There was a time when the words women and career did not go together. But times have changed. In 2017, there were 75,175,000 women aged 16 and older in the workforce, representing 46.9 percent of the total labor force.
While women’s career paths have often been bumpy – pay inequity and the ever-present glass ceiling continue to be obstacles to women’s career advancement – there are strategies that women should consider when they are looking to advance their careers.
Despite these challenges, the general impression is that women are becoming incrementally more successful in the workforce. After all, there is certainly a lot of career advice for women out there – and some of the news is good. Women are represented in the workforce in greater numbers than ever and holding a higher percentage of managerial and executive jobs than in the past. There are a lot more women-owned businesses than in the past.
However, not all of the news is good. While many companies report a commitment to gender diversity, that commitment has not translated into meaningful progress across the board. Progress isn’t just slow – in some cases, it’s stalled.
That’s the conclusion of Women in the Workplace 2018, a study conducted by McKinsey in partnership with LeanIn.org. In the fourth year of their ongoing research, the study probes the issues facing women, drawing on data from 279 companies that employ more than 13 million people in a survey of more than 64,000 employees and a series of qualitative interviews.
Right now companies need to take more decisive action. This starts with treating gender diversity like the business priority it is, from setting targets to holding leaders accountable for results. It requires closing gender gaps in hiring and promotions, especially early in the pipeline when women are most often overlooked. And it means taking bolder steps to create a respectful and inclusive culture so women—and all employees—feel safe and supported at work.
For women who are looking to advance their careers, following these ten tips is a step in the right direction.
1. Always have a current resume
Without a well-written, well-organized resume, you won’t be able to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. My most important career advice for women is to learn how to write a resume that will make you competitive in today’s market.
If you feel intimidated by the prospect, using a profesional resume builder can help. These tools will guide you step-by-step through the process of creating an updated, modern resume. And, to round out your application materials, a professional cover letter builder can help you write a cover letter that emphasized the most impressive credentials on your new resume.
You can also learn to write the perfect resume by buying books focusing on this topic. If you are not sure which one to choose, book summary apps are here to help you.
2. Develop a strong personal brand and be visible
One of the best pieces of career advice for women is to develop a strong personal brand. A strong personal brand and a strong reputation can put you on the radar for exciting career opportunities.
Also, being recognized in your field will help your chances of quickly getting another job in the event you are ever laid off. So, get visible and make sure you are clear on what your unique skills and accomplishments are. You need to be able to tell your career story in a concise and interesting way.
3. Build your network
Network both inside and outside of your organization so that you have options if your situation changes. You want people to remember your name when interesting projects are being discussed. Get to know the right people and impress them with your work. Building a strong network is worth time and effort – this is a piece of career advice for women and men alike.
4. Ask for feedback
Another bit of career advice for women is to ask for feedback. The only way to improve is to know what to improve on. Feedback will help you meet expectations and avoid any miscommunications that might jeopardize your prospects for growth. Employees who proactively ask for feedback from management and then implement it wisely typically end up being the top performers in their field.
5. Always take on new challenges
If you’re asked to do something that excites you but that you aren’t sure you’re completely ready for, always say yes – you’ll figure out the “how” later. I remember when I was approached to speak at a conference for HR professionals in Athens, Greece. I had never before spoken on that specific topic, or in front of 200 people.
The prep was stressful but it was an incredible experience that really boosted my confidence. Have the confidence to try new things, or even take a lateral move to get a new perspective.
6. Project confidence
The more confident and competent you appear, the more you’ll be able to build confidence in your abilities in others. You need to be able to express yourself clearly and be able to ask for what you want or need.
Also, speak more slowly – some of us (including myself!) are naturally fast talkers. Others speak faster when they are nervous. However, speaking too fast might indicate a lack of authority or a lack of confidence, so do slow down.
7. Be persistent
Don’t give up, if you really want that job or promotion. Sometimes things don’t happen as fast as we’d like but once you’ve set yourself a goal, be single-minded about it. Write down your goals, review them regularly and get support to achieve them. I have noticed I was procrastinating on creating my online course as I felt too overwhelmed. Since I’ve hired a coach, the progress was significantly faster and my course is almost complete!
Also, make sure your manager knows what your professional goals are so tell them what you’d like to achieve and ask for any feedback/support if necessary.
8. Be someone people want to work with
If you do a bit more than what’s expected of you, you will often be recognized. Also, always behave with integrity and kindness – don’t ever be bitchy at work. You could be the most qualified person but if people don’t trust you, or you’re not likeable, it will be hard for you to achieve your career goals.
9. Plan your career
Career planning is especially important for women, who might have more twists and turns in their career than men (e.g due to taking time off to raise a family, for example). Having career goals will not only will it allow you to track your progress, but it will allow you to make alterations if your circumstances change.
10. Find a mentor
The majority of women who have succeeded in their careers and reached a position of influence credit their participation in some sort of mentoring effort for getting them where they are today. Many organizations have women’s initiatives and networks and while they do provide support, women still represent only 25 percent of senior roles globally, and it’s the men who are the decision-makers which has significant implications for female leaders.
The best mentors are often senior women that you establish a relationship with and then they end up being a sounding board for you. Put yourself out there and get to know senior women in your organization and if they reciprocate your interest, you can then build the relationship like you would any other relationship.
A lot of women feel uncomfortable talking about their accomplishments. However, if nobody apart from people you work closely with knows about your contributions, you’re in a more vulnerable position in case of any organizational changes.
If self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to you, there are other ways to show your areas of expertise. In most organizations, there are ways that you can demonstrate your knowledge. It might be as simple as sending a monthly email to your boss and his/her boss to keep them updated on the progress of various projects and any accomplishments.