By Briana North
Recent studies about women in the workplace show many signs of hope: we are more educated, we are closing the wage gap and we are starting our careers at higher salaries. Women just beginning their careers may be tempted to think that equality rules in today’s modern workplace.
However, ladies of the millennial generation would be unwise to mistake these signs of hope for complete equality in the workplace. Females make up just 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, are less like to ask for and receive raises compared to their male counterparts and, as their careers progress, face setbacks when starting families.
Because of this, women must have a realistic, strategic and deliberate approach to advancing their careers. Here are five career strategies for women to emulate to ensure success in the workplace.
1. Find a Mentor
According to the Harvard Business Review, professionals with mentors are more likely to be satisfied with their job and earn a higher salary than those without mentors. The benefits to a mentor go far beyond the paycheck; a mentor can help to guide you, talk you through stressful or complicated issues and allow you to learn from their mistakes so that you do not repeat them.
Mentorship is not a sign of weakness. Even the most powerful and successful women credit mentors for helping them attain success. Oprah Winfrey eulogized her mentor, author and poet Maya Angelou, calling her the ultimate teacher. She credited Angelou with giving her important advice, support and guidance throughout her career.
Women should look for female mentors. While men can obviously give valuable advice, there are some career situations that only another women may understand, like what it feels like to be the only woman in the board room.
2. Take School Seriously and Keep Learning
If you are still in school, be sure to finish your coursework and graduate. Studies show that a starting salary for millennials with a bachelor’s degree is about $45,500. Starting salary for their peers with only a high school diploma is $28,000.
If you are already out of college and think you’ve checked this box off the list, think again. Sure it is fun to read People magazine and visit gossip websites, but that cannot be your only source of information. Keep learning after graduation by reading books and newspapers, attending lectures and taking advantage of professional-development opportunities.
Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Shakira did not need to go back to school, but she enrolled at UCLA after a grueling world tour, thanks to her refreshing attitude towards learning. “The universe is so broad, I cannot be at the center of it. So I decided to go to the university and study history for a summer course,” she said.
3. Be Confident
Sure, confidence is a personality trait, but it is also a strategy for your career. Let’s look at the example of Allison Brod, whose eponymous public relations firm is home to high fashion and high-profile clients. Brod’s headquarters in New York resemble a chic boutique and a candy store combined, with lots of space for meetings and creative collaboration, but she didn’t start in that posh office.
Her first job came when she boldly walked up to a fellow party-goer whom Brod recognized as a fashion executive and asked for a job. Her big break came from confidently pitching to someone in an elevator, and that client (Burberry) led her to start her own firm.
Brod encourages women to “be bold. Do not be afraid or feel limited in asking for connections to others or in introducing yourself to people you want to meet.” She also cautions young women not to mistake confidence with overselling qualifications to future employers.
Women are sometimes thought of as natural networkers, but for younger women who are used to communicating via email, text or Facebook message, talking to strangers at networking events can be daunting. It doesn’t have to be. Start by joining your local alumni chapter, your professional association or a young professionals group.
Let’s look at the example of Teresa Goertz, who moved her home and her career in one fell swoop. As she settled into her new hometown of Seattle, she also worked at establishing a new career in technical writing. After earning her certification, she became a member of the Puget Sound chapter of the Society for Technical Communications. It was there that she volunteered for leadership positions and made contacts that led to contract work, which in turn led to Goertz owning her own firm.
Remember, networking is not about what people can give to you. Networking is based on forming relationships, learning and helping each other.
5. Take Risks
This piece of advice can be a hard one for some. Young women are taught to follow the rules and fulfill conventional roles, so stepping into the unknown can feel foreign. Taking risks can sometimes feel like a gamble, but it shouldn’t be looked as as a negative thing, in fact it can be adventurous and quite fun.
Arianna Huffington, the author and entrepreneur, said in an interview, “We women are a little more risk adverse, because whenever you launch something there is a big chance it’s not going to work. We have a bigger problem with failure.” She goes on to talk about what she calls an “obnoxious roommate living in our heads” that breeds doubt and self-criticism.
So kick that roommate out. Whether it’s striking out as a freelancer to gain flexibility or more earning power, starting your own agency or asking for a raise, women need to embrace risk to move forward in their careers.
The outlook for women in the workplace is most certainly improving, but women need to be strategic and thoughtful in their approach to career advancement. Leave your advice for female career strategies in the comment section below.
Briana North is a blogger that enjoys sharing her opinions and advice on careers, feminism, young adult literature, and life itself. Recently, Briana earned her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and is currently working in the field of Public Relations. In her free time, she focuses on building her portfolio so she can continue sharing her opinions and advice with others.While she doesn’t know what tomorrow will bring, she hopes it includes writing.