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Top 5 Tips for Young (Female) Professionals

by Weronika Pukrop

The professional world is slowly shifting, but it’s still not the easiest environment for women. Whether they are diminished for their gender, age or looks, young female professionals have to work hard. Katharina Ilgner shares her top tips on how to deal with the obstacles

Katharina Ilgner has been working in Stoyo, the leading ad agency, for two years. She started as a project manager and eventually made her way up and took over all the campaigns that the company is running. As the Chief Client Officer and Chief People Officer she’s responsible for the agency business, team members and campaigns in the US. Having achieved so much at the age of 26, she shared with us her top tips for young (female) professionals.

#TIP 1: Challenge Yourself

This is really important to me, because it means progress. For example, when I started my studies, it was clear to me that I should do more and add challenges for myself, in order to evolve. That’s why I went to Mexico to study abroad and learn a new language. I could only speak Spanish at a very basic level, but it was a new opportunity for me and a step away from what I was used to. Then, after living again for two years in Salzburg, which is my hometown, I was feeling very comfortable, my learning curved seemed to flatten down and therefore, I was looking for a new challenged and so I moved to Berlin. Stepping out of your comfort zone means learning and evolving.

#TIP 2: Hard Work Pays Off

I’ve always wanted to gain as many new experiences as possible when I’m still young, because if not now, then when? I did an internship in New York City, then I decided to go to Berlin, as there are much more opportunities for a young professional there. I took on a lot of responsibility and it was very stressful at times, but hard work really pays off. Thanks to those experiences and those decisions that I made, I am where I am today and it was definitely worth it. There are rewards, such as promotions and new tasks. It’s thrilling! The most important thing for me, is being able to always learn something new. I would never stay in the same position and in the same city if there is nothing left to learn for me.

#TIP 3: Be Bold

As a young female professional, I was many times in a situation when I would attend a meeting and talk to a C-level professional, who was not expecting someone like me. I would be asked where my boss was, because to them it was impossible that I would be the leading person to talk to. I’m quite small, I’m a woman and I’m young, so I have to work harder to be taken seriously. In such situations, it’s incredibly important to firmly believe in yourself and not underestimate your skills. You should always be self-assured and bold. I cannot stress that enough. I’m not that confident by nature and I was very nervous when I started to hold meetings on my own. One of the best tips that I can give to feel more assured is to always have data with you. This way, I am sure of what I’m saying and no one can deny the facts and what I am saying. Know your numbers, because they speak for themselves.

“One of the best tips that I can give to feel more assured is to always have data with you”

#TIP 4: Preparation is Everything

During the normal working day, I have so many responsibilities and tasks, that I simply don’t have the time to prepare myself well for meetings. However, I’ve learned very fast, that it’s crucial to come well prepared. Therefore, I always devote time in the evenings to sit down and look at my calendar for the upcoming days and thoroughly prepare notes and data for any meetings and presentations I might have. I’d rather sacrifice my evenings than come to work unprepared, because that creates additional stress and you can’t be that bold and self-assured anymore. It also happened a lot to me, that I was talking only to men in big groups, so I was in disadvantaged position. And if your preparation is really well done and you are ready for every critical question and comment, then you will gather the respect that you deserve.

#TIP 5: Use Personal Experience

It’s really beneficial to make your own speeches and your own presentations and to make it personal. When I was just starting, I was very nervous and stressed about presenting and my boss, Patrick, wanted to help me, as I always thought he does his presentations so perfectly. But I didn’t want him to show me how he does it. Instead, I knew I had to make it in my own way. I couldn’t just adopt his methods, because you need to be authentic and bring your own personality. Use your personal experience and stories to really connect with your audience and make an impact. For example, I always start meetings or pitches or presentations with mentioning my hometown and not hiding my Austrian dialect. I connect this way to my audience and make my speech more unique.

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