Women are everything to everyone. They can handle everything life throws at them. A woman can be a wife, daughter, mom, tutor, housekeeper, nurse, counselor, and still have the energy to take the boardroom by storm.
Yet all too often, women — and particularly female business leaders — feel uncertain about how to advance in the workplace. While they’re busy being everything to everyone else, they often fail to take care of themselves, and this includes their careers.
Strong female leadership helps build stronger organizations. Businesses that have just one woman on their board tend to be more successful than those whose board members are 100 percent male. Today, a growing number of organizations have started to realize this and are more willing than ever to give women opportunities.
As business culture begins to change in favor of more inclusiveness, how can women be proactive and take charge of their careers?
The Striving for Excellence: Women in Leadership Program
One way is through the Striving for Excellence: Women in Leadership Program, a six-month program that provides an opportunity for women to recognize their strengths and figure out how to effectively leverage them for success. The program focuses on each individual as a holistic leader, and includes group sessions in which women feel free to openly share their stories, experiences, frustrations, and concerns. They are also able to have one-on-one sessions with a coach to better explore individual issues and work on goals.
Here are five other ways female leaders can grab the steering wheel and move their careers in whatever direction they choose.
1. Determine What It Is That You Want
Think about your current role. Are you where you’d like to be? If not, make plans to get there. Too often, women work hard and expect the results to speak for themselves. Meanwhile, promotions happen and jobs get filled by people who are actively scheduling meetings or out playing golf with key decision makers. Identify the direction you’d like to take and the strategic steps that you can take to get there.
2. Evaluate Your Strengths and Weaknesses
The next step is to take a critical look at yourself and decide what qualities are a help and which ones are a hindrance to where you’d like to be, professionally. Does your dream job require public speaking and you know that you go weak in the knees when standing in front of a large crowd? Do you lack the degree or training needed for a job role you’d enjoy? Figure out if the gap between where you are and where you’re headed needs to be filled by a change in ability, different behavior, or more experience. This will help you make any changes that will help you in the next step: reaching out to a decision maker.
3. Identify Key Decision Makers
Remember where we discussed how many women fail to make the strategic moves necessary to secure that promotion? This step will help remedy that.
Step back and think: who has the ability to influence the direction of your career? This might mean going straight to someone who is responsible for hiring for a job role; it may also mean reaching out to someone who can introduce you to the hiring party. If you’re uncertain where to start, think about the last person who got promoted within your organization. Who helped them secure their new job? Is it someone you can reach out to?
Once you figure out the chain of communication up the ladder, take steps to set up a meeting. Research the role, as well as the decision maker, and determine what factors are most important to them. If someone is supporting you in securing the role, they might be able to offer insight on areas in which you can improve, as well as how your strengths can be an asset in this particular position.
4. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
During this phase, you’ll be gathering ammunition for the meetings you’re about to have. Women accomplish a lot and very rarely stop to brag about it. This is your time to point out everything you’ve accomplished. Sit down and put together a one-page document of all of the important goals you’ve accomplished. This will put things in perspective, help you assemble your thoughts, and build your confidence.
That last bit is important. Women don’t suffer from lack of capability; they suffer from lack of confidence. This lack of confidence is a big reason why women often struggle to advance in their careers. If a man feels that he is 60% qualified for a job, he’ll usually feel OK applying for it. Meanwhile, a woman may hesitate to apply for a job if she’s not 100% qualified for it.
Get your head in the right place. Then update your resume to reflect your accomplishments.
5. Make It Happen
It’s go time. You’ve gathered the big guns and scheduled the meetings with key players. If you need additional training, you’ve started the process of getting it or have a plan to do so. This might mean seeking additional training within your organization, or it could mean taking outside courses. It could also mean spending time working with people in different areas inside the organization in order to improve and broaden your skill set.
Now, it’s time to ask for exactly what you want with confidence and conviction. The organization won’t always be able to give you an immediate “yes.” However, if you feel they’re trying to push you aside with a “Not right now,” your response should be, “Then when?” Ask them what steps you need to take to move forward and when the next follow-up will be.
That’s it. While the mentoring and training provided via the Striving for Excellence: Women in Leadership Program can help boost your career strategy, there’s no reason you can’t get started on your own right away. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What do I want?” Then go get it!
PRADCO partners with you to select, develop, and retain people who fit your culture and contribute to your organizational goals. We focus on client needs to become an extension of your team, providing insight, objectivity, and accountability. If you’re ready to develop the female leaders that are going to be the future of your organization, we’d love to discuss our Striving for Excellence: Women in Leadership Program with you. Talk with us today to get started.