Women Take the Lead – Feb. 19th

ad power seats nationalForces are coming together from many directions with the need and goal that women have equal footing in the business world, the political world, and the world as a whole.  The reasons this is resonating so well in the business world  are many.  The forces include:

  • Women earn the majority of college and graduate degrees making them the knowledge workforce of today and the future.  Companies need to figure out how to keep women engaged and moving to the C-Suite or some Fortune 500s will find themselves getting smaller instead of growing.
  • The first Baby Boomers hit retirement age three years ago.  Regardless how their retirements look compared to the past, new leaders are needed to replace the white grey haired men who have been the traditional leaders of that generation.  Please note bullet number 1.  Women are needed to fill that gap.
  • Women are the primary or sole breadwinner in 40% of households with children while only 20% of households with children have stay-at-home mums.  As President Obama stated we can’t think like Mad Men days anymore.
  • Sheryl Sandburg hit a cord with Lean In.
  • Boston decided to be the first city with Equal Pay focusing on 100% Talent.
  • Marie Shriver with the help of Beyonce and others highlight the need for changing perspectives for women, the nation, and the next generation in the Shriver Report on Women Pushing Back from the Brink
  • Organizations like 2020 Women on Board are working towards larger female representation of women on the nation’s corporate boards.

One new force that is bringing many together is Take the Lead, a organization co-founded this year by Gloria Feldt, a leader in women rights.  Take the Lead is having it’s Launch Event on February 19th in Arizona and Sheryl Sandburg will be there along with many other female leaders.    There is a live and free video stream of the event for those of us not in Arizona.  This is an event I’m looking forward to.  I hope you will join me in watching.

Career Management Includes Taking Calls for Jobs

I hear it often,  “this headhunter emailed and bothered me with a job opportunity.”  I wish they would stop.

STOP, heck no.  Sure there are many jobs you do not want which reinforces that you are at the right job right now.  Yet,  someday you are going to want a new job.  As I say often, every job has an expiration date.  Either you decide it, the company decides it, or the economy decides it.  With that in mind, accept the request to connect, respond to the email, and listen to the pitch because one day there will be a job that is just too good to be true.  And they came to you!

Knowing what kinds of jobs are available in your industry is a critical part of career management.  Don’t let false loyalty to your current employer take your eyes off of managing your life.  Don’t let bruised egos due to headhunters with jobs that are beneath you swear off ever talking to another headhunter.  Spend five minutes once every six months or so when you get such interest and be grateful you get the interest.  Some day there will be no inbound interest and  you will be looking for a job.  Who can you contact then?  Not the people you ignored when you were happily employed.

Even better, you can ask for the moon when they come to you and you like the job you already have.  Everyone of us should experience that at least once.  Here’s one story.

Lessons Learned from NOT Leaning In


Leaning In Photo from IStockPhoto

Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is causing quite the stir.   The book has been met with joy, anger, hope, interest, more anger, disbelief, and amazing sales.   Much of the criticisms of her book are about her and not about her message.

I’m in the middle of reading the book that was published last week and am finding it a good read.  Although Sheryl specifies that the book is not on career management, I am finding that to be one of the strengths of the content.   Whether your ultimate goal is to lead or not, every woman does need to develop career management skills so you can lean in at the times that will help you achieve your goals.

I have missed some opportunities to lean in.  There are more but for this post I will leave it to three examples.  I offer them as examples from one of the 99 percenters, an average Jane, a person whom you may find more in common than Ms. Sandberg.

Being a Friend Instead of a Career Counselor

Years ago, a close friend was upset because a coworker was named the new manager of her department and she had not been asked to interview for the promotion, a promotion she wanted. I was younger and more stupid then so  I shared in her pain, listened to her, and probably bought her a drink. Instead, I should have woken her up from her dream of the business world.

Although we all know many times when work does feel like high school getting a promotion is not one of them.  Bosses won’t be your girlfriends encouraging you to try out for the senior musical because you have an amazing voice.  Everyone who wants to be promoted needs to tell the right people at work.  The right people include the hiring manager for the job you want.

Silently Stood By

I was a presenter at a Women in Business Conference last fall and the keynote speaker ended her talk with “work hard and you will be rewarded”.  At the time, I thought about standing up and challenging her.  Working hard while not stating interest in new challenges will not result in new challenges.   I did not want to be that person but I should have been.  Here was a room full of college girls and professional women.  The college girls may have bought into the concept before they even started their careers.  That is starting one step behind. You don’t need to do a thing more than your job…. it’s absolutely wrong.

Standing by and not challenging such nonsense is as culpable as bystanders endorsing bullying.  If we are asking our fifth grade students to stand up to bullying  than I should have the courage to do it as well.  I partially failed that day.  I say partially because during my session I did address my disagreement on the topic.  I know it was a day late and a dollar short on that occasion.  It won’t be in the future.

Automatic NO

I was lucky. I learned to lean in early because of the first time I did not.  As a senior in college in 1985 I worked part-time at the local office of Congressman Joseph Early of Massachusetts.  It was before desktop computers and voice mail so I filed, answered phones, took messages, and once in a while actually talked with a constituent.  I must have done a good job because one day in May when the Congressman was in the office he called me in to speak with him.  I can still see him sitting in the big leather chair as I stood anxiously in front of his desk. I don’t think I had ever said more than hi to him before.   My first real conversation with him, and the Congressman offers me a full-time job in the D.C. office! I declined.

I declined so quickly it shocks me when I think of it now.  I know I did not consider the offer seriously.  I know it would have resulted in a different career path.  I may have been right to decline the offer because I was offered another job in government 12 years later and declined that job as well.  That time I knew why.  Where I was wrong was in not indicating interest and asking questions about the job until I could make an informed decision.  That is what someone who is managing her career does.

Since that job offer, I have never said an automatic NO again. To me, leaning in means developing my own career challenges and considering career challenges that are pitched to me. Some I have accepted and some I have declined.  Neither has been made from fear or lack of information.  When I have accepted challenges they have been interesting, rewarding, eye opening, and have moved my career forward.  I look forward to the new challenges I will accept.

Have there been times when you wished you leaned in?  I would love to read about them.  I’m sure the other readers would benefit.

© Katie Donovan 2013

The Working Woman’s New Year’s Resolutions for 2012

The New Year arrives this weekend and with it will be New Resolutions.   Or maybe your resolutions will be repeats of classics that you make annually.  Does exercise more, eat better, read more, save more money, or learn a new hobby sound familiar?  You are not alone!  I know I will have a repeat in my personal resolutions.

What about making a business resolution this year?  This is often a forgotten aspect of our life when it comes to resolutions.  I thought I would help jumpstart you with a baker’s dozen suggested resolutions that I believe are critical to career management and confidence to successfully negotiate higher salaries.

In 2012 resolve to:

  1. Know the market value of your job.  This knowledge is eye opening and empowering to many women.
  2. Develop a relationship with a mentor.  Having multiple mentors is optimal but aim to get your first this year.  Mentors should be both women and men and work within and outside your company. A good mentor has more experience than you and will advise you as you move through your career.
  3. Develop a relationship with a sponsor.  A sponsor is someone who has clout within your company or industry and will actively recommend and endorse you to others. Like mentors, it’s best to have more than one.
  4. Mentor another woman. Remember to share the wealth as you learn and develop clout of your own.
  5. Think of and communicate your contributions to the company in terms of accomplishments and financial impact.  You need to think like a manager to manage your career. Managers don’t really care about effort.  Their focus is results as should yours.
  6. Network with people in your company who do not work in the same department.  The best advice I got in my first job was to be friendly with the people in accounting because you never know when you will need their help.  I’ve taken that advice a step further.  Become friendly with people in all departments.  Each department has a unique perspective of what’s happening in a company.  Being able to see from these various perspectives is amazingly helpful regardless of what your job is.  Plus you may find a different department is a better fit for your interests and abilities.  Having friends who welcome you to a position within a company is a great plus.
  7. Network with people in your industry.  The issues of your company may or may not be the issues of the industry.  You may work for the best of the best and network to find future employees.  You may discover other companies are better fits for your personality and abilities.  Knowing the big picture and people outside of your company will help keep you stay marketable and ready to change when you want or are forced to look for a change.
  8. Jump on the digital bandwagon and network online.  LinkedIn is the leading online business-networking site.  Create your profile and connect to people you already know.  Then get bold and join a group.  Ask or answer a question.  Then you will be ready to ask people that you want to know to connect with you.  Spend about 15 minutes a week on LinkedIn and  you will soon find yourself using it time and time again to find a new partner, employee, vendor, advisor, and/or employer.
  9. Accept praise from management.  If you don’t already, learn to just say “thank you” when someone gives you praise.  Do not diminish the praise by downplaying your accomplishment.    How can you later play up the same accomplishments to get a raise if you continually downplay them when management gives you a “Atta Girl”?
  10. Know what you want the next step in you career to be.  We all need to grow and change things from time to time.  Regardless what your job is today, it will most likely not be the same job in 3-5 years.  Start thinking about what you would like to do next.  Thinking about it sooner than later helps you think about what you need to do to get to the next stage of your career.
  11. Tell management what you want the next step of your career to be.  Just as important as you knowing what you want to do next is to let management know.  They can help you accomplish the next move within the company.
  12. Negotiate your next starting salary or raise.  You are underpaid if you did not negotiate your salary so next time start to rectify the problem by negotiating your salary.
  13. Be nicer to yourself.  There is a tendency for many people to be their own worst critic.  Try to cut yourself some slack this year.  Allow yourself to make mistakes.  Learn from them but don’t beat yourself up after a mistake.

Each of the resolutions will take time to accomplish and will have missteps along the way.  Should you decide to undertake any of these, be kind to yourself as you work through it.  The goal of all these resolutions is not to make a perfect you.  It’s to improve your well being in the work world.

Happy New Year and Happy Career!