4 Things Women Should Invest in to Succeed at Work
If you are a woman motivated to get ahead at work, it’s important to remove every potential roadblock you can to achieve success. Women on average in the U.S. make just 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. That’s a 21 percent pay gap. Moreover, if you’re determined to get ahead, you are going to benefit from taking advantage of the resources you have access to in order to advance. When you’re just starting out, those resources (money, time, professional relationships) can be limited. So what can you do to get ahead?
It may not be as tough as you think. Just ask a woman who gives this kind of advice as a part of her own career. Shawnice Meador is the director of Career & Leadership Services for Working Professionals at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, one of the nation’s top MBA programs. She has a few tips for climbing the career ladder. Here are the four things Meador says you should invest in to help you get ahead.
Most companies provide a decent amount of technology for workers, but investing in a fast and reliable internet connection at home can be a good supplement. Meador says you never want to be left out of a conversation, and being able to Skype into a meeting from home can be crucial. She adds that if one is not provided for you, buying a laptop is critical: “That way, no matter what life throws at you on any given day, you can contribute.”
The need to be mobile and access your office anywhere at any time should also lead you to use a few key apps. Consider options like ToDoist for checklists, Google Docs to keep files mobile and Trip Advisor for booking your next business trip at a moment’s notice.
Meador says you should begin each day by investing some time in discovering what’s going on in the world around you. She suggests scouring professional sources like LinkedIn as well as more traditional media sources to become well informed. “It keeps you fresh and allows you to get involved in conversations you may not jump into otherwise,” she points out.
An advanced degree isn’t the only way to increase your knowledge and grow your career options. Apps like Ted Talks are another great option. These short videos can be viewed over a lunch break and can spark creativity or learning. A simple search in your app store for “leadership” will unveil many more viewing and listening options. Simply select the ones you feel relate most to your career. Finally, consider Mass Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. These typically free, online classes cover a huge breadth of topics, making them applicable to nearly everyone.
Investing in formal professional development is another step to consider. This takes time and money but can pay dividends that are worth it in the long run. Meador says advanced degrees or additional training can expose you to thought leaders in your industry and other people who are looking to advance.
Meador says professional appearance matters. “That isn’t something that will guarantee you get a job,” she says, “but looking polished can’t hurt.” She suggests investing in things that will give you the biggest and most universal bang for your buck.
Focusing on how you carry your personal and technology items is a good place to start. Meador says to find a good computer bag and purse that are neutral and go with just about any outfit. She cautions, “You don’t want to be digging through them to try to find what you need in a meeting or a business lunch. Pick options that keep you organized.”
It’s long been understood that clothing can influence how others see you, but new research also shows it influences your own performance as well. Industry standards vary greatly, but take a look at other women in your office who are one, two or three steps higher than you on the corporate ladder. How are they presenting themselves? Consider that your guide, and personalize your appearance from there.
Remember that little things can go a long way when it comes to investing in professional relationships. Meador suggests sending someone a quick email after a meeting about a great comment he or she made, or ask a follow-up question. The key here is that a little goes a long way. Also, Meador says, “If you get asked to participate in something like an awards ceremony, a weekend volunteer opportunity or a happy hour, those are things you should try to make time for.”
Meador says she spent a lot of time talking to people about the idea of personal branding. She says that encompasses the realization that everything you do somehow contributes to an irreplaceable first impression—an impression, she says, that you want to be an authentic representation of who you are, but also one that’s compelling for a CEO looking to make his or her next great hire. To get there, Meador says, “Always be thinking about the next job or next two jobs you want to have. Make sure everything you bring to the workplace reflects who you want to become.”