For a woman who once questioned why anyone would want to work with computers, Laura Molony has built a curious career: it’s wall to wall computers.

After completing a degree in commerce in Auckland Molony joined NAB as a business graduate. Throughout the program she particularly enjoyed stints working in the realm of digital innovation which provided the platform for her career in tech.

She now leads a product team at Versent, a Melbourne based IT consultancy, for a product called Stax that was initially brought to life by three cloud-savvy employees who were frustrated with the uncertainty and lack of visibility surrounding cloud deployments. They brought it together in a short period of time and now compete with global companies far bigger. 

She doesn’t code, she doesn’t like star wars and she loves working in technology. How does it all fit together? In her words, connecting people and translating technology to what the customer wants and vice versa, is her sweet spot.

We asked Laura more about her career here.

Has your tech career been planned or did it just happen? 

I remember sitting in ‘Infosys 101’ at University and thinking ‘why would anyone work with computers?’ But then I learned more about technology and creating products for people to use when I left and realised some sort of career in technology was for me.

I completed the graduate program at NAB and met some great people and role models. I started working in the ATM team, then the digital team and now I’m at a fast-growing IT consultancy building a technical product for IT Managers called Stax. After a few years, I recognised that there is a whole industry of intelligent, fun people who build technology products and that I could contribute something to that industry.  

What qualifications (if any) do you have that support you in this role?

I studied Commerce – Marketing & Management at the University of Auckland and beyond that I’ve done some agile training. Other than that, it’s really been experience that supports me and learning from those much more talented than me.

Do you know any coding languages, is this relevant to your career?

No I don’t. I haven’t needed to and I don’t plan to learn how to code either. What I have learnt is understanding how the building blocks of technology fit together and how that impacts the user experience we’re creating. I’ve had a few moments in my career when I thought that I needed to learn to code, but the reality is, I’d be a terrible coder. I’m much better at connecting people, at translating technology to what the customer wants and vice versa.

What’s your proudest achievement so far in tech?

Launching our new tool Stax to the world earlier this year. In about six months, we built a new product and brand and launched at AWS Summit. This small team in Melbourne is now competing with companies who have been building similar products for many years. It feels great to be the new kids on the block and having built a product that customers really need - especially in such a short period of time.

Why is diversity so important in the tech sector?

Because customers and users of technology are diverse! People build products and people use products. If the people building the products don’t reflect or understand the people using them, the product fails.

Diversity – whether that’s gender, ethnicity, religion, music preference – means that more perspectives can be considered, which results in more balanced, inclusive experiences. And I think that’s great.

What do you want all girls and young women to know about careers in tech?

That it’s not all so technical! The majority of my role is about people – working with customers, stakeholders, my team – and facilitating the right conversations. You don’t have to be a self-identified ‘nerd’ to work in tech either. I think some girls think that if you don’t love Star Wars, you won’t fit in. I’ve never seen Star Wars, and I don’t plan on changing that!

What do you personally do to raise your profile and voice as a woman in tech?

To be honest, not a lot. I get involved in product or design meetups, I attend conferences. But really, that’s because I enjoy what I do, and I want to get better at it. I like to think that I should do those things because I’m passionate about my industry, not because I'm a woman.

How can we get more women speaking at technology-related events?  

Continue to promote tech as an industry that woman can thrive in. Ask women to speak about things that aren’t about ‘being a woman’, but about being awesome at what they do.

Can you run us through an average day in your life? 

We start the day with a standup every morning, so the whole team is across what we’re working on, issues can be raised and fixed to keep things moving. The rest of my day really varies. I could be helping scope product features, testing the product, doing sales, account management, developing support content, working on marketing initiatives... the list goes on. The Product Manager role in a startup is really broad, which is why I love it. You need to be able to juggle many things at once, all while keeping an eye on moving in the right direction.

What more would you like to see the tech industry doing to better support women in the field?

I think we’re heading in the right direction – continuing to create environments that support women, acknowledging that there is a gap to close and being open to talking about what that means. But most of all, ensuring that women are promoted and talked about, because of the great work that they do, and not simply to fill an agenda item about being a woman, because that’s what we’re ‘supposed’ to do.

Finally, who are your tech-related role models?

There are a couple of women and men who I’ve worked with in previous roles, who encouraged me to move into digital and technology and learn how to recognise the value I can bring to the industry. They continue to inspire me, along with the myriad of very smart people I work with every day at Stax and Versent.

 

Virgin chief John Borghetti gets around 400 to 500 emails a day.

When does he answer them? Early on a Sunday morning.

The revelation that he gets up at 3am on Sundays to get through his emails came at a UNSW Australian School of Business event early this week (30 minutes into the above video), where Borghetti was interviewed by ABC director Mark Scott.

"I have a great PA and she cleans out most of them," Borghetti said. "But there's still 100 or so and I try to do the urgent ones, but by the time you get to Friday, Saturday, they mount up and you have got 400 emails or something.

"I'm an early riser and on a Sunday morning, typically around 3am or 4am, I kill all the emails.

"There's a joke around [Virgin] that on Sunday morning, all the emails arrive."

Women's Agenda sister publication SmartCompany knows most small business owners don't have a dutiful PA who can screen their emails for them.

So what can small business owners do to stay in control of their inbox?

Email is addictive...

The biggest problem with email, says personal productivity consultant Paul Higgins, is that it's addictive.

"People feel guilty when they're not responding and answering people, and feel good when they do," he tells SmartCompany. "And we're all afraid if we don't check it we'll miss out on something."

Cyril Peupion, the managing partner of Primary Asset Consulting, says he's personally coached hundreds of executives who admit to being 'addicted to email'. Some check it while in meetings, others while reading their children bedtime stories, and some check it first thing in the morning.

For business leaders, the pressure to check email can be enormous.

"We want to be seen as responsive," Peupion says. "But think about it this way. If your postman was coming every ten minutes to give you a letter, you'd probably shoot him. But that's what we allow our inboxes to do to us."

... and it makes you less productive

But email, by destroying concentration, has a hidden cost.

"One of the key characteristics of high performers across any field is focus," Peupion says. "Now, imagine being focussed on something at your desk, and suddenly, a 'ping' that shows you have email. Suddenly, you're distracted and you follow that email. Before you know it, 10, 15 minutes are gone. And you've lost your focus and your peak productive time."

Batching and deciding

That's why Borghetti might have something right in checking his emails once a week.

Peupion and Higgins both say it's important to batch up the time you spend answering and checking emails.

Do it two or three times a day, and then close your inbox. Turn off notifications. Set your mobile email program on pull rather than push – so you have to ask it to check for emails.

And when you do check your email, make decisions.

"When you do open an email, you need to make a quick decision," Peupion says. "If it takes less than five minutes to deal with, do it now. Otherwise, decide when you'll deal with it, and put it in your diary."

"Be harsh with your email. If 90% of it is junk that will have very little impact, why is it coming in at all?"

When email isn't best

Part of controlling an inbox is knowing what should and shouldn't be dealt with through email, Higgins says.

He cites task management done through email as the classic mistake.

"There's some brilliant software out there that frames tasks in a nice way. That can set up who's responsible, and when it's due by, in a consistent format.

"But people keep using emails for task management. And it doesn't make sense. Everyone writes emails differently. There's no structure, and it's open to interpretation."

A McKinsey study recently found the average worker spends 2.5 hours a day on email. Getting on top of it is a must, not only for you, but for all your employees.

Why is it that we can sometimes work really hard putting in long hours, contributing enormous value to the team or achieved extraordinary results and still we feel invisible at work?

It doesn't matter how great you are at your job if no one is noticing you. It is impossible to be a leader with influence or to make a positive impact with those that matter if you go unnoticed.

Opportunities to work on an exciting project, receive a pay rise or even get time with a great mentor will pass you by if your skills, talents and real contribution are hidden from view.

Have you ever wondered "Why did they get promoted and not me?" Or " What is it about me that makes me feel like I blend into the background?"

So I wonder ... how noticeable are you?

Sometimes we can get in the way of our own career success, without even realizing it. We stay quiet in meetings, we fail to let anyone know about the work we are doing, waiting and hoping that someone will notice or we deflect credit or accolades that do come our way.

The truth is that being competent in your role is not enough. Leadership success is not just about how technically proficient you are. It's also about the relationships you build and getting known throughout the entire business for all the right reasons.

So it is time to step up and stand out

Here are five things to think about to help you stand out and get noticed for all of the great things that you are doing.

  1. Make your work speak for itself. Obviously mediocre results are not enough to get you noticed! Be prepared to take on projects that show your skills and your willingness to stretch and grow. Just getting by doesn't impress anyone. Be seen as a problem solver with innovative ideas that make not only you but also your entire department look good.
  2. Manage your brand. Your leadership brand is your identity, your reputation and how others see you. It is what comes to mind when your name is mentioned. It conveys what you are known for, what you are good (or not so good) at.

     

    Make sure that you take care of your brand and shape it so as you are known for the attributes that are authentically you and will assist you with your career progression. You can read more about managing your brand here.

  3. Actively network. Creating meaningful connections both within your organization and externally is important. Many people, particularly introverts, find networking painfully uncomfortable but when we remember at its heart, networking is all about having a conversation with one other person and making a connection with them, it seems somewhat less daunting.

     

    Some years ago while I was working as an advisor for a large corporate and spending most of the week out on the road, I would always make a point to walk the office and develop connections and maintain relationships with key people on the days I was in the office. In doing this I created a tribe of supporters who not only helped me out when I needed but also advocated for me and championed for my success.

    Who would you like to get to know better? Make a time to catch up with them focusing initially on how you can assist them before expecting anything other than friendship in return.

  4. Attitude is everything. Every day we get to choose the attitude we bring to work. That attitude will impact our results, the experience we have and how those around us experience us. We all like working with people who have a positive attitude where the focus is on positivity and possibilities rather than on negativity, blaming and gossip.

    Commit to being someone others would want to work with and in the process your reputation as a great person to have on the team will grow.

    "The choice to have a great attitude is something nobody or no circumstance can take away from you" ~ Zig Ziglar

  5. Believe in your value. Until you believe in your value, no one else will! It is as simple as that. We are all attracted to and follow people who act with certainty and confidence so if you don't have bucket loads of this yet – "act as if" until you do.

     

    Decide today to speak up in meetings. Your opinion matters and we all have great ideas that need to be heard. Get comfortable with not always having others agree and as a mentor so eloquently put to me once "get off the fence and have an opinion."

The bottom line here is to avoid the attitude of "It's not fair. I never seem to get noticed." Be on the front foot and create your own opportunities to shine. Become comfortable about "tooting" your own horn in a way that highlights your value without being egotistical. Believe in your value and know that you deserve to be noticed. From this advantage point only good things can grow.

Speak up and let your voice be heard! Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on what you could start doing today to become more noticeable.

Losing my job earlier this year was devastating for me. I truly loved my role as a magazine editor and had worked very hard over a number of years to sit in the editor's chair. So when it came to an end, I went through a mourning process that I'm sure anyone who has been through a similar experience could relate to.

It's been nearly six months now and I still have days where I feel that sense of loss, but they're becoming less frequent and I have been humbled by the amazing opportunities that have come my way since.

In those early days, I honestly didn't know what I would do without my job as I had given so much of myself to it. I know this seems a bit ridiculous, as I certainly have a very fulfilling life outside work, but when you are as passionate and dedicated as I had been, I really did feel lost.

In an ideal world, I would have taken a few months off to work out exactly what my next career move should or could be. But I wasn't in a positive enough headspace to drift aimlessly, waiting for things to come to me. I've always loved the idea of taking a sabbatical but when I'm in a good place, emotionally, not a fraught one. The thought of taking time out when I was at my most vulnerable actually made me more anxious, so I started making lists of things about my job I had most enjoyed and the people I had loved working and collaborating with.

I figured if I could clearly identify what had made me happy and fulfilled at work, maybe I would be able to combine all of the best bits and do it for myself. I also made a list of skills that I needed to improve on – my industry has changed exponentially over the past five years, so there's a lot of room for growth.

I'm now working for myself, which is something I had never even begun to contemplate when I was a fulltime employee. It certainly has its challenges; I'm very much a 'people person' so I miss being part of and leading a team. But there are definite advantages to running my own race and there is far less frustration day-to-day, which is a welcome relief after a very stressful few years.

I'm taking a leap into the world of digital as one of the editors on a new lifestyle site launching next month called thecarousel.com. I'm also working with the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation on their 2014 White Shirt Campaign, in which I take immense pride. Add to that weekly appearances on channel 9's Mornings and the new online fashion label my sister and I have just started, Kindred, I am busier than ever before, just not as stressed.

I haven't consciously viewed the plans I've made over the past six months as particularly long-term, which is quite unusual for me as I always had a clear career plan. I'm certainly not ruling out working fulltime again in another "big job", but this redundancy has forced me to be more spontaneous and take on new and exciting challenges, which can only be a good thing.

Despite the ongoing challenge of attracting and retaining mothers in the workplace, job-sharing remains under-utilised as a flexible work option.

Despite the fact Australian employers are legally obliged to provide 'flexible work arrangements' for employees with caring responsibilities, including parents returning from maternity leave, the reality is not always attractive. Part-time work often involves a demanding workload to be completed in less time for less money.

"The problem with part-time work is you get the pro rata salary, but you end up working much longer hours," says Melissa Richardson, the director of Horizons Unlimited and author of the 2009 research report, Making job share work: Australian women share their success secrets.

"The key benefit to job sharers is that when they go home, they go home, and their job share buddy takes over so they're not getting the phone calls after hours."

One of the workload challenges of part-time work is the difficulty finding a part-time set up that is realistic and manageable, particularly for working parents.

For former lawyer and mother of two Jennie Cadman, re-entering the legal industry and finding a manageable part-time role once her son was 10 months old was particularly difficult.

"When I did find openings they required three or even four days," says Cadman, who has since started her own business, Olive Periwinkle, which she runs from home.

Similarly for Jody*, who's currently on maternity leave, returning to work less than four days a week is not an option in her current corporate role.

"Unfortunately the business unit I work in is very demanding and unless a job share is possible, less than four days cannot be supported," she says.

Her ideal situation would be to work three days a week while she has young children and if she had the chance to job-share she would "absolutely" take it.

The case for job-sharing

According to a research report by Capability Jane, Job sharing at senior level: Making it work, job-sharing allows employees to work part time while maintaining a significant role and meaningful career.

Surveying companies such as KPMG, Deloitte and Barclays, the report showed that job-sharers, compared to a lot of part-time workers, had the benefit of feeling part of the team while also having the ability to 'switch off' and handover accountability.

The benefits of job-sharing for an employer, according to Mums At Work and Michael Page, include the availability of a wider range of skills and experience within the job; continuity of coverage (during sickness or holidays); staff retention, especially for employees with family responsibilities; reduced staff turnover; improved staff morale; lower absenteeism and greater productivity.

And while the cost for employers of implementing job share arrangements is no doubt higher – thanks to the cost of training two employees instead of one – the majority of managers surveyed felt that the benefits outweighed the costs.

According to Richardson, the lack of uptake in job-share arrangements to date is mostly due to a lack of understanding among organisations as to the benefits and how it actually works.

"I just don't think organisations know how to handle it. It's a lack of open-mindedness about what jobs can be shared ... The common myth is that a sales role can't be shared because it's customer facing, but actually that's rubbish," she says. "I think customers are probably more accepting of job-sharing than companies. Provided that the two people are keeping one another well abreast, the service can be pretty seamless."

Among those surveyed by Capability Jane, 80% held positions of responsibility including managers, team leaders and directors. The research found examples of successful job-sharing in most role types including sales and client-facing roles, leadership and team management roles, strategic and knowledge-based roles and transactional roles.

And for those doubting the career progression potential for job-sharers, 71% who tried to gain a promotion were successful in doing so, recommending persistence and the support of a senior sponsor to fight in your corner.

Making it work

Successfully implementing a job-share arrangement requires substantial preparation on the employee and manager's part, as well as constant communication between job-sharers and management.

"As an employee, you have to sell the upside. There's the argument that part-timers are more efficient," says the director of The Career Consultancy, Catherine Cunningham.

For career consultant Melissa Johnston from Suzie Plush Consulting, it's the grey areas of job-sharing that tends to scare many employers away from job-sharing, emphasising the need for a clear-cut business case.

"It's always going to help if employees put a well thought out plan to their manager, putting the finer details into a business case to the organisation," she says.

In Richardson's research, most of the women who were successfully working in a job-share arrangement had made it happen themselves. And to ensure the success of a job-share set up, it's essential that an organisation matches people with a similar work ethic and commitment to their job and career.

"It doesn't suit every temperament. You have to have two people who can really share and there are certain personality styles. If you were a bit competitive you wouldn't want to enter into a job-share arrangement," she says.

Job-sharing also requires constant communication, the full support of management and other stakeholders, as well as the ability to trust, let go and not compete with one another.

"The women that I spoke to had made it happen in their companies, so where you get a very proactive person who's actually willing to go to management and say, 'This is what I want to do'. I know people who've done that and it's been successful," she says.

*Her name has been changed.

Procrastination is not a crime but it has killed a lot of things: start-up ideas, business improvements, manuscripts, decent exam results, weight-loss plans and plenty of potential career changes.

It's a form of self-sabotage that often has people talking about all the crazy and wonderful things they're 'gonna do', but never actually get started on.

So it's always refreshing when you come across women who say they're 'gonna do' something and actually follow through.

Recently, I spoke to entrepreneur and strategist Rose Herceg regarding the launch of her new book on how to use power in a responsible and benevolent way, The Power Book.

I've known Rose for a while, having worked with her on previous publications, and come to learn a little about how she works. She's never late for a meeting, responds to a request immediately, comes across as continually 'on', and always dresses impeccably well. She seems to live true to every word of the 200 power rules she outlines in her book.

But more importantly, she never promises something she can't deliver. If Rose says she's 'gonna do' something, she'll do it – without all the fanfare (especially in the digital age) of continually telling others all about it. Indeed, although Rose has enjoyed significant success throughout her career, you wouldn't know much about it Googling her name. She's confident and will talk about her achievements in person, but isn't into online self-promotion, preferring to use the time to get stuff done.

No doubt that aside from her obvious talents, Rose's ability to follow-through on what she promises is a good reason why she managed to launch a wildly successful social forecasting business in her early twenties, later develop a stellar reputation as a strategy consultant, work on a number of innovative start-ups, write books and – if all that's not enough – complete a screenplay that's now in pre-production in Hollywood.

She says it comes down to "good old-fashioned discipline" and a willingness to back your own abilities. "People are always saying, 'I'm gonna, I'm gonna,' and then five years later they haven't done it. You've got to be a completer. You have to do it."

She divides the time she spends working into thirds: one for consulting, another for developing start-ups and the final third for writing. She says she doesn't work a huge amount of hours, takes plenty of time out and has become an expert at time management.

"There are people who work 80 hours a week who don't actually get a lot done – having meetings to organise a meeting, to organise a meeting," she says. "I don't do a lot of messing around. I don't turn up to meetings where I'm not required. I'm tough on myself in terms of extracting as much value as I can every time I walk in a room."

Still, like everyone else Rose has her off days – and the 'get it done' mentality doesn't extend to all aspects of her life. She says she's "lazy and unambitious" at home, likes to outsource whatever she can, and enjoys the odd stay-indoors "pity party" when she feels knocked over by something. But she retains her energy for putting her best self forward in business and creative pursuits.

Talking about your plans and ambitions is brilliant – it can, after all, provide great motivation to achieve them. But there's only so much talk you can do before action's required. The real satisfaction comes from completion.

As leaders we like to believe we 'make' decisions and that they're rational. Which is why it may be surprising to learn that we're driven by a host of biases of which we are, frankly, unaware.

Think you're an exception? That's one right there.

Psychologist David Myers tells us we come with an inbuilt tendency (called self-serving bias) to think we're more intelligent, better-looking, less prejudiced, more ethical and healthier than our peers (and they think exactly the same thing about themselves).

It's an uncomfortable thought, but knowing biases exist helps us to actively manage against them and that matters because unchecked biases are bad for business.

For example, a recent study on confirmation bias showed that investors often seek information to confirm, rather than evaluate, a belief.

In the study, investors who checked message boards paid attention to information that supported their existing belief about what would make a good investment, rather than weighing that against contrary views. The 'confirmation' created a sense of overconfidence that actually led to poorer investment performance overall.

This insight is gold for leaders who need to make tough decisions and suggests that incorporating rigorous 'why' and 'why not' debate into executive decision-making could have an impact on performance.

It also reinforces the importance of building a culture in which disagreement is seen not as disloyalty, but as a sign of the seriously business-minded.

One way to integrate this check-and-balance approach into corporate culture is to structure it into the selection process by making hires with different skill sets and ways of thinking.

Unfortunately, this is a key area in which unconscious bias thwarts us.

Humans have a well-documented tendency when making appointments to pick 'people like us'. This can lead to groupthink (let's all hop on the bandwagon), an unhealthy desire for cohesion and, at the extreme end, collusion.

Studies that emerged after the fall of US company Enron showed that many executives either actively colluded with questionable transactions or acquiesced under pressure. The need to agree with and remain part of the in-group was a strong motivator.

In Innovation Corrupted: The Origins and Legacy of Enron's Collapse, Harvard professor Malcolm S Salter says these behaviours were powerful enough to trounce even sophisticated internal controls.

Given the massive social impacts of corporate collapse, commentators have subsequently called for the professionalisation of boards rather than historical self-selected networks, to ensure companies are run by a mix of people with complementary skills who can navigate difficulty and increase the long-term chances of success.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with networking, there are many advantages to working with people we know and trust or who come recommended, but businesses could be advantaged by adding qualified unknowns to the mix. Leaders who are overly reliant on the opinions of a close few seriously put themselves and the organisation at risk.

But before we bag biases, let's remember that they exist for good reason.

Our brains are continually bombarded with inputs and without a way of filtering information and focusing attention we would be overwhelmed. As neurologist Gerald Smallberg says, bias 'acts as a lens or filter on our perceptions... without bias to focus our attention, we would be lost in [an] endless and limitless expanse'.

Instead, acknowledging both the productive and destructive capability of bias shapes leaders who:

Are modest and less focused on being right than ensuring they make the right decisions; and
Understand that making mistakes is intrinsic to thinking and reflect that in their leadership style.

Biases that every leader needs to know about are:

Confirmation bias

As in the investor study, we look for information, and better remember information, that confirms our beliefs rather than evidence that contradicts them. This is why people with a particular political view will buy a newspaper that reflects that bias. It explains why it's difficult to change people's beliefs. This is why the double-blind experiment was introduced in science.

Self-serving bias

As people we attribute success to personal effort, but failure to bad luck. If we do well on a project it's because of our skills, if we do poorly, it's because we had a bad manager.

We also tend to overestimate our personal contribution, as do our peers. Broad awareness of this bias across a team could go a long way to diffusing conflicts when they emerge (provided, of course, they are not based in fact).

Optimism bias

Neuroscientist Tali Sharot has shown that we're biased into thinking a bad outcome is less likely to happen to us than others. This optimism bias generates the illusion of control.

Since optimists have stronger immune systems and live longer, the value of having this bias is clear. But it can also lead to costly business mistakes. Organisations that fail to deal appropriately with sunk costs and keep throwing good money after bad because they believe the investment that has already been paid will pay off are demonstrating this bias.

Hindsight bias

'I knew it all along'. Don't we all. Because time goes forward and we reflect on the past and that makes us think that what happened was predictable. Hindsight bias allows us to look back on our past decisions more favourably. What if it didn't go so well? Well, confirmation bias would ensure we don't recall that as well as when it did go well.

Survivorship bias

If you measure the average performance of fund managers over five years then their performance is higher on average than if you had measured not just those who survived, but those who didn't, and so left the industry. This is survivor bias and in his excellent article on the topic, David McRaney shows the enormous ramifications this can have on military decisions.

To become the kind of leader who truly 'makes' decisions, you need to be the kind of leader who:

  1. Consciously builds teams with diverse skill and mindsets;
  2. Creates a culture in which healthy disagreement is used to generate business rigour;
  3. Thinks critically, sourcing data that confirms and counters your view;
  4. Are focused on the best outcome rather than needing to 'know' answers in advance or 'be right'; and
  5. Actively challenges personal biases even when it makes you uncomfortable.

You've done your research and you've finally plucked up the courage to ask your boss for a pay rise, only to have your request denied. What do you do next?

If all you hear from your manager is a resounding 'no', the director of Nourish Coaching, Sally-Anne Blanshard says your next move is to ask your employer what you can do to achieve the salary you want and to find out when the next pay review might be so you have a timeline to work with.

"You can't be a career plodder. Career-climbers up-skill and put their hands up to learn new things and take on new projects which will make their resume more appealing in a new job search or promotional activity," she says. "It's career equity – to keep your share price high, continue to make it an attractive option."

You also need to be open to non-financial rewards, particularly if market conditions mean your employer can't afford to meet your pay rise request, no matter how well justified.

In this case, Robert Walters says it's a good idea to be prepared for a 'no' and to outline a response in anticipation. Go into the meeting with a contingency plan and think about what you're prepared to accept in terms of non-financial rewards such as extra training, further study or flexible work arrangements.

"Always be realistic about what you are asking for and the limits of your employer. Your employer might want to reward you with a higher salary but is unable to do so due to certain conditions," Robert Walters says.

And finally, if your employer won't give you the salary you want, Hays director Jane McNeill says it's time to consider whether your employer's reasons are justified and how much you like your job, taking your current salary out of the equation.

"Employees need to make the decision whether they want to stay where they are or whether they want to look into the market and go somewhere else where they may get more," she says.

Consider whether you want more money because you believe you deserve it or because it will make your job, which you dislike, more tolerable. According to Hays, if you're only wanting the extra cash to make a boring job less tedious, you'll end up leaving that job anyway, whether you get a pay rise or not.

Yesterday we listed the dos and don'ts when it comes to asking for a pay rise at work.  Today we share advice on how to negotiate for the salary you want and deserve. 

When it comes to getting the salary you want, you need to have good negotiation skills. But how much should you ask for to ensure you get what you want?

Well according to a recent study by Columbia Business School, to be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, making a precise first offer during a negotiation makes you appear better informed and leads the other party to concede greater value to you.

The research, titled Precise Offers are Potent Anchors: Conciliatory Counteroffers and Attributions of Knowledge in Negotiations, reveals people's tendency to use round numbers when making opening offers and says they'd be better off using precisely expressed figures. The precision with which a negotiator expresses an opening offer signals his or her confidence in its appropriateness.

Therefore, according to the research, an employee who makes a precise first offer when it comes to negotiating a pay increase will appear more credible and better informed of their own value, prompting a more conciliatory response from their manager/employer.

"Being precise signals that you have researched the subject and put thought into your offer before expressing it. It's not just about the numbers, it's about what your price proposal implies about the state of your knowledge," explain the authors of the report, professors Malia Mason and Daniel Ames. "It's therefore important for precise offer-makers to be prepared to offer a rationale for the price they suggest."

Across a series of studies, Mason and Ames found that those who made precise offers received greater concessions and secured better financial settlements than those who made round offers.

However, while it pays to be precise, Mason and Ames warn of the potential risks of being too precise, noting that overly precise first offers could signal inflexibility and prompt other parties to walk away.

But whether you throw out a round figure or offer a precise amount during salary negotiations, you also need to make sure your request is within an appropriate range.

To ensure you're not asking too much the director of Nourish Coaching, Sally-Anne Blanshard, says to look at market rates.

"Look at Seek and other jobs boards to get a feel for what your role is being advertised at. Recruiters become really good trusted advisers here. They can actually say to you your rate is 'this' or you're underpaid," she says.

"Use your network, information that's readily available and utilise those trusted advisers like mentors or recruiters."

Having done all your research, it's also good to keep in mind the current state of the market and whether your employer is offering pay rises at all this year.

"If somebody is doing the same job, their responsibilities haven't changed and it's just a case of another year on, then normally [a pay rise] would run in line with the consumer price index," says Hays director Jane McNeill.

"Quite often organisations in tight markets will say they're not awarding any pay rises this year. If they come out and say that then there's probably little point in having a discussion, unless your duties and responsibilities have changed."

Yes, you really can go your own way – no matter what your age and level of experience. Over the next couple of weeks we're featuring young female entrepreneurs who've either escaped the corporate world, never stepped foot in the corporate world, or are simply doing something on the side of their corporate life.

We ask them everything from what unique traits they think make an entrepreneur, to the turning points that led them to pursue their own business, and the advice they have for other women looking to do their own thing.

Today's young entrepreneur is Elisa Limburg, founder of events and marketing company elevents. Her business specialises in events, promotions and public relations, delivering marketing strategies to help promote organisations.

What unique traits do you have that have aided your success as an entrepreneur, or that you expect to aid your success?

I'm an ambitious, determined and driven person, especially when I believe in something, or if there's something I want – I just go for it. I'm also quite confident and willing to give anything a go. Despite being a good planner, I am also flexible and always prepared for variations or a 'Plan B' if need be. Since starting my business, I've learnt to be resilient and make decisions faster in order to be productive and progress.

How do you retain your energy and keep enthusiastic about your work day to day?

I'm a very social and creative person. I love what I do and the fields I work in, and the passion for what I do is reflected through my hard work. I particularly enjoy dealing with people, coming up with new ideas and working through challenges. Doing this on a daily basis certainly keeps me motivated and enthusiastic about what I'm doing for work. I am quite an energetic person anyway, which helps me push through no matter what the situation.

What was the turning point or defining moment that inspired you to branch out with your own business?

I had been a freelancer/contractor for many years and was job-hunting during the global financial crisis (in 2008) looking for my next project. Out of frustration of not getting anywhere and knowing I had some great skills and experience (more than 15 years), I literally closed down job-hunting websites and started writing a business plan. A lot of companies were outsourcing as they'd retrenched staff, so I managed to get work fairly quickly through networking and it's been reasonably consistent ever since.

What key personality traits and skills do you believe are required for young women keen on developing their own business idea, or pursuing a career as an entrepreneur?

Confidence, good personal and communication skills are very helpful, as most businesses are based on relationships. Being good with time management and planning ahead also helps, as running your own business can throw all sorts of curveballs, so it's good to be a bit prepared. A strong mind and thick skin can help, especially when times are tough or people get you down; you need to be resilient to just push on.

And what advice would you have for encouraging such women to stick with the plan?

Believe in yourself and your abilities and just go for it. There's always going to be ups and downs while running your own business, you just have to ride them and remember the reason you're in business for yourself. Be strong and don't let negative situations or people deter you from what you want. Don't let the bad days get to you, celebrate the good days and use your achievements along the way to push your drive and determination.

Click here to read Impact Leaders director Emily Haigh's advice to young entrepeneurs.

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