How to know your worth – and assert it at work

By Michelle de Klerk, March 2018

There things that we can do to determine and assert our worth in the workplace CREDIT: MIKE KEMP /GETTY

Last year was a momentous for gender equality: from a string of countries in the Caribbean and Latin American making historic moves to end child marriage to the rise of the #MeToo movement; Saudi women achieving the legal right to drive.

In the UK, we saw legislation which created a statutory obligation for companies with 250 employees or more to report on their gender pay gap, which will happen by April 4, 2018 – and every year after that.

The results are likely to be shocking, with some predicting a 100 per cent disparity in City bonuses and change will have to come at an institutional level. But with just three weeks to go until the deadline, there are things that we, as individuals, can do to determine and assert our worth in the workplace and beyond…

1. It starts with ‘Self’
With just about everything in life, it all starts with us. Just like it is our responsibility to own and exercise the power that already exists within us, we too have a duty to nurture our self-awareness, acceptance, self-esteem and worth. Forget being ’empowered’ – no one gives us power. It exists within us, we just need to find ways to unearth, harness and exercise it.

This, rather than a weekly manicure or monthly massage, is the true essence of self-care. Self-awareness is, arguably, one of the single most important factors as you progress through the ranks of an organisation, or grow your own business. The downside is that this same awareness feeds that ever-hungry critical inner voice – the one that can leave us speechless at the boardroom table.

2. Acceptance
There is infinite power in accepting that we cannot be good at everything . Besides the world would be a rather boring place if we were all perfect.

Accepting your weaknesses and celebrating your strengths are integral to career and business success. Our weaknesses are the things that make us human and there is a huge amount of freedom that comes from letting go of the guilt we all carry around about not being good enough. The same goes for feeling the pressure to “fix” our flaws or turn them intro strengths.

Try being kinder to yourself and thinking objectively about the elements of your work you avoid doing or enjoy less and why. Ask yourself if you’re really bad at something or if there is something about it that frightens you or makes you feel anxious. Often fear can masquerade as weakness and being brave enough to acknowledge that can be a liberating move toward facing fear.

Most importantly being aware of your weakness helps you to know where you should delegate, freeing you up to focus on the things you do best, allowing you to shine, and feeding your self-esteem in the process. The best teams are made up of people who bring different strengths to the table.

3. Catalogue your wins
Look back over your positive experiences, record your successes and build a self-esteem arsenal that is unique to you. When you are feeling low, look to your wins and use them to fuel your resilience.

Literally keep a running list, or create a visual board, of your careers wins — big and small, both qualitative or quantitative. This will help you to form a bigger picture of where you bring value and help you outline your USPs. It may be that you brought in a big client deal, volunteered a new idea, handled an internal issue with empathy or simplified a process which saved you and your company both time and money. No matter how small, write it down.

So often we get wrapped up in day to day life that we lose touch with how much we have actually achieved. Or a ‘bad day’ can overshadow things we’ve done well . Keeping a work diary can also be a really valuable tool in planning for your work future by giving you an overview of where you consistently excel and which kinds of work you’d like to do more or less of in your next role.

4. Define the value you bring
Knowing what you offer is an essential tool for any work negotiation. Being assured of how important your skill set is, or how unique your offering gives you the edge.

Think about how your positive track record translates for the party you are negotiating with, or pitching to, and make sure you have clear, measurable outcomes to back it up.

Rebecca Morley, a UK-based business coach, says that all too often we decide our worth based on how we compare to other people, but our real value is usually in what makes us unique. “Work out what that is and spend time working out who that unique ability is valuable to and the sky’s the limit,” she says.

5. Ask for feedback
We tend to expect that if we do a good job, someone will notice. But this is a gamble, so make a point of asking for direct, constructive feedback and step up to take credit when it’s due. Self-esteem is how you see yourself, whereas self-worth is more about how you see yourself in relation to others.

When asking for feedback start with your closest network, namely your team, your direct managers, friends and family. Find out who has the knowledge and expertise in the area that you are interested in and ask them to be a sounding board for your progress and ideas or to give you honest feedback on how you are coming across in relation to how you want to be seen.

Collecting and using feedback and advice is an invaluable personal development tool and while it may make you feel anxious at first, you can get better at asking for it and taking it on board.

Ask a mix of yes/no questions and open ended questions. When you’re receiving feedback listen attentively and graciously, without getting defensive, and write notes so that you can refer back to specific points. Follow up afterwards and give the feedback giver an update on the progress you’ve made further down the line. This shows commitment and that you valued the time they made available to you.

6. Articulate your purpose
We often underestimate how much the reward we want from our work is linked to our purpose, rather than to hard cash. Its more about being in a position to align what you love doing with what you’re good at, in order to create impact.

So how do we make sure that our worth is aligned with our purpose?

Linzi Boyd, serial entrepreneur and author of Brand Famous, encourages us to develop a ’10 Second purpose pitch’ by asking yourself:

  • How do I want to be seen?
  • What do I want to be known for?
  • How does this link in with my purpose?

Then, determine a mantra to steer you in the direction you want to go in. It will go something like: ‘I want to be seen as….’ Or ‘I want to be known for….’

Your purpose pitch will help keep you on track and give you the confidence to assert your worth. Recite it as often as you can – in front of the mirror every morning, in the car, on the train or to any member of your inner circle, until it becomes a part of your business DNA.

Julia Elliott Brown, founder of Enter the Area, who specialises in helping women-led business raise finance says: “Investors are buying into you as much as your business potential. Your confidence, passion, professionalism and integrity will have a massive impact on value of your business.”

7. Pay it forward
They say there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women. And a report by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) report says: “The more senior the level of management, the rarer women become: so supporting women’s skills and career progression is key.”

It asserts that employers need to ensure women participate in leadership development schemes; while dedicated programmes, networks and innovative return-to- work schemes are also supporting career mobility.

So if you’re a women (or man) in a management position, be aware of how much influence you and create an environment that promotes balance and progression. The CMI notes that line managers are key to organisational change and need to be empowered to call out bias. A middle manager surveyed in their January report A Blueprint for Balance said: “Lots of male and some female managers don’t seem to know they are being unfair or sexist. They need to learn about and understand how institutionalised sexism works and develop strategies to overcome it at a personal and corporate level.”

8. Set boundaries
In setting boundaries, you assign value to your time, skills and expertise. It is all very well to say yes to extra work for recognition, but make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons and not being taken for granted.

Work smart and aim to make mindful progress, rather than taking on too much and dropping balls in the process.

Sometimes, it’s fine to say ‘no’.

9. Research your worth in the market
All to often we settle into a role, lose touch with our financial worth and shove our CV in a bottom drawer to gather dust.

Instead, think about the amount of time you invest in researching house prices in your area ahead of a move or hotels for your holiday, and make sure you allocate the same kind of effort to the salary component of your worth.

Sign up for job site alerts, keep a close eye on posts on LinkedIn as well as on independent recruitment sites which advertise jobs in your field. We Are The City, for instance, has a fantastic job site resource which is very current.

Keep in touch with key recruitment agents and let them know that you’d be open to a move for the right role and ask what different roles are fetching. Stay in the loop by joining networking groups, where you have a chance to chat to people outside of where you are employed, but who are still in your broader industry.

10. Build a profile
Speak to people in your industry, survey job sites and stay in touch with recruitment agents to keep a finger on the pulse. Build a profile for yourself that is not dependent on your existing title or role by putting yourself forward for speaking opportunities and joining external committees and boards where possible.

The more high profile and connected you are outside of your role, the most confident you will feel around asserting your worth in current job and in broader market.

 

Original article for Telegraph Women, published 14th March 2018: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/work/know-worth-assert-work/