When you see an exciting job listing with a laundry list of requirements, what do you do? Apply, so that you can explore the opportunity and make new connections, or do you resign yourself to adding more keywords to your LinkedIn profile while you hunt for something less intimidating?
As many successful executives will attest, taking a risk is often worth it. But studies show that women are less likely to apply for a job unless they meet 100 percent of the listed qualifications in the job description, while their male candidates will send in their resumes with just 60 percent of them.
There are steps you can take, however, to build your professional confidence and land a fulfilling job in tech. We spoke to two powerful women in the tech industry for their advice on climbing the ranks.
Michelle McBane is the managing director of StandUp Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in women-led businesses across Canada. She remembers realizing just how stuck she felt in the bureaucracy of the corporate world years ago.
“I was dragging myself to work and just wasn’t passionate about what I was doing, so that became my driving force to find a new challenge,” she says. “It’s important to articulate what gets you up in the morning.” Figure out what aspects of your career fire you up the most and think about what skills you want to acquire or hone, so that you can be clear what you are looking for in your next position.
“Once you’ve done that, you need to find your superpower,” says Jodi Kovitz, former CEO of tech not-for-profit #MoveTheDial and current chief growth officer at pet-oriented Vetster. “This is where your passion, purpose and mission meet your best abilities to get a job done.” Kovitz often tells her mentees that a good starting point for finding out your superpower is to gauge when you feel the most joyful and effective in a day-to-day setting. Chances are, when you figure out what motivates you and get basic skills down, you’ve found it.
“I got into my current field without even knowing what venture capital meant,” says McBane. Her willingness to roll up her sleeves and take whatever came her way helped her, she says, to stand out from other candidates.
Her advice for job seekers? Do your research into a company first and determine if you think it would be a fit. From there, it’s worth taking the risk of applying. Regardless of the outcome, the process of applying for a new job is an opportunity for growth — it’s a chance to find out what skills you need to advance, to become better acquainted with a new company and help carve out your next step.
It can help to have clear statements about what you can offer employers. “You need to craft a story to demonstrate your unique skills,” says Kovitz. “When I was contemplating switching my career from law to business, I deeply thought about my identity in the workplace. I framed it as ‘I am a builder;’ I like to connect people.”
Kovitz recommends setting yourself up with three clear, achievable goals at the beginning of a new role to show your value and ability. In her case, she was determined to highlight her skillset in building strategies, getting clients and increasing revenue.
As countless professionals admit, mentorship and networking help you get a leg-up in a new industry or company.
Kovitz explains that even coming into her former role as a CEO, she benefited from the support of her peers and network to give her that extra bit of confidence needed to move ahead.
“When I got the opportunity to be CEO of a non-profit in tech, I didn’t think I had the capacity — I’d never had a position of that level before,” she says. “It felt like I had imposter syndrome. Thankfully, I had the incredible privilege of having people around me who said ‘I’ve got your back when you don’t know what you’re doing.’”
McBane also advises going online, attending remote networking or industry events and connecting directly with people of interest at prospective employers. “In tech in particular, there are some amazing networking events and opportunities,” she says. “Tons of groups now on Facebook and on LinkedIn allow you to get to know people.”
Even if you don’t see anyone who looks like you at a company you’re considering applying to, this shouldn’t be a deterrent.
“If the place is where you want to be and doing the work you want to do and you feel that you’re valued and contributing, that’s potentially still a good fit,” says McBane. “Companies are on an ongoing journey of ensuring that they do their best to attract the best and brightest talent. That’s the end goal.”
This article was originally published in January 2020 and was updated in August 2021.
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