6 Pieces of Unfiltered Work Advice Every Woman Needs To Hear
July 26, 2019 | Filed in: Your Career
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that careers are complicated. They’re rife with crossroads, turning points, decisions—and other people. And they go on for decades. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would give you the real story, and the unfiltered work advice you actually want? Thankfully, our VP of Brand Marketing is here to tell it how she sees it.
Can I succeed at work while avoiding any and all company parties/outings?
No, you can’t succeed at work while avoiding all company parties. Do you watch Survivor? If not, start. You’ll learn: It’s a social game. It’s not enough to do the work / win the challenges. You need people on your side when the vote comes. Put a smile on your face, stand where people can’t miss you, and talk to someone. Then go home and put a pillow over your head. You don’t have to love it. But you do have to do it. No exceptions.
I want to get promoted, but there is no clear role to move into at my company. Help!
Pretty much everyone wants to get promoted. It’s an evolutionary leftover from the days when fourth grade naturally turned into fifth. It feels great to have public acknowledgment that we’ve learned something, pleased someone, and been noticed for our work. Because of this, promotion has become a catch-all to satisfy different kinds of professional yearnings. I’d ask you to sort through what exactly you’re looking for. Is it as clearcut as recognition? In that case, have a conversation with your manager: How am I doing? Are you happy with my work? It’s fair to want to know where you stand. If it’s more money you’re looking for, then say: I haven’t gotten a raise in three years; is that something that’s in my future? Or perhaps you really are aiming at a full new set of responsibilities. In that situation, it’s on you to make a business case for your promotion. How would reorganizing your job help the company achieve its goals? Attach real numbers to this, then be prepared to be told no. Frankly, you may have to move out in order to move up. And that’s okay. It’s a long game.
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I don’t have a mentor, and I don’t know how to find one. Will I still be successful?
People tend to think of mentors as Yoda: Wise creatures who will gently guide you through the swamp until you reach professional nirvana and become an elder yourself. But while I personally mentor at least half a dozen people—and treasure those relationships—in general, I think of mentorship as yet another tax on women’s time. I’ve had young women I was interviewing for jobs gaze at me out of Bambi eyes and tell me they’re looking for a mentor, as though the chance to devote my time to their professional advancement is somehow a reason I should want to hire them. My point is this: You have to work hard to identify a mentor, earn her attention, fight for her respect, give her at least as much as she gives you. How do you do that, you ask? Reach out to a woman you admire in your industry or at your company. Invite her to meet. Don’t be put off when she doesn’t have time. Reach out again. When she is able to fit you in, show up prepared. Follow through on your conversation. Reach out again. And again. Then you will not only have a valuable relationship, but you will have also developed the skills that will make you professionally successful.
There is one person on my team I cannot see eye to eye with, and I know others feel this way too. We can’t get through a project without at least one disagreement. How can I work around this?
You can’t work around it; you have to work through it. Don’t use your dislike of this person as an excuse to avoid them. The team will never function well if some members are ostracized. The next time a situation seems to be brewing, schedule a meeting for you and this person. Focus on the tasks and get them done. And as you’re problem-solving together, gently figure out what’s really making this person difficult to collaborate with. In my experience, most people just want to get the work done, and any social politicking that’s happening is affecting them, too. You may turn out to have more in common than you expect.
I’m shy, and I’m often overpowered by other people on my team who talk a lot in meetings. This outspokenness is making it look like they do more work or perform at a higher level than I am. How can I compensate?
Meet my friends Preparation and Follow-up. Preparing means you have your thoughts together and don’t have to figure out something to say on the fly; it may also mean you email the meeting leader in advance to share your ideas. Follow up means you reach out to relevant people afterward to raise your hand for assignments. These will go a long way. But here’s where I’m going to be tough: As dismissive as you are, the fact that your co-workers are better at what I call “meeting theater” may indeed mean they are performing at a higher level. The ability to share your ideas coherently in a group is a crucial skill in any industry. You have to fix this.
Some of my former colleagues now work at companies I’m interested in working for. I’m hesitant to reach out in case it gets back to someone I work with now. But I also know the value of connections. Is it okay to get in touch?
Yes. It is always okay to keep your connections warm. You will not be fired for talking to a former colleague and expressing interest in new opportunities. And if someone at your current company did happen to hear about it and ask you why you’d want to move on, well, maybe that’s your chance to have a productive conversation about your future. Conflict? Bring it!