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Confidence and Competence: 3 Things Every Millennial Woman Should Do Before Entering the Workplace

As a woman in business school and the traditionally male dominated IT industry, I’ve taken a particular interest in understanding the perception of women in the workplace. I’ve also been trying to identify and emulate how women overcome obstacles in their careers.

That’s why I’ve formed a number of important relationships outside the classroom. In my capacity as president of the Graduate Women’s Leadership Organization (GWLO), I have, among other things, been working with Bentley’s Center for Women and Business. The GWLO generates programming for the graduate student population designed to address issues that women face in business. This year, GWLO began its first initiative to promote women in IT.

Now, I feel I’m more prepared for my career than if I just took classes.

Not only was I able to successfully complete both my master’s degrees, I’ve secured a position in the IT department of a private investment management company based in Massachusetts. I believe my involvement inside and out of the classroom has prepared me to rejoin the workforce, and better able to contribute to the health and growth of the industries in which I work.

Part of this accomplishment stemmed from my close collaboration and connection with Bentley’s Graduate Career Services department. My adviser at Bentley was by my side from day one. I also found it exceedingly helpful to meet with Bentley alumni at the companies where I interviewed, to get a true sense of the culture and fit.

Most of my computer science courses at Bentley have been skilled-based, which is great. My MBA courses were filled with heated discussions about important and current business topics. In my last course, while discussing a case written with a female protagonist, we considered and discussed how our perceptions of her might have changed if she were male. I’m happy to say that not many of us felt our perception would have been different.

One of the highlights of my preparedness journey was attending a panel discussion on how to close the confidence and wage gaps for women. GWLO sponsored this discussion, and it was designed specifically to help women address issues like negotiating wages and conditions of employment.

As I look back, I think there are three key things every female student seeking a career in business must do to get ready for her professional life:

  1. Practice Confidence by Asserting Yourself: School offers the opportunity to learn from your mistakes without affecting work performance. By volunteering for leadership positions and getting involved in projects that force you to use skills you’re less experienced with, you start to develop a certain level of comfort and confidence.
  2. Form Connections with Classmates: It’s especially helpful if the classmates are women, because this is the beginning of your personal network moving forward. As business school students, we learn that our careers will often be driven by our relationships with the people in our company and industry.
  3. Make the Most of Student Events: The best events usually bring in speakers at conferences and symposiums. Listening to the experiences of successful business leaders prepares you for the current business environment. I especially love listening to confident, charismatic women, as they help motivate me.

In closing, I believe that I’ve been well prepared to handle the confidence issues that I’ll encounter in my career. This happened outside the classroom. Meanwhile, I’ve been given a wonderful set of skills — real professional competence — inside the classroom.

I’m ready for the workforce.

Natalie Brooks received her MSIT and MBA from Bentley as a member of the Class of 2014.

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