/GUEST POST BY NATÁLIA KISKOVÁ/ Since I moved to Central Eastern Europe 3 years ago, I interview about 10-20 people a month, from men to women, to students, and senior managers. These people come from different companies and industries, but they have one thing in common, which is lack of self-worth. Being some of the smartest, hard-working individuals in the world, it makes me wonder, what happened? Why when I get to interview a 20-year-old Brit or American, with no experience, they make me feel like they know the world and when I interview a 35-year-old super-skilled programmer from Slovakia I feel that I need to pull out of him the knowledge and experience he can bring to the company? Is it a gender, issue, cultural, or is it just education systems that cause this difference?
After almost 8 years of living in the Western world (from US to UK) I decided to move back to CEE. First to Prague where I lived for almost 2 years and now back to the roots, to Bratislava. One can say I lived the world and can ask how did I manage to do it while being so young? Well, what I am thankful to my parents and lucky enough to have, is American education. I can say I am lucky to have American education for many reasons: professors are people from industries, internships are a must, or that volunteering is a strong requirement to be successful. Culturally, what US has thought me and I find it very valuable, is to be able to sell myself. Presentation in front of 10-100 people on every class, teamwork, competitions and improve lectures are a must in business. Being able to see my self-worth and ask for what I believe I deserve, made me travel the world, work in some of the best companies and now can come back and try to empower others to do the same.
Fine, I got US education. How come though, that statistically most of Czechs, Slovaks and even Poles, no matter the gender, cannot ask for what they are worth? Even I still have wet palms and stress out when I need to ask for higher salary or get a promotion even though I have all the facts that support my claims for increase.
Considering gender differences, we can go back in the days before Christ and look at women being collectors and men being hunters. Therefore, women are not as determined to fight for more, they just want to be comfortable and wait for superiors to give them what they believe they deserve. Or let’s move to the 1900’s. When we look at the cultural dispersion between Western and Eastern Europe. West was fighting to stay free, as separate countries, while countries in the East changed boarders, presidents, languages, and political regimes almost every decade. Did we just become so used to being oppressed that we just wait to this day for people to realize how hard-working, smart and intelligent we are as nations and individuals?
Whatever the reason might be, the difference in daily life of a typical 25-40-year-old in our region and the west is vast. And I might be generalizing from my experience, nonetheless I feel that I have interviewed enough people to say: We are great as nations and as individuals and we need to start showing it. Before anyone jumps up after reading this and starts singing our national anthem, we need to take a step back and teach individuals how to sell themselves correctly. There is a fine line between bragging and telling someone how experienced in XYZ one is. Also, lying to sound better is a very bad idea, as every lie will eventually come out.
I have read a research recently, which stated that out of the 75% of time at work we spend communicating, about 80% happens non-verbally. Emotions, thoughts, and ideas are usually shared by expressions, gestures, tone of voice or even diction. On interviews, the percentage of what you say and how you say it is perceived by the interviewer in the same manner: 80% is nonverbal and 20% is verbal. Same goes for talking to manager about raise or promotion, or negotiating a deal, or even just having a conversation with friends. In schools, we are taught to memorize and know all the information textbook contains. What people form our nations are not taught, is how to relay back the information, or experience they know or have. We can think about the problem as being a huge library with some of the best books, but no one knows how to read. Going back to my point, how can we change that?
If a person has already graduated from university and is working, the advice is going to be the same as I would give to a student. Take classes. And I don’t mean presentation classes. What I am talking about is acting, improve, comedy classes. Stand out in front of huge audience and learn how to grasp your audience, get comfortable in silence, increase your voice level at the right time or just smile even when you feel uncomfortable. Also, if one says well I do not have time, one can always get coaches online. Coaches who teach how to present yourself and be self-confident. Coaches who spend time with you to create that ego that comes for some of so unnaturally. And most importantly, be ready to accept feedback. Any feedback from anyone. People get offended when they receive negative feedback. But getting and asking for feedback can make us grow. Any class one will decide to take, they should be ready and open to learn.
Any cultural background, gender or education we have is just a stepping stone for what we can become. Learning, improving and growing on that stepping stone is the path we can choose. Being a Slovak myself, I wish more people would realize the importance of learning even after university so that we could show the world the talent we have. I see it every day, the smart guys and girls coming to interviews, who just with a simple shove or push can become leaders. That shove can come externally from managers or family or internally, when they realize how skilled and talented they are and they show it to the world.
Natalia Kisková is a Group Community Manager at HB Reavis, board member of “Aj Ty v IT” social organisation and the daughter of the President of Slovakia. Her current role is to create and run Innovation Hubs and Cities across CEE and London by developing strong communities in selected industries and ensuring synergies between start-up and corporate ecosystem. Prior to her current role, Natalia was heading up the office for Bluewolf in Prague, Czech Republic to cover CEE region. In the past 5 years while she moved from NYC to London to Prague office covering roles from Consultant to Project Manager. She is very passionate about expanding the knowledge of IT and it’s potential in her home region. Her aim is to motivate and support more individuals to join the startup community and promote the talent and innovation.