7 FAQs About Thriving In The Workplace—Answered

Pooja Maheshwary , 18 Sep 2020
Indian Business Women By Stuart Jenner | www.shutterstock.com
Indian Business Women By Stuart Jenner | www.shutterstock.com

This September 18, for the first time, is being recognised as International Equal Pay Day. Unequal pay is a situation where women are paid less than men for doing the same work. Did you know that in India, women earn 19% less than men for the same work? Or that worldwide, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes? There are a lot of reasons for this gender pay gap, but one of the key reasons is that women often have trouble advancing in the workplace.

To enable a space where we can learn to thrive and grow in our careers, we invited Sonal Agrawal, Managing Partner at Accord India, to host an Ask Me Anything session for Malini’s Girl Tribe. Accord India is a leadership search and consulting firm.

Sonal addressed questions on negotiating a raise, increasing visibility at work, acing performance reviews, crafting an elevator pitch, learning to ‘lean in’, setting yourself up for a promotion, improving your CV to make it stand out, ways to effectively self-advocate, networking, how to leave gracefully, navigating your career within a company, and more.

Q. I find it hard to put my foot down and be assertive with colleagues about tasks that they’re equally responsible for but manage to put the ball in my court to complete. But when I think in retrospect, I’ve just relieved someone of a responsibility that was theirs too. Is that something I should change?

You seem to enjoy stretching, learning and getting things done, and this is usually noticed and rewarded. However, you should make sure that others don’t take undue advantage and dump work on you. Say no or step back firmly when it’s impacting your own core job—that usually comes first.

More importantly, do you think that are others picking up credit when you are picking up their slack? I would look for ways to make your contribution more visible to your manager. Be sure to mention your efforts in your performance reviews or even in a monthly note to your manager.

Smiling female colleagues by GaudiLabs | Source: Shutterstock
Smiling female colleagues by GaudiLabs | Source: Shutterstock

Q. Are there any specific points one must address in an annual review meeting with their employer?

Yes. Prepare! Review your key responsibility areas (KRAs) for the period under review and gather your thoughts about your achievements against each KRA. Prepare notes or a document to help you cover everything.

Remember, managers are busy, they may forget things that happened a while ago. So do list everything! Own what have achieved and promote it. If you have gone above and beyond, list it. Show your growth over the start of the review period. Have the numbers at your fingertips, as well as the other facts! Be honest and do not claim credit for what you didn’t do. Do call out anyone who has supported or helped you–a colleague, an assistant, etc. It will show you as a team player and not a credit-hog.

If you have fallen short in some areas, explain how you have learned from these and improved your game. Ask for roles that you want and ask for feedback–for example, ‘What else do I need to do to get XYZ role or responsibility?

Do your homework about compensation, rewards and bonus and promotion policies upfront. If you feel you are being paid less than a colleague who has the same output, try and figure out why–or call it out, respectfully but firmly.
Indian business woman speaking to colleague or HR during job interview by fizkes | www.shutterstock.com
Indian business woman speaking to colleague or HR during job interview by fizkes | www.shutterstock.com

Q. What does a perfect elevator pitch include? And what should one avoid?

This has no one right answer. By definition, an elevator pitch is a short, snappy professional and personalised pitch that you could hypothetically make to a stranger or target while riding in the lift. Think through what you want to achieve, and pick your key message(s) accordingly, sort of like picking your #hashtags. For example, some of my hashtags could be #CXOexecutivesearch, #leadershipconsulting, #diversity and #globalboardmember #privateequity and #boards. String these together to form a meaningful paragraph or a few lines, rehearse this till you can say it in your sleep! Ask a friend for feedback. Don’t crowd the message with too many ideas. Limit the number of hashtags. And keep it professional. You could also include a call to action or a mission message. For example, “I am looking for…” or “I aim to become…”

Business people discussing over digital tablet in a foyer with elevator by vectorfusionart | www.shutterstock.com
Business people discussing over a digital tablet in a foyer with elevator by vectorfusionart | www.shutterstock.com

Q. How do I explain gaps on my CV?

I would never advise faking information. Recruiters are trained to spot gaps, and most employers will run verifications in any case. My advice would be to tackle the gap with honesty. If the gap is of a couple of months, I wouldn’t explain it. If it’s a couple of years, for example, I would state the actual reason. For example, I was focussed on the kids or I was dealing with health issues in the family. Keep it brief and do be prepared to back it up or provide details, if asked.

Woman working on a laptop sitting on the bed in the house. By Yuganov Konstantin | www.shutterstock.com
Woman working on a laptop sitting on the bed in the house. By Yuganov Konstantin | www.shutterstock.com

Q. How can one look for good part-time opportunities?

Think through and define what you bring to the table–for example, social marketing skills. And also define the hours you’re available. Try and frame your activity in terms of outcomes–for example, XX posts per day. To find a gig, put it out there. Let your network–friends, family, professional contacts know that you are available and looking. Reach out to target companies. Look at the classified ads. There are also interim or gig jobs websites–search and register. Get active on Linkedin–use the ‘Open to Work’ option in Settings.

Q. How do I start networking?

First, figure out what your objective is– for example, getting a job or learning new skills, and identify who you would like to network with. Then ask yourself what YOU bring to the table. Why would someone be interested in networking with you, what’s the quid pro quo (there isn’t always one). Since all interactions are online for now, join groups on Facebook, Linkedin, etc. and follow relevant people. Like and make a thoughtful comment on posts–share insights or comments that add to the conversation. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, but respect their space if they don’t respond–don’t be a stalker!

Depending on your interests and the industry, there are groups for almost any interest on Linkedin and Facebook, and a bunch of general management ones such as HBS, others on careers, etc. Try a general search on these platforms using your keywords. If you are in the food industry, for instance, you could search by Food Industry Professionals/ Chefs / F&B etc.

Q. How do I stand firm with my asks when I know that I have a strong case? And do you have any tips to self-advocate better as I find it hard to talk about myself?

When you find it hard to self-advocate–and many of us do–start with being armed with data. For example, if you feel you deserve a raise, get hard data around what the market practices are for your role and level of output. Being armed with facts will help you have data-driven, professional conversations, which is always more effective.

And use social media (if appropriate) to talk about achievements. Consider asking for a regular review with your manager, and prepare a short PPT for this, so you don’t leave anything out. Put your hand up for difficult projects. Ask for feedback and put your aspirations out there!

Colleagues Drinking Coffee (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)
Colleagues Drinking Coffee (Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)

Happy International Equal Pay Day, girls! Do you think Equal Pay matters? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Join Malini’s Girl Tribe on Facebook to be a part of more such conversations!

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