Anyone who’s walked a mile in office heels knows that the workplace presents a unique set of challenges for women. For every Marissa Mayer, there are a million unsung working women, too busy trying to balance work, family, and the books — a particular challenge when your gender immediately shaves more than 20 per cent off your salary — to focus on the long game.
But if just a little extra concentration was all you needed to take your career to the next level, you’d want to try, right?
We talked to LinkedIn spokesperson Kathleen Kahlon for her tips on getting over your work hangups and becoming the boss lady you were meant to be. Men, take note, because these tips will help you, too.
MISTAKE #1: YOU DON’T HAVE A PLAN
“People kind of go with the flow,” says Kahlon. “Which is great, but what would happen if you sat down and actually plotted out where you wanted to go and what you wanted to do with your career?” This is the secret to many an entrepreneur’s success, and there’s no reason women in traditional careers can’t do it, too.
MISTAKE #2: YOU DON’T ENGAGE WITH YOUR NETWORK
Maybe you’re already an active networker, but if you’re only focusing on your own field, you’re missing out. “The more people you know – and not just in your own industry but in multiple industries – the better,” says Kahlon. Naturally, LinkedIn is a great resource for building your online network, but having the network is just the first step — you have to actively engage with it for best results. Pick up the phone, send an email, meet for coffee, and dedicate yourself to connecting with at least one person a week.
MISTAKE #3: YOU DON’T HAVE A MENTOR
Although many professional women understand the value of a mentor/mentee relationship, they’re often put off by the formality of asking for it. But this is not grade 7, and you don’t have to send a “Will you be my mentor?” note. Cultivate relationships with industry leaders you respect, and don’t worry whether you call them mentorships or not — it’s the relationships that matter. As you evolve in your career, mentor others. “I’ve actually learned so much personally by mentoring others,” notes Kahlon. Bonus: it’s great networking!
MISTAKE #4: YOU DON’T ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT
So you have a plan, a network and one or more mentors — that’s great! The next step is being proactive and letting them know what you’re looking for. “Women do not ask for what they want,” admonishes Kahlon. “I’m generalizing, of course…but from what I have seen, women just don’t ask. When they want a raise, they don’t ask for it; when they want to be given more projects, when they want to go for promotion they don’t ask for it — or if [they do], they don’t ask for it clearly.” On the flip side, Kahlon says that the majority of her male friends have no issue walking into their boss’ office and asking for a raise. “And nine times out of 10, they get it.” What have you got to lose? Have a plan and ask for it!
MISTAKE #5: YOU IGNORE YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION
“It’s so important to build your personal brand,” reminds Kahlon, and resources like LinkedIn aren’t just useful networking tools, they’re also a means for controlling your public image. “The thing with a LinkedIn profile is that it really expands on what you’ve done in the workplace, and enables you to control the message about your professional brand. In this day and age, before you interview for a job, someone can Google and find information about you, so it’s really important to curate that professional brand and put what you want out there.”
Got it? Good. Now go out and get it!