On my personal Facebook, page, I asked a simple question. “Ladies: what do you wish someone had told you when you first started your career?” What I received was a wonderful array of answers- from women at the beginning of their careers all the way into retirement age. Reading and re-reading their answers, I knew this conversation needed to be shared. Career advice from any source is great, but career advice from the sisterhood?? Indispensable.
Women are often pitted against each other in the workplace, which is unfortunate because we have so much to offer one another. In recent years, I have been making it a practice to connect with professional women I admire: whether it’s their accomplishments, their interests, their energy, their faith, or some combination thereof, I always learn something.
The older I get the more I wish I had tapped into the collective wisdom of women around me earlier on! What we can glean from the experiences of others can inform our own mindset and choices. Keep reading and benefit from some career advice from the sisterhood!
What do you wish someone had told you when you first started your career?
Negotiate my salary. You don’t have to be ok with the first offer.
Ah yes, let’s get right to it. Ladies, I’m not sure where we learned that it’s not OK to ask for more money, but according to a 2020 Randstad Survey, 60% of women have never negotiated their salary, compared to 40% of men. As you might guess, this contributes to wage inequality.
If you’re curious how this breaks down for racial and ethnic groups, according to data from the US Census Bureau’s 2018 1-year American Community Survey:
“Asian women face the smallest wage gap — they earn 97% of what white men earn, resulting in a pay gap of just 3%. White women earn 80% of what white men do, while black women earn 66% and Hispanic women earn 58%, a pay gap of 42%.
When compared to black men, black women earn 89.4%, and Hispanic women make 84.8% of what Hispanic men do.”7 charts that show the glaring gap between men’s and women’s salaries in the US
One reason women cite for not negotiating is that it’s an uncomfortable conversation to have and women rightly intuit that there is a “social cost” to negotiating. Still, this takes us to our next piece of career advice.
Learn how to have productive, yet uncomfortable, conversations. They are always worth it.
Negotiating your salary is just one of the many uncomfortable conversations you will have throughout your career and life. Conflict is inevitable. It’s a part of life. You may as well learn how to handle it in a healthy way. Here are some of my favorite resources for learning how to handle conflict.
- The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a great first step to discover your “wiring” and is the world’s most-used personality assessment. Self-awareness is SUCH an important part of learning to navigate conflict. I like to incorporate the MBTI into career coaching, but it’s also a wonderful tool to use for personal development.
- Non-Violent Communication– this oldie but goodie by Marshall Rosenburg is a great framework for handling difficult conversations. I love to use this with people to talk through a problem. NVC has 4 components: 1) Observations 2) Feelings 3) Needs 4) Requests.
- Radical Candor by Kim Scott- the book, the podcast, I love it all. This isn’t just for managers and supervisors although if you ARE a manager or supervisor you should definitely check it out.
Say yes to projects even when you don’t already know how to do all the steps. You have permission to learn along the way.
One of the things I see in women is that we feel we need to know EVERYTHING about a topic in order to see ourselves as qualified to take on a new challenge. I say “we” because I am the worst at this!
This behavior leads us to chase (possibly unnecessary) degrees, certifications, and training because we crave outside approval or “permission” before stepping into our purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in life-long learning and continual self-improvement, but the truth is you could spend your entire life getting degree after degree and still never feel like you measure up.
This advice also goes for applying for jobs or “stretch roles” you’re not 100% qualified for. You may have heard Sheryl Sandberg’s revelation that men are likely to apply for a position when they meet 60% of the qualifications, whereas women are likely to apply for positions when they meet 100% of the qualifications.
Bottom line? Sometimes you are your own worst enemy. Stop overthinking and get out of your own way!!
It’s OK/Necessary to Advocate for Yourself!
From childhood, women are rewarded for being compliant, nurturing, and self-sacrificing. If you’re not, well you know what you might just get labeled. For Christian women coming from a traditional, paternalistic context, this cultural imperative might even be tied to your spirituality.
Women who struggle with this are often allergic to conflict. Making others uncomfortable may come with a heavy price, like rejection or social ostracization. However, the less-examined danger is keeping everyone but yourself comfortable, which is a recipe for anger, resentment, and wasted potential. Another misguided hope is that someone else is going to come along and rescue them (newsflash: they probably won’t). As Miss Johanna taught my kids in preschool, “You have to be responsible for you.” This is career advice but also life advice.
For inspiration, claim this quote as your own.
“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”Louisa May Alcott
To anyone who’s ever been called a “bitch” or “too much” or “ambitious” (used pejoratively), I hope that you have other voices speaking into your life, affirming your right to speak up and have your needs met.
And the final piece of advice for today’s post came from a retired grandma who said:
Well, my last career was watching my grandlittles, and I wish someone would have reminded me that they grow up and go to school but what a wonderful, loving job…
This made me smile for several reasons because 1) I know these “grandlittles” are lucky to have this particular grandma and 2) Childcare (and other caregiving) is the most essential yet undervalued vocational calling a person can have.
If this pandemic has done anything, it’s shown us how important these roles are to a functioning society. In 2020, it still falls mostly to women to do this underpaid (or unpaid) skilled labor. Friends, this is work. Even when done in love.
Still, this grandma’s advice is poignant. Before children are sucked into the educational system and the world of work, they are cared for (hopefully) by someone/s who pours into them and creates a bridge to a waiting world just beyond their understanding. Eventually, they will have the audacity to cross that bridge and leave their caregiver in the dust (tearful sniff). I can laugh about it now, but as a mom, this cycle of tending and letting go is difficult and real and on-going.
It’s a reminder for all of us to be present to the season we are in. To take stock and be thankful for the people who prepare us for the next leg on our journey.
Hey friend! If you want to explore your Career + Calling visit my coaching page for more! I have a variety of coaching packages or I can tailor my services to your specific situation. I do one-on-one coaching with anyone who is looking to align their values, personality, and goals with their career choices.