Influencers from Around the World – Could Shakespeare give Women Career Advice?

This month’s guest blogger in the Influencers from Around the World series is Cathrine Moestue. Cathrine hails from Norway and is one of only 27 Cialdini Method Certified Trainers (CMCT) in the world! In addition to her intelligence and business savvy Cathrine is a lot of fun to engage with. If you’d like to connect with her she’s on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I know you’ll enjoy “Could Shakespeare give Women Career Advice?”

Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
Could Shakespeare give Women Career Advice?

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; and one woman in her time plays many parts.” William Shakespeare, As You Like It.

This quotation has several meanings. First, and most simply, it means we all have roles to play. We like to think we are independent, and that we choose how we act, but in reality we have many unconscious habits that can jeopardize our true authority in the workplace. It is not just about doing a good job it is also about both looking and sounding the part.

As a corporate trainer and business coach, my success depends upon my clients reaching their goals after having worked together. In this blog post I want to share some insights and tips from the science of influence along with my experience coaching women in their careers.

Recently I have encountered a problem with competent business women  dressing in a way that makes me perceive them more like “girls,” rather than looking the part their professional roles would dictate.

They all shared with me that they were passed over for career opportunities they wanted and were qualified for. Not all of them to the same degree or even in the same way, but this was a shared experience. Could this be because of the way they looked? I think so.

I have always been fascinated with the phrase “perception is reality” because it challenges us to take a mental step back and do a reality check on our automatic reactions in any given situation. It is true – there is no reality, only people’s perception.

If you want to be more empowered and increase your influence skills, it is wise to do a “reality check” on your beliefs and spend time learning what behaviors increase your effectiveness. The best place to look is the science of influence.

Robert Cialdini, PhD, writes in Influence: Science and Practice, that our authority is communicated through cues, which include all your nonverbal cues, the way you look and the sound of your voice are more important than you might think. These are the small things that make the big differences.

One study found people were 350% more likely to follow a 31-year old jaywalker into traffic when he was wearing a suit compared to when he wore trousers and a work shirt. Our clothing provides an efficient, effective shortcut, useful for both simple and complicated decisions. Clothing is one thing, but your tone of voice is just as important, and together they can be more important than what you actually say.

What “cues” do you wear that might increase or decrease the perception of you as an authority in your work environment? If you don’t want to miss the next chance for a promotion or you just want to be taken more seriously, make sure you don’t make any of the following mistakes.

Career bungling #1 Believing the best and the smartest are always rewarded accordingly.

Wrong. Those who are competent and look and sound professional are those who smoothly maneuver themselves up the corporate ladder. Competence is not enough although you most certainly need it. It will only serve you to get your foot in the door but will not move you forward. If you accept this and take responsibility to play your role professionally you have already increased your chances of reaching your goals sooner. Luckily, how you look is one of the easiest things you can address on your way to become a more effective agent of influence.

Career bungling #2 Dressing inappropriately.

Informal fashion has made it more difficult to find the right job outfit but you can follow this rule: dress for the job you want and not for the one you have. Short skirts, seductive styles, and high heels that are too high will not get you were you want to go – at least not in the business world. Like it or not, people notice both the quality and the style of your dress and make mental notes about you. There are exceptions to this rule and you can find successful women who break them, but their attire is overlooked because they’re probably geniuses in their fields. Remember, they are the exception, not the rule.

Career bungling #3 Grooming in public.

When was the last time you saw a man check his hair after lunch? Or file his nails in management meeting? Just the thought of it is ridiculous. Even if you are discreet, this behavior will get noticed and it will not enhance your credibility. Long hair is back in fashion but be prepared to lose the “Alice in Wonderland” look if you want to be taken more seriously.

Don’t make the mistake of judging the apparent simplicity of these errors, because small things really do make big differences when it comes to others’ perception of us.

Imaginary but new coaching advice from Shakespeare

Make yourself aware of your business role, accept it and learn the difference between the private you and the corporate you.

  • Dress like your clients or colleagues +1.
  • Do your grooming in the bathroom, not in the board room.
  • Look at successful women and notice what they’re wearing. Also pay attention to women in positions you aspire to because that’s how you should dress.


The most effective authority is the credible authority – a woman with both expertise and trustworthiness. Meryl Streep wins Oscars because she both looks and sounds the part. I know you aren’t an actor but it’s not about the acting profession. What I’m talking about is understanding the psychological principle behind being perceived as an authority – being competent and looking the part. Don’t forget, hearing “yes” to a job promotion for many of us is like winning an Oscar in our everyday lives.If you’re viewing this by email and want to leave a comment click here.

Cathrine Moestue
Empowering Women to hear YES
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