Mentorship and guidance are critical inputs for professional women to succeed. They become more important in a background where women have to fight gender stereotypes and need insights from women who have been there and done that.
Here are 10 pieces of advice for starting a career that have been compiled from successful women all over the world.
1) Get rid of the impostor phenomenon
This is one of the best pieces of advice you will ever get. The impostor phenomenon is a syndrome where a person feels that they do not deserve the success they have achieved; despite external evidence of their competence, they feel that they are frauds and are deceiving people into thinking they are greater than what they really are. This syndrome has affected the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Tina Fey. A survey by the Institute of Leadership and Management examined the levels of confidence of managers in their profession. It showed that self-doubt over job performance was close to 50 percent for women, as compared to 31 percent for male respondents.
Dr. Valerie Young’s book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive In Spite of It, takes a fascinating look at how so many accomplished and capable people suffer from self-doubt. “When you feel yourself sliding into competence extremism, recognise it for what it is. Then make a conscious decision to stop and really savour those exhilarating mental high points and forgive yourself for the inevitable lulls.” Learn to reframe your mind. If one negative self-doubt thought enters your thoughts, replace with two or more positive thoughts and affirmations on what you do well and have achieved.
2) Choose who you listen to
Karen Deutsch, Advertising Director at Cosmopolitan, says “Find the decision maker and never take a no from a person who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” The inclination to play nice and be in everybody’s good books is a temptation; but understand who has the authority to make decisions and that is who you go to.
3) Stay out of office politics
Nearly every successful woman has handed down this piece of advice. Discretion is key, especially since women have been stereotyped as leaning towards gossip. Donna Kalajian Lagani, Senior Vice President, Publishing Director and Chief Revenue Officer of The Cosmopolitan Group says: “When you have the job, have the following attitude: set your sights high, be willing to work your hardest to succeed, stay out of office politics.”
4) Accept praise
When somebody compliments you on your work, own it. Women are natural equalisers and tend to deflect compliments or pass the credit on to others. When your boss says “Good job,” fight the urge to say “I have a great team.” A simple “Thank you” will suffice. If you have worked hard for it, give credit to yourself where credit is due.
5) Do not be over-sensitive
The office is a good place to learning to accept criticism and comments from peers. Criticisms will hurt, but the best way to tackle them is to take them constructively and move away with a smile and a sense of determination. Learn from these criticisms and instead let them help you become a better person and a better performer.
6) Be a woman of few, but on point words
Instead of talking about all the things you can do or have done, let your work do the talking. Karen Deutsch says: “Make yourself valuable every day. Don’t look to take credit. If you do your work well, credit will come to you.”
This does not mean that you don’t speak up. Rather, use choice words and avoid over explaining or justifying things; instead be articulate and stick to the point.
7) Be Kind
Do you worry about being too gentle such that your co-workers are likely to think you are too nice for the job? Or what about being too assertive? In any case, this should not stop you from being kind, a quality we tend to overlook and under-appreciate. The world needs kind people; so be one.
Lisa Leslie, retired WNBA superstar and four-time Olympic gold medallist, says: “Whether you’re talking about the janitor or the President, you want to treat people well and never like you’re on a different level. True kindness can lead to unexpected rewards. And it’s more pleasant!”
8) Perfectionism can bring you down
Wanting things to be perfect is a great asset, but remember that striving for perfectionism can become a snare and a confidence killer.
In the pursuit of perfection, women tend to hold back until they are completely sure of what they want to say or need to be 100% competent to go for promotion or board roles, while men take more risks. This could mean loss of opportunities and increased self-doubt. Keep it real – accept that you can make mistakes and learn from them …so take risks.
9) Look for mentors
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have careers you idolise” says writer Anna Breslaw. Ask them, learn from them and grow with them. Finding a good mentor that is suitable for you is not easy, and this is where Behind Closed Doors can help. By giving you access to a vast support network of women who have proved their mettle as business executives, government and community leaders, Behind Closed Doors helps empower women by mentor matching. Learn more about us on our website.
10) Believe in yourself
This is probably the most important advice you should follow. Have the conviction that you are the right person for the role and go all out in demonstrating your capabilities to yourself as well as to others.
What piece of advice helped you when you started your career?
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