So, how do you strike a balance between assertiveness and a perception that's far less savoury? It depends on where you work, cautions Powell-Meeks. "Learn the corporate culture. Let that guide how you express yourself."
Still, be yourself. Some women, says Powell-Meeks, need to be told, "'Don't minimize your role. . . .' They have a lot to say after the meeting is over." Don't be afraid to express your opinion when it matters. Hughes adds, "I speak up in meetings, offering my ideas and opinions. I guess the secret there is to be straightforward and direct. A long time ago, I used to think it was important to 'follow the company line,' no matter what. I learned over time, however, that it's better — and I get attention — if I just relax and be who I am and say what I think."
Know your strengths, and use them to your advantage. "Through understanding my own strengths, weaknesses, and as important preferences, I have been able to optimize them in seeking opportunities," says Austin. "For example, I prefer roles combining management, customer-service focus, ongoing learning and problem-solving."
Don't limit yourself. "I've missed some opportunities in the past when I hesitated to reach beyond my comfort zone or waited for others to provide them for me," says Austin. "You have to believe in yourself, define what your goals are, then develop the relationships and opportunities for realizing them."
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