One of the most important assets to any ad agency is a confident, strategic and steadfast individual to head up their client team. Kylie Blatsis is a Senior Account Director with proven experience on Australia’s largest accounts including GlaxoSmithKline, Priceline, Myer and STIHL. And while business is what stakeholders see on the surface, behind Kylie’s graceful professionalism is the unparalleled solidarity with which she supports her team (not to mention a love of glitter, leopard print and every Arctic Monkeys song ever written).
Today, Kylie extends that support to Mavens’ readers, sharing hard won tips on how to be fabulously confident, even in the most daunting professional scenarios.
Scenario #1: being embarrassingly late
This is my worst nightmare so I always plan ahead! Assume traffic will be horrible and it’ll be hard to get a parking spot.
Dorky or not, I typically get to meetings at least 20 minutes early as it’s handy having a bit of extra time to compose myself and read over my notes.
However if it can’t be avoided, call a colleague as soon as you realise you’ll be late so they can make apologies on your behalf and get things underway, rather than waiting for you to arrive.
When you do arrive, don’t rush in flustered and breathless. Take a moment to get it together and enter with the least amount of fuss. Don’t overdo the excuses. Greet, apologise and get straight into it. And don’t make a habit of it.
Scenario #2: asking for a raise
Sadly, this is not something women are taught growing up. I wish this was something that they spent time covering off at university, as it would have helped me do a better job of being my own cheerleader early on.
Firstly, do your research and know what the going rate is for the role. And be realistic. If you’re new to a role or new to an industry, don’t expect significant pay increases after 6-12 months.
If your employer or manager doesn’t set KPIs, either request that they do or draft them yourself.
Create a record (i.e Google Doc) and have it open on your computer at all times so that whenever you accomplish something meaningful or overcome an obstacle, you make a note of it then and there. Trying to remember things 3 to 6 months down the track is almost impossible, so my advice is stay on top of it.
When you start a role, don’t be afraid to ask what the measures of success are and how (and how often) you’ll be evaluated against them. This can be a much better way to broach the topic, instead of saying ‘When will I get a raise?’
Lastly, be prepared. When going in for performance discussions, don’t just turn up expecting your manager to do all the talking. Take them through a succinct summary of how you think you’re doing (with examples). Demonstrate critical thinking, too. It’s good to acknowledge where you’re still needing more development so your manager can spend time helping to support you.
Scenario #3: starting a new job
I say this a lot but it’s true – prepare, prepare, prepare!
Think about what you want to get out of your first day, week and month. Draft questions on things you think will set you up for success.
Some employers develop amazing induction packs and have your first day beautifully mapped out. That’s not always the case. I’ve had some doozies (!), so having questions prepared at least gives you somewhere to start.
And remember, it’s the small things. I like buying a new Moleskin notepad and colourful pens to take with me on the first day. It also gives your new employer an insight into your personality (glitter all the way for me!).
Some employees do a great job of introducing you to everyone and setting up induction discussions. If they don’t do this, simply make it happen yourself! It will show your initiative, eagerness to learn and confidence to take the reins.
Ideally, try and have at least a week off between jobs. You always feel much more refreshed.
Scenario #4: getting a new manager
When I sit down with them for the first time I like to come prepared with a one page summary that not only brings my experience but my personality to life. Don’t think of it as a CV as such, but more of a cheat sheet for your new manager, so they know what parts of your role you’re confident in, where you need more development/support and so they have an insight into who you are as a person as this helps build rapport quickly (i.e. Arctic Monkeys and Lady Gaga super fan, lover of all things leopard print etc).
Scenario #5: making mistakes
It happens and it’s ok. Senior people make mistakes more often than you’d think!
Firstly, own it and don’t cover it up. You’ll always get caught out and it’s so much worse. Take responsibility for it and people will respect that and go easier on you.
And get on the front foot early. Much easier to minimise the damage!
Lastly, don’t labour on it. Learn and move on.
Scenario #6: dealing with difficult clients
With any client, it’s important to establish rapport as early as possible so they see you as a person, not just a supplier. As much as you might dread it, try and get as much face time with them as possible. That said, don’t go overboard trying to build personal rapport with them if they’re not interested in knowing how you spent your weekend. Being an efficient operator is more than enough. This means dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s, and being organised, factual and responsive.
When they make an error, don’t make a big song and dance out of it.
Pick up the phone and get on the front foot when you need to. Email is the last resort if you can’t get onto them.
Scenario #7: being the bearer of bad news
Similar to the question above, get on the front foot as quickly as possible.
Don’t break the bad news via email. It’s tempting as you’re not on the receiving end of someone’s initial reaction but it’s always so much better to do it in person or call them. They’ll respect you not hiding behind a computer and for taking responsibility. But remember! Before you make that call, have all your ducks in a row (a way to explain the situation and a solution that’s already in play that will minimise the fall out).
More often than not, it’s never as bad as you think it’ll be.
Scenario #8: supporting upset colleagues
Read the room. If the person wants to talk, they will. If they don’t, give them some space.
If you’re in a position to lessen their load, offer to help until they’re up to it.
Don’t be afraid to escalate to someone more senior if you’re really worried about them.
And if a colleague is being bullied, remember it might not be something others can see. Bullying can be insidious. Be attune to the subtle things before they turn into bigger things. Is a colleague getting left out of certain meetings or lunches? Are they having one thing said to their face but another thing put in writing? Anyone being cc’d who wouldn’t normally be?
Trust your instincts and keep an eye on it, and be sure to put anything important in writing. And call people out if they’re treating others unfairly. Try and remove emotion from the equation and convey your points calmly and rationally.
Scenario #9: interviewing for a job
When you’re applying for a new role, remember you’re interviewing the employeer just as much as they’re interviewing you! Ask them for examples that demonstrate their culture and how they’re actively contributing to having women in leadership positions. If the person interviewing you is to be your manager, do they seem like the kind of person you would mesh and that you could learn from? Finding a role that serves your needs and values is key to being true to yourself.
And if you’re unhappy in your role but aren’t quite ready to make a move, set yourself a firm date to re-evaluate. If nothing’s changed, you need to make a change instead of waiting for change to happen to you.