Dreamforce 2017 – tips for women in tech to get a great new job

As with previous years, Salesforce is using its Dreamforce event to shine a light on equality and diversity across the tech sector and business world. I attended one of the dozens of sessions focused on this area on day two of the show, led by people coach and founder of The Amplify Lab Joanna Bloor and themed around ‘What do you want to be known for?’

The idea behind the session was to coach women on how to get a promotion or a great new job by creating a more sellable version of themselves, one that focuses on us as humans rather than as a machine. Bloor said:

Today there’s this really strange, interesting thing happening where the line between humanity and technology is really starting to blur. And yet we still talk about ourselves and all the language is as though we are machinery. Your resume is a user manual.You are not a machine or a piece of software. You need to be able to articulate your human value. It’s your human abilities that are what you should be known for.

Bloor explained that her job is to help people articulate why they are awesome and coach then in how to talk about themselves. This is key, she maintains, as so often the group of people deciding on your next career step does not include you as an individual:

Every decision made about you and your opportunities is made in a room that you’re not in. What are they saying about you? Are you even part of the consideration set? Can you actually do anything about it? I think you can.

Bloor advised attendees to focus on four core elements: be bold, authentic, compelling and unique.

Be bold

The worst thing you can do for your career is to listen to that person sat on your shoulder or nagging voice in your head saying ‘people will judge you’ or ‘you shouldn’t say that’, Bloor advised:

Fear is there as part of the natural condition – but be as bold as you can be.

Bloor advised practising articulating your human value proposition, as women tend to have had less practice on this than men:

Think about what is the problem you can uniquely solve, what is the solution, and you are the solution. Don’t be a robot, don’t treat your people like robots and amazing things will happen.

Be compelling

Just as we might have an emotional reaction to a pair of shoes or a certain person, hiring managers also recruit on emotion. You need to create the emotional reaction and decide why the other person would want you.

Be unique

This is another bugbear for Bloor when it comes to women doing themselves a disservice. She pointed out that if you ask women what is the number one thing they are good at in their job, 90% of them will respond ‘I get sh*t done’:

If you had a person on your team who didn’t get sh*t done, you’d fire them. Getting sh*t done is not what you need to be known for.

On top of the fact that if you’re saying the same thing as 90 percent of the female population, you are certainly not coming across as unique.

Another place women fall down is by focusing on how they are a great people person and really good at connecting with people – again, this is not something that makes you stand out from the crowd, advised Bloor:

Every woman I know has had to be aware of their surroundings because they are sometimes not safe. You’ve known this since you were a little kid, which means you’re really good at it. That is not unique.

Be authentic

According to Bloor, part of why Donald Trump is the current US President rather than Hillary Clinton, is that she was not authentic in her years as the President’s wife:

We didn’t believe Hillary wanted to be first lady of anything. The underlying issue was trust; she lied to the US for years about who she was.

These four elements are what will ensure people are saying the right things about you when you’re not in the room and discussions are happening about whether you get hired or promoted. Bloor added:

It’s about giving people the language around that question – what do you do? It used to be you had to show a product seven times, but now it’s up to 12. How many times have you said ‘this is why I’m uniquely awesome’ to your boss?

A really simple way to do this is via the humble email signature, which Bloor encouraged everyone to use to describe themselves in a more enticing way. She gave the example of a Mozilla contractor she had worked with recently, who was worried about losing her job. Bloor persuaded her to change her email signature to a statement that reflected the best asset she brought to the business – her way of motivating people, almost like a Mary Poppins character.

The new email signature read, ‘When work gets hard you almost need a Mary Poppins approach to make it fun, and in fun we get it done’. Less than hour after using the new version, her boss had already called her and wanted to talk about this great approach to work she had.

Bloor also shared her email signature, which certainly puts mine to shame. Here’s a screenshot of it:

(mine, by comparison, reads:

Best regards,
Madeline Bennett
Technology journalist

@MadBennett )

My take

Bloor certainly inspired the women (and small handful of men) in the room. The attendees I spoke to afterwards agreed it had made them rethink how they described themselves to others. The session was also a great fit for Salesforce and its equality focus, helping women working in technology to advance their careers with some really practical advice and tips.

And my most important takeaway – it’s about time I updated my email signature!

Image credit – Madeline Bennett Disclosure – At time of writing, Salesforce is a premier partner of diginomica


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