to be intimidated by anything or anyone.
Secondly, I supported my assertiveness with technical competence and that helped me to stand out. You have to be so good at what you do that your name precedes you. You must be able to establish yourself as an authority in your chosen field; but without sound knowledge or a genuine interest in the business, this is going to be very difficult.
Thirdly, I ensured I was personable. It is important that people are able to connect with you emotionally and not just see you as a work machine with no feelings. You cannot do all the work by yourself, and without the support of others, you will end up being frustrated. Lastly, I had female mentors at work. These are people who have walked the path before me and were positioned to guide me on my own journey.
What do you think young women are doing wrong in this area?
There are three things I see happening a lot:
The first one is that young ladies just starting out tend to not have a definite goal, and therefore do not have a strategy. This makes it difficult to position yourself rightly so that your achievements can be noticed.
The second one is underestimating the power of standing together with other women especially those who are higher up on the career ladder.
The last one is not adding value to your life outside of the workplace.
What are your tips for them?
Have a plan- a game plan, a strategic plan, whatever name you choose to give it, but have a plan- a realistic one. Never take your eyes off the ball. When you have a plan for your life and career, it will be easier to spot opportunities and take advantage of them. I always say to people, “You can’t get where you are going if you don’t know where you are going”.
Be confident in yourself and in your abilities. Learn to speak clearly and dress appropriately. Your look also matters.
Learn from other women who are senior to you. Women pull other women up.
Don’t expect things to be handed to you on a platter of gold because you are a woman- NO. You will have to go and claim your spot in the limelight.
Add value to yourself at all times. Always remember that your technical competence alone will not take you to the top. As you start to rise, your social and leadership skills will become important factors as well.
What has been your most significant career achievement?
My most significant achievement would be Heading and Managing an entire finance department in a UK bank successfully just 6 years into my career. The regulations are a lot stiffer in the UK and it was a huge responsibility. Besides, there were only a couple of us (women) holding senior positions.
A lot of focus seems to be on entrepreneurs these days. What would you advise a confused career woman?
Don’t just join the bandwagon. First, know where your destination in life is and then assess your current journey. If where you are now is not on the way to where you ultimately want to be in life, then you don’t have any business being where you are now.
There is a price to pay for everything in life, success inclusive, and when your current journey is not in sync with your final destination, you will never be able to justify the price you are paying. Remember that not everyone is going to be an entrepreneur and being an entrepreneur is not just a walk in the park.
What is your tip to live a balanced life as women in the workplace?
You must always remember that if you pass away today, the business will run very well without you, so it is not a do or die affair. However, to ensure that you live as close to a balanced life as possible, you need to:
1. Prioritise the things that matter to you in life and assign your time accordingly. Family, friends, spirituality, health etc. are areas of our life that should not be neglected. 2. Be disciplined with your time. Plan your time and practice the art of sticking to your time allocation. It is not easy but with practice, it gets better. 3. Delegate tasks that are not critical for you to do by yourself.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as the person who overhauled the provisions for children with special needs in Nigeria. I think this is an area that is currently not receiving the right level of attention and I would love to change that story.
Do you have any career tips for working in a male- dominated field?
Ever wondered why some people land job interviews and others don’t ? While it is true that the company might not be hiring, it could also be that you did a poor job in catching their attention. How? I am glad you asked…The answer lies in your cover letter.
I used to dread writing cover letters until I understood what it was all about and how to go about it. I remember applying for jobs that required no cover letter. Phew! It saved me a lot of stress. But then I figured out writing a compelling cover letter goes a long way.
I might not be the best at drafting one, but I can say that “practice actually makes perfect”. There are different types of cover letters – application letter, referral cover letter, letter of interest, networking letter and value proposition letter. No matter the type, you need to know how to go about it.
For all those struggling to get past the first sentence in your cover letter, or trying to figure out how to properly structure it, you will find some tips below on how to get it done.
Do your homework
How much do you know about the company? Information can easily be found on the company’s newsletter or website. You can also look up the company and its employees on LinkedIn. Find out about the recruiter or hiring manager; know about the position you are applying for. By doing so you figure out what the company needs and know how to be of help.
Make a great first impression!
This is an opportunity to sell yourself; to distinguish yourself from other applicants, so you should make it count. You want to catch the reader’s attention; make him/her have a lasting impression of you, so make sure you do it right.
Keep it short, simple and clear
Don’t talk about things that are of no importance. Go straight to why you are applying for the job; throwing light on your key strengths, qualifications and what you have to offer. There is no need to write your life story in your cover letter; 3- 4 paragraphs is ideal.
Use simple and clear language. This isn’t the time to wow the recruiter or hiring manager with your superb vocabulary or to prove that you excelled in your English classes. Unless of course, you’re applying for a job as an English tutor or something in line with that. Keep your language simple.
Address your cover letter correctly
This can be quite daunting especially when you don’t have a name or are clueless about the gender. Be sure to search online for the recruiter’s name and gender first. However, if all attempts prove futile, use a generic greeting or none at all.
Examples of general cover letter salutations include Dear Hiring Manager, Dear Sir/Madam and Dear Human Resources Director. In cases where you have a name but are still uncertain about the gender, use the first and last name of the person without any title which might indicate gender.
In addition, pay close attention to the title of the person – be sure you know when to use Dr, Mr or Ms.
Pay attention to grammar
In a bid to to complete the cover letter , you might fail to pay attention to your grammar. Take time to proofread before sending it. Anyone can make a mistake, but you don’t want to come across as careless and sloppy to the recruiting manager. Check out for typo, spelling and grammar mistakes. This is your one shot to impress the human resource manager. Don’t mess it up with endless grammar mistakes.
Be mindful of your closing
Ensure that you have a great start and a great ending end. Pay attention to how you wrap up your cover letter. End by stating how your qualification will help the company. You can also state that you look forward to having a meeting with them.
A bonus tip! Relax, take a deep breath and write.
Do you have any tips for writing winning cover letter?
There is nothing like excelling at a job you love! This is the job you have always dreamed of, and this is a career which allows you to fulfill your purpose- Monday to Friday 9 to 5.
There is just one problem, you feel undervalued, underappreciated and no one seems to notice how you go above and beyond for this company. You have been at this organisation for a number of years and you have worked your way up the ranks, however, your salary has not had the upliftment you feel you deserve.
Well it’s high time you demand your value be addressed accordingly. Here’s a four-step process to help you get that get the raise you rightly deserve.
Conduct thorough research
Find out what other people in a similar role are earning. What is the current going rate in the market? Whilst you are it, find out what other people on a similar level to you in the company are also earning.
You want to know what to ask for when you go in guns blazing. By doing your research, be sure to also find out what the role entails for other people at other organisations. The same role can be different at two different organisations, others might do more or less.
I recall during my legal days. As I was working as a Paralegal, I met other Paralegals from other firms who were earning more than me. Now as they told me of their higher earning power I was infuriated, but it turns out their roles demanded more of them than mine did.
Your research should expand to you as a person as well. What have you been doing that entitles you to a pay rise. If you have been turning up late, missing days, taking extended long breaks and not performing well, perhaps you need to go back to the drawing board and think about why the company should not deduct your pay instead.
Napoleon Hill said, going the extra mile, “tends to make one indispensable, in many different human relationships and it therefore enables him to command more than average compensation for personal services.”.
Initiate the conversation
Schedule a meeting with the person at your company who has the authority to give you a raise ,or bring it up during one of your reviews. Put the issue out there/ on the table. Don’t be aggressive and don’t be emotional in your address. You’ve done your research, come armed with facts and data.
Remember, you are worth something to them and if they don’t see that, that is their loss. You are in control of this. Sometimes the company will not think about giving you a raise until you mention it. If you don’t ask don’t expect to receive.
Stand firm in your worth
If you have asked for a pay rise, be brave enough to stand up for yourself and tell the company what you think you are worth. If they fail to give you a raise, be brave enough to exude your worth, politely remind them elsewhere this is what they are offering, and you have no issues going elsewhere if need be.
I would advise having a plan, if you decide to go down this route, just in case they call your bluff. This should not be too much of an issue. The only issue is as human beings we get complacent. I have worked in firms where some of my colleagues had been there for years, not earning much because they were comfortable at their work place.
You may not be getting the pay rise you deserve because you are unwilling to explore. Have you considered moving to another city or even out of the country?
Whatever the outcome of your pay rise meeting is, execute the results. If a pay rise has been agreed on continue working hard and go the extra mile. If one has not been agreed on and you still feel you deserve one, figure out your next step. Are the reasons for the pay rise being refused justified? i.e let’s review it in three months. Are you willing to wait around or are you ready to make a jump into the next role?
You need to see the value in you before you expect anyone to. As human beings, we are sometimes oblivious to our faults. Evaluate yourself and be honest, would you give yourself a pay rise. If so get to working on it and show them why you deserve one.