Why is it that sometimes many of us hold ourselves back from going for that fantastic job, for negotiating a proper salary or speaking up?

There is still truth in the belief that men and women behave differently in the workplace and sometimes to our disadvantage. Here are a few tips we can use and still be authentic to ourselves as we forge our brilliant careers.

Let’s look at three common areas.

Going for that amazing job

Have you ever said something like this to yourself, ‘This is a great job description and would be a wonderful step up for me, but what if I start the job and I am ‘found out?’ Maybe I shouldn’t apply for that job’.

As a career coach, I see time and again women looking at job descriptions and focusing on the 20% of the job that they can’t do, or as I reframe it, haven’t yet learned! Frequently a man will look at a job description and put in an application if he thinks he can do 50% of the job. But many women will agonise over the bit they can’t and count themselves out, denying employers the right to make up their own mind as to whether this woman would be perfect for this role and their organisation.


If you can do 50% of the job description and you are excited by the opportunity, put in your application. Sit down with a trusted friend, mentor or coach and look objectively at the job description requirements and competencies and brainstorm examples of where you have got experience of that competency at work. If you can’t think of recent examples, go back to older work ones. If none of these apply, you may have examples in your life outside of work. And if you still can’t come up with anything, find a LinkedIn Learning video, read a book, research an article on the topic and think through how you would approach it or learn it.

Employers use job descriptions like wish lists. They are practical enough to know that hardly anyone will have 100% of what they are asking for and are open to whoever shows up as shaping the role to their strengths and the true needs of the organisations. So have faith in yourself. You know much more than you think you know. Hold your head up and go for it!

Negotiating a proper salary

Only last week, a female marketing client confessed that she had never negotiated a job offer in her life and was in her 40s. Why not? Because she was just relieved to have been offered the job and didn’t want to ‘rock the boat’.

I shared with her the story of another client, this time an American who had applied for a role in an investment bank, who had been offered £75k. She had an inkling that this was below the market rate, so she set about asking that very un-British of questions with her female friends, ‘do you mind me asking what you are paid?’ They were earning between £100k and 120k. She went back to the employer and clearly and warmly stated that she was looking for between £100 and 120k and got something in the middle. Great result!

Is your fear of rocking the boat or the embarrassment of talking money holding you back?


  • Find out the market rate. If you have friends who do a similar job, ask them if they’d be willing to share with you what they earn and to help you practice your opening line with the recruiter or HR so that you can speak your expectations clearly and professionally. Be prepared to say things like, ‘I understand that you may need to go back to X to discuss. That’s fine. Come back to me when you can’. You can also research market rates through LinkedIn premium, salary checker websites and pulling off 5-10 similar job descriptions for the same level of seniority, location and sector and see what the range is.
  • Decide in advance your ‘walk away point’ but ask for a little more than what you feel personally comfortable asking for, and let them show you how much they really do want you to join them.

It’s a great confidence booster when you achieve a sizable jump up in salary – and as long as you keep within the market rate, you can’t truly upset your future employers. They expect you to negotiate and to test them a little!

Speaking up in meetings with senior people

You’re in a meeting you’ve not been in before, and there are unfamiliar faces in the room. Maybe you are questioning your right to even be in that meeting,

Again, this situation taps into our fears of saying the wrong thing and having others ignore or even laugh at us. We assume that because everyone else seems so confident in their opinions that they must – and do – know more than you but again, test your assumptions.


  • Know that if you were invited to that meeting, you have a right to be in it.
  • You have a unique perspective that no one else in that room will have by virtue of the fact that only you have had the exact upbringing, education and life and work experiences that you have. If your voice isn’t heard, the others will miss an important perspective, and it is practically your duty to say what you are noticing that others are not!
  • Did you have a schooling or upbringing that welcomed you to share your points of view and experienced them being acknowledged? Some of us were told to be quiet, to be seen but not heard. Learn to take space if you need to by widening your elbows at the table or slowly standing up. Stay in your dignity.
  • Above all, practice eliminating the ‘qualifiers’ in your everyday speech. You know the kind of thing – ‘I’m no expert in this but’ – which undermines you. Don’t use the word ‘just’ or ‘actually’ or ‘does that make sense?’ as these all weaken your message.

This article was written as a guest post for the recruiter Noreia Group which specialises in working with start ups especially in tech. To learn more about Noreia go to https://noreiagroup.com/about-us/  

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