Monday, February 4, 2013

How to become relevant in a "Man's World"

Have you ever been in meeting/gathering dominated by male folks and by the time it is over, you ask yourself " why was I here in the first place"?

For some reason, you just feel absolutely irrelevant.

With an imprisoned voice.

Well, I have been there and I must tell you it is not pretty.

Naturally men are built to lead, thus imagine a room filled with strong "alphas", How do you want to be relevant in that setting? How do you want your "soft" voice to be heard over all the roars?

Since I have been there, I will outline what has worked for me and hopefully it will help YOU in your own "jungle".

1) Drop your pretty face and use your brain: Yes, that may sound harsh, but that's the reality. For how long do you want to use "what you've got to get up that ladder"?. 

Remember the "beautiful ones" are not yet born, so there is a very high chance that one pretty Belle will come and over throw your pretty face one day.

So instead, use what is uniquely yours; your  brain, no one can steal your knowledge, especially if you know how to use it effectively.

Read, research and constantly practice ways to hone your skills.

When that pretty Belle comes, you will have something to teach her instead of fighting for more time on the "throne".

The upside of this is that the Men in your Team will see you as more than an object with "pretty boobs and backside" and instead see you as someone they can relate to on an intellectual level.

2) Define your skill(s): You know that saying about " Jack of all trades, Master of none"? Well, it is very true. You can be talented in various area but most times they all have to be categorised under one group; for example, you can be good at drafting Minutes, logistics and organising Meetings and Workshops, all these can fall under Administrative duties.

Once you have defined your "category" (your strengths and what you can do effortlessly), then the main "work" begins.

It is not enough to be talented, you have to know how to harness these skills.

Go for Seminars, read good books, get a Mentor, etc.

Just look for a way to take a step forward toward harnessing your skills.

3) Don't back out:
I know how it feels to be the "under dog"; I am the only female in my Team and to make it worse, I was the youngest for a long time, so all I used to hear was "Semira, draft this letter", "Semira, make a photocopy of this document" etc and I used to hate it very very much.

Until I decided to make lemonades out of the "lemons", I had to make my brain see my "errand girl" routine as another way of learning on the job, especially since that was my first job after NYSC.

So when I am asked to type a letter, I don't say," Sir, am tired or I don't know how to do it".

I simply say; "Yes Sir" and get it done.

If I get lost, I simply go to google (trust me, you can get a lot of ideas surfing the internet), type in a topic related to what I have been asked to draft and use it as a guideline.

I may not come out with the best work but atleast I made an effort and after all the corrections are made, I learn another method of drafting a specific kind of letter.

Remember; "No Knowledge is Lost", so never ever say "I can't". Just do it!!!

If you get stuck, go to your Colleagues that are more experienced or even your Supervisor and ask for help, it won't kill you :).

4) Make yourself relevant: This is the most important part and I must differentiate "kissing ass" from "being relevant" here.

Kissing ass is trying to be seen even when you don't have anything to offer and most times has selfish motives; doing  something because your sole aim is to gain from it and not because you want to give back.


Being relevant is selfless; you want to give something back to your Team and that is simply because YOU know you have something to give back.

"You can't give what you don't have yeah"?.

So after you have put your brain into gear, defined your skills and harnessed them, then it is time to give back.

How you may ask?


Study and take note of what is lacking in your Team; something you know you can do efficiently or even if it is already present, look for ways to make it better.

Then put yourself out there.

For me, I knew writing, drafting and editing documents were easy tasks for me, so I got a Minutes Template from my team member and started making it a point of duty to take Minutes at all our Meetings (in-house and with Clients).

At first, it was like I was wasting my time, because when I am done and I send out the Minutes, no one really acknowledges it expect for one or two of my team members who were more like friends than colleagues.

That wasn't encouraging, but it didn't stop me.

I kept keepin on.

I kept taking notes, drafting my Minutes and sending them out.

Then one day....

After several unacknowledged Minute of Meetings, our Project Officer needed to refer to a topic that was discussed at a previous meeting and of course no one had taken a concise note except the "ignored self made Secretary".

So he quickly asked; "Semira, did you take down notes during so and so Meeting and I smiled (my day of glory had come at last...hehehehehe) and I said, "Yes Sir, I fowarded it to your email".

Since then I have moved on from not just taking notes at my Team Meetings (which has suddenly become relevant) to doing it from time to time for the Organisation as a whole in addition to carrying out my basic PR duties. 

The upside of it is that am now "relevant" in my Team dynamic and no longer that Lady who graces Meetings for no particular reason and stares blankly, alternatively chatting on bbm when my Boss is not looking.

I am now an active part of the Team and that has helped in harnessing my writing skills and exposing me to other things I can do in my Organisation as a whole.

So the next time you are asked to do something "mundane", don't say NO, use it as a stepping stone instead, embrace that job that is beneath you and bring it up to your standard.

That beats being inactive and unheard, trust me.

For now these are the major tips I can think of that will make you a part of that "pack of wolves".

When you are done, you will get the respect you deserve despite your soft and gentle feminine nature.

The most important thing is to know your "salt" and use it in seasoning your Team dynamic.

Watchwords: Persistence, Resilience, Hunger for knowledge and most importantly pray for God's guidance and grace.

Keep Keepin On Ladies.

Make your VOICE heard.

Feedbacks: Feel free to share your own "tips", we all want to learn :).



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