Gender equality (for real)
All too often do we women have to defend our capabilities in professional spaces – not because we lack anything, or because we are less capable of our male counterparts, but because the historical and common misperception is that gender is inescapably related to our job functions. In reality though, most people now agree that the genders are equally talented, capable, and ambitious.
That said, we know the sting of being doubted in the workplace. For this reason, I have crafted a list of how I remain ambitious and untouched by doubters. And yes, all of these hacks are easier said than done.
1.) Maintain insanely detailed notes
Early in my career, I got in the habit of keeping a phone log where I documented every single inbound and outbound call, who I talked with, and what the highlights were, no matter how minor or major. I even wrote down (in front of leadership) when the President of the company sat on my desk, inches away from me, and lingered to touch my shoulders. Ick. I wrote down the time, who was at my desk, and what happened. Right in front of him. It never happened again.
Notes, whether digital or hand-written, are an insanely valuable tool. When digitized, all meeting notes and information can can be searchable and easily tracked.
If you meet someone, take real notes, and immediately add a calendar item to follow up with them at a specific time (this is the part everyone always forgets).
Finally, keep an accomplishment journal to be able to suggest and defend a future raise or promotion – it works.
2.) Know your tools
Perhaps you’re recently really into Trello, and during your next job interview, they happen to ask about your organizational skills. Instead of rambling on, you can talk about how streamlined your life is with Trello and follow up by mentioning your three favorite browser extensions that aren’t about sports or beauty but about real work.
Remember your tools when you’re climbing the ladder and always refine them – nothing’s ever good enough, nor is your process. Test them out, be able to defend them, and be ready to recommend them to others.
3.) Be a master of research
Never stop learning, or seeking relevant information. If you’re a new coder, obsess over Stack Overflow during lunch every single friggen’ day. If you’re in the marketing department, stalk Quora topics. Read every industry publication you can get your eyeballs on.
Establish yourself as the go to person in your office, no matter your job title. Be careful not to be the office know-it-all, but definitely act as an information absorber.
4.) Communicate like a boss
This doesn’t mean condescend, it means to over-communicate, which is more rare than you know.. When you meet someone, reach out to them without waiting for them to reach you.
When working on a project with a team, make sure to keep teammates apprised of what you’re doing (without bragging); too often do people assume everyone knows what’s going on.
An example of over-communicating effectively without sounding narcissistic is letting your team know: “I’ve completed X and am moving on to Y – before I do, is there anything I can do for you guys since I’m at a stopping point?”
5.) Always ask if you can help
No matter how busy you are, no matter where you are in the hierarchy, stop to ask others if you can simply help. Just as with the closing of #4, come to a stopping point and ask.
Most people will say no, but a simple, “hey, I know you’re working on the Simon account – I have 30 minutes I could help you reorganize if you’d like!” helps significantly.
Give them a specific reason you can help, too. Not only will this make you the office “go-to” but it makes you so deeply ingrained in the team that people can’t imagine the place without you! Which they shouldn’t!
Just don’t be annoying – know when you’re coming across as fake and knock that off.
6.) Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”
Too often in the workplace, people are scared to sound stupid so they’ll guess. This can lead projects down really bad paths, so get used to hearing yourself say “I don’t know.”
And then add the phrase, “but I’ll find out!”
Yeah yeah, you already know this advice, but you haven’t been told is to try this: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out within the hour.” Add a deadline for yourself so you set expectations just like we talked about in number four.
Or suggest that you both work together to find a solution: Teamwork makes the dream work.
7.) Be kind, even when it kills you inside
You may hate the guy in the office next to yours and Lord knows you might literally die if he tells you the same fishing story again, but you spend more time with these people than you do your own family and they’re human.
They want to be heard, they want to belong, so remember that annoying as they can be, they’re people. They’re YOUR people.
Be kind, and remember that something about you is probably annoying, too.
8.) Smile (hear us out on this one)
Smile when you’re on the phone – your positivity conveys even when people can’t see you because you literally transform your facial muscles, thus altering your voice. It feels awkward, but so what? Kindness is memorable! Especially smile when someone is speaking in a meeting and meets your eye contact – not a flirty smile, but the disarming kind that says “I’m listening and you’re interesting.”
9.) Get to know your five minute tasks
If you always know what can be done in less than five minutes, your down time is never used standing around like a moron.
For me, I keep all emails unread that require any sort of action, and if I only have five minutes before my next call, I’ll hop in and deal with one because I already assessed how long it would take. No down time, no twiddling of thumbs. Those five minutes add up over a week!
10.) Exercise a little
Without exercise of some form, be it running, yoga, or even just walking, research proves the brain is less focused, less sharp.
We won’t recommend a type of exercise, a time of day, or anything specific, but almost every single successful executive, regardless of gender, is pretty serious about fitness.
Eat well, make yourself get up from your desk and move around every hour, and mostly – extend your lifetime so you can actually enjoy retirement instead of enjoying heaven (or whatever afterlife you subscribe to).
If you’ve read this far, you are equally as confident and aware of the ambition woman is capable of. You know she is inspiring, you know she is valuable, and you know she is you.
Keep these ten tips in mind the next time you feel you’ve lost a little of your luster, and never forget in the most challenging times:
“You had the power all along, my dear.”
– Glinda, The Good Witch.