Have you ever sat silently in a meeting and not said a word? Maybe you wanted to, but you just weren’t sure how to contribute.

I know it can be tough to find your voice – it can feel awkward, particularly if big personalities surround you. You might feel like you can’t get a word in edgewise or you think your ideas won’t be taken seriously.

Let’s consider the downside of not communicating

It’s worthwhile considering the downside simply because it can inspire you step up to this challenge. Consider if you do not speak up, will people remember who you are? Will they know what you do? Or will they value you?

The truth is if you want to increase your career success, be more influential and get recognised for your accomplishments – your voice matters.

Start by developing trust in your voice

Speaking in front of people is daunting. No one is going refute that, yet it’s not a good enough reason to stop you finding your voice. You have ideas to contribute, and questions to raise that will make you stand out and be more successful in business.  How are you ever going to know what you are truly capable of if you don’t share and contribute?

While it’s easy to doubt yourself into silence, it’s not supporting you or your aspirations. Speaking up not only keeps you engaged with your peers and stakeholders, but it also solves problems, gives you visibility and helps your career.

In the working world, expressing yourself and showcasing your ideas is critical for you to get ahead, so when it comes to finding your voice be committed and trust yourself. You can do this, and you won’t be disappointed in your commitment to try.

It’s not just what you say, but how you say it

We are told that a common career roadblock for many women is not speaking up. While this is true, it’s not that simple. I wish it was!

Speaking up requires more than simply giving voice to an ambition. It requires you to present a compelling case that shows benefits to the business (not just you!).

The upside to doing this is that you appear more proactive, more influential and gain more respect.

On the downside, people are left to make assumptions about you, your opinions, and your ambitions.

The Latin phrase, “He who is silent is taken to agree”, summarises the impact of not speaking up. If you want to support your career progress, you need to speak thoughtfully and clearly at work.

Tackle the self-doubt and find your voice

Building the belief that you can and should speak up starts with believing you are worthy of being listened to. Whether you are in a meeting with colleagues, in the corridor having a conversation with your manager, or chatting with the people in your team, a strong voice begins with a strong, confident mindset.

I am enough. I am capable of doing tough things. I am smart and people want to hear what I have to say.

To speak up you need to believe you have the right to find your voice. A simple step is to start believing you are worthy of being listened to.

How to be thoughtful and compelling

I believe that when we do speak up, we need to be intentional. That’s what smart career-minded women do. We don’t just blurt out our thoughts, we share them thoughtfully and compellingly. It’s what makes us exceptional.

Think about asking for a pay increase. One choice is to simply demand a raise and see how your boss responds. Some people might say this is finding your voice. But I don’t agree. If you want to ask for anything in business or life – you want to make it count so people listen and act on what you’ve said. They will only do this if you’re thoughtful and compelling in the way you communicate.

Now, consider asking your boss for an increase in a more intentional way. In this scenario, you articulate your contributions to the business, and why you are deserving of that increase. [For more on this, check out our guide on How to ask for a raise.]

I hope it is as obvious to you as it is to me which approach is more powerful. So, when you find your voice, be intentional. This is a fantastic way of allowing your talents to be recognised and making your value visible and truly understood.

Play to your strengths

There isn’t one perfect way to speak up and communicate clearly. The more authentic your voice, the more you can effectively communicate.

If you’re an introvert, then you’re probably an excellent listener but tend to hold back in meetings. Conversely, you might be an extrovert and speaking up is easy for you, yet you may take up too much space in those important moments.

When you are a good listener, you can recap what’s happening, so people feel heard. If you are extroverted, recognise when you need to pause and hear from others. Play to your strengths and be authentic all the way. It’s far too hard pretending to be someone else!

To find your voice you need to practise, practise, practise

Practise speaking up whenever you can. Even if it’s a smaller internal team meeting, use that opportunity to speak up and brush up on your speaking skills. The more often you speak, the easier it’ll become. Soon, you’ll find that you’re getting better and better – I promise!  I’ve seen big boosts in women’s confidence and leadership skills when they have more opportunities to engage and find their voice.

So, apply the skills, and back yourself – it’s time to go all in and be heard!

For more inspiration, listen to my conversation with Nadine Champion in Episode 23 of the Your Brilliant Career podcast – What would more courage mean to you and your career?