Five Ways for Women to Win at Work in the Highly Competitive Financial Services Sector

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Do you want to get promoted at your investment bank, or at least attract the type of mentoring that leads to a promotion? Are you ready to turn the capital markets job you have into the job you want? Are you looking for a path to the C-suites? Here’s some food for thought to feed your ambition and raise your potential.

1. Confidence. Those who have it know its value. Act with confidence and you stand out from the crowd; you are perceived as special, and you gain an elevated social status. If you suffer from a lack of confidence, it is easier to generate than you might think. Do you consider yourself capable? That is all that confidence really is—believing you are capable, not superior, not infallible. The big benefit is that once you feel confident, you are freer to actively listen and engage those around you without feeling inferior. That’s leadership.

2. Jump-ability. Your loyalty must be to yourself and your career. If you are not being recognized, or find yourself blocked by individuals or circumstances, then you must be prepared to change departments, locations or companies. Firms regularly take advantage of the keen sense of loyalty that women bring to the job. The workplace becomes an extended family and guilt bars them from deserting those for whom they feel responsible. Again, your duty must be to yourself and your career.

3. De-vain yourself. Groom, don't primp. Vanity is a matter of degree, of course, but it reveals itself in a variety of ways, including dress. Self-absorption steals focus and energy, and it works against you far more than it can help. The office is not a fashion show, nor a beauty contest. Along those lines, show as little skin as possible. Short of wearing a burqa, consider the traditional male suit: it reveals only the face and hands. There is probably as much science as custom to that. A survey this summer showed that both men and women disapproved of seeing skin—of either sex—in the workplace. It is distracting. As for make up, note that far and wide, the more powerful the woman, the less makeup she wears. Draw your own conclusions.

4. Reveal your passion. In financial services, advisors always want to know what drives their clients; what is their desire, their passion? Accordingly, they help—when they can—to get the client to achieve their passion. So, too, in the workplace. Your passion will reflect the magnitude of the success you seek. Let those around you, particularly those who matter, see what drives you and what motivates you, so they can lead you to success. Having a goal and a plan to get there puts your leadership qualities on display: vision, strategic planning, leading change and commitment.

5. Collaborate. While many think that any time they're working together they're collaborating, true collaboration requires a commitment to shared goals and responsibilities, mutual authority and accountability, and includes sharing resources, risks and rewards. Whether for a project, or for your career, it's an illusion to think that you can do it on your own. Your success in the workplace is inextricably linked to your ability to collaborate with others.

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