If you’ve ever dreamed of changing careers, you’re certainly not alone. (I myself have made the switch a time or four.) Maybe you are wondering what your next career step should be, or thinking about branching into a new field, and it can be daunting. With the average person moving between 5-7 careers during a lifetime, we talk to three inspiring women for whom professional reinvention involves image, passion and determination.
After 30 years of working in the corporate sector, Soraya Raju decided she needed a career that expressed her personality. So she started Strategic Style. Soraya says,“ I decided I wanted to help men and women to navigate through the maze of complexities with my own experience.” She found her passion and because she is self-employed seeks business networks such as Leaders In Heels, and associations, such as AICI, that guide and inspire her in her business endeavours.
For Susanne Taylor, her career change was extreme. She owned a Commercial Fit Out/Project Management firm when she decided her passion was image. Her determination gave her the courage to start her business in early 2014, called Biddy & Jean. Susanne says her challenges are “juggling all roles in the business myself. Sales, marketing, book keeping, administration, social media etc. Often I will think of a great new idea and want to implement it straight away, however this can lead to feeling overwhelmed, as it becomes another thing on my list to implement. I am very hard on myself and sometimes expect miracles!” She is not alone.
There are also many women who choose not to do a total career change, but do a side shift instead. Claire Bigelow from Rockwell Creative is one of those women. Claire has been in the education and image industry for more than 20 years. Her passion is to “determine the right combination of aesthetic solutions to complement [women’s] appearance and express their individuality.” Yet, she has the challenge of having a fulltime job and establishing her business. Claire recognises that “juggling work, children and starting a business has its challenges–but even more so, deciding which exciting project to dive into first”.
All three entrepreneurs have combined image, passion and determination to suit their lifestyle and needs. All three women are passionate about making their mark in business. Like most women they face challenges and obstacles that at times it can be disheartening. When asked for tips to help other women make their mark in the business world they stated:
Soraya’s tips:There is no such thing as perfection – just aim to do your best.
- Dress the part – Businesswomen need to portray the right image to create that first impression. Always check the dress code of the company you work for or your customers you are serving and dress accordingly.
- ‘Phony syndrome’ – Women tend to doubt their skills and live in fear in case they are found out they are not good enough. Be confident because you wouldn’t be there in the first place if you were not good at what you do and offer.
- Delegation – Women are naturally nurturing, however they tend to be perfectionists and hesitate to delegate. Avoid being a control freak. There is no such thing as perfection – just aim to do your best.
Susanne’s tips:Look for opportunities to learn a new skill and share knowledge.
- Communication – is paramount. Always show courtesy and be open in your dialogue with others. Speak clearly and concisely. Be polite in written and verbal communication. Get to know your peers, take an interest in them. What are they really like? You may share similar interests, which can help build rapport.
- Leadership – Lead by example, demonstrate respect for your colleagues, clients and yourself. Listen to others requirements and offer solutions. Be willing to go the extra mile, encourage, support and help peers. Set goals and treat yourself and/or team when achieved. Look for opportunities to learn a new skill and share knowledge. Take calculated risks and challenge yourself and your colleagues. “ Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”.
- Body Language – Maintain eye contact when engaging in conversation. Keep an open stance and pleasant manner. Listen carefully and acknowledge others comments. Be authentic and true to yourself.
Claire’s tips:The visual clues upon first meeting determine whether someone is likely to engage with you
- Be congruent and consistent – in your image, language, message and manner. People will feel comfortable that you are exactly what they see. This builds trust, rapport, respect, and encourages supportive relationships – essential for good, sustainable business.
- Use colour to your advantage – colour psychology is so powerful. Subtle cues with colour can not only enhance and flatter your appearance, but also influence the reception you get from people you do business with. Think strategically about what you want to achieve as a result of the interaction, and use colour to support your message.
- Be remarkable and memorable – include elements into your style to help you stand out from the crowd and add interest to your look. People listen to others they find interesting. The visual clues upon first meeting determine whether someone is likely to engage with you – to hear your message. Supporting your business and brand by using with visual cues that link back to your brand such as brand colours, can also help you to stand out and your interaction memorable. Using interesting elements in your outfit such as statement jewellery, scarves or other accessories might also become a talking point for networking events.
What is evident in the business world is that your image is your brand and the brand of the business you own or represent. It is important that you are in sync so that you are projected as credible, likeable and authentic.
You may have reached a point in your working life when you need a new challenge, or you may be thinking about a completely new career direction. It can be unnerving and frightening but at the same time exciting. Whichever direction you take, you need passion and determination to succeed.
Cosimina Nesci is a professional & personal brand specialist who is passionate about helping others realise their potential as a professional. She is on the board of the Association of image Consultants International (Sydney Chapter) in the marketing role, and her goal is to market the women who work as image consultants across Sydney. She has a broad expertise in design fundamentals – an expertise that now enriches her work as an image consultant and brand expert.
Find out more about her services here.
Featured image: Paxson Woelber