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5 ways to ooze confidence—and professionalism—on the job

Caroline Ghosn Levo founder career adviceTo emoji in a professional email, or not to emoji in a professional email? That is the question. So when Caroline Ghosn, the co-founder and CEO of the career building site and community Levo (formerly Levo League), received an email from Sheryl Sandberg with a smiley face in it, she deemed them acceptable—under the right circumstances, of course.

It’s tips and insight like this that make Ghosn the Olivia Pope of the career-counseling world: modern, chic, and handling everything (down to even the tiniest detail) about helping women thrive professionally. Levo is focused on connecting young professionals to mentors, creating careers, and helping you get inspired about your job.

Her expertise is necessary: In the past few months, the topic of women in the workplace has been a heated (and important) discussion, thanks to an enlightening series in The New York Times from Sheryl Sandberg, the Lean In proponent and COO of Facebook, and Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. They’ve been investigating everything from why women get interrupted at work to why they take on office chores.

Even as a CEO, Ghosn still gets cut off by investors in meetings and is serious about projecting confidence in every endeavor—which may be why she’s obsessed with her healthy habits like SoulCycle and getting enough sleep. “Self-care positions you to be your most successful self,” she says.

In case you’re inclined to agree, read on for more advice from Ghosn about writing professional (or just nice) emails, making yourself heard in meetings, and how to channel your confidence when you need it.

Researcher Amy Cuddy talks a lot about how your posture and certain poses or stances can help your confidence at work—or anywhere. Do you think it’s applicable? No matter what your field or position, don’t underestimate the importance of body language. Be aware of how you are seated. Eye contact is a signifier of confidence and it creates intimacy in a team setting. These are things you can do that will make you look more confident than you might be feeling.

Levo career advice for women

Fake it till you believe it, right? How do you deal with co-workers interrupting you? It’s really effective to stop talking and look at them. I’d say in 90 percent of cases, people will apologize, and you can say, “Oh, no worries” and finish your sentence. Or you could say, “Excuse me let me finish my thought,” and then continue. But don’t apologize or fall silent. It’s having that firmness, so people understand your boundaries and how to respect you.

You said Sheryl Sandberg once sent you an emoji over an email, and if she can do it, anyone can. How do you stay friendly, positive, and confident over emails without risking appearing unprofessional? E-mail etiquette is all about context. Your default should be a concise, formal, and kind tone. As your relationships and e-mail exchanges deepen, you might become more comfortable including personal anecdotes or emojis.

A rule of thumb is to allow the more experienced person on the chain choose the tone, then you can mirror theirs. It’s like dressing professionally—it’s better to be overdressed than under, so always overshoot.

That’s great advice. What are some of the biggest pitfalls women face in the workplace? Not advocating for themselves. I used to believe that if I worked hard and put my head down, someone would notice how much value I created. I thought talking about it was crass, or conceited. I was dead wrong. You can’t count on anyone looking out for you—you need to speak up to succeed.

Can you share an example? Make a point of contributing once during every meeting you attend—if you don’t have information or a perspective to add, a question or a bridge between two ideas is just as valuable.

What else do you recommend women do to get ahead? The most successful career navigators master the art of sharing their accomplishments and creating visibility for themselves. You want to advocate for yourself while striking the right tone. As a society, we’re quick to react negatively to others showcasing their successes in the workforce.

If you work in a male-dominated field, or the women in your workplace intimidate you, for example, what are some of your tips for staying confident? Adopt a learning mindset! If people are intimidating you, it might be because deep down you recognize a strength they’ve mastered. Learn from it.

If one of your colleagues is an awesome public speaker, ask her if she’ll share some tips or tricks with you—you will be amazed at how it transforms the dynamic between the two of you. You might learn that she admires you for killing it at something that you didn’t even notice about yourself. —Molly Gallagher

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 (Photos: Caroline Ghosn/Levo; Sam Teich for Levo)