From pay gaps to career gaps a woman’s career can sometimes seem hard to navigate. Whether you’re kickstarting your career post maternity leave or getting the confidence to go for a promotion we’ve got some insights and strategies to take your career to the next level.
1. Keep Learning
Recent data from The Open University found that bosses favour staff gaining extra training, qualifications and skills, yet just 1% of women respondents considered it an important part of their career strategy.
Try: Hotcourses or Floodlight which detail courses in your area – and online. While Mumsnet Academy helps women learn anything from business to self-improvement along with like-minded mums.
Can’t afford the time to train? Don’t forget established recruitment agencies, which provide some career-boosting courses which can be taken in conjunction with paid work.
2. Social Networks
A recent Editorial Intelligence survey revealed that nearly 70% of Britons believe ‘networking is essential for building and managing a career’ yet just over 40% make time for it.
For many, making career-savvy connections holds negative connotations – notably inauthenticity and pushiness – prompting The School of Life to hold a Networking for People Who Don’t Like Networking class.
Try: Doing something you truly enjoy and simply having conversations. Look out for volunteering opportunities on Do-it or connect with local groups and clubs via Meetup.com, suggests Carol Borhani, Director at Angel Human Resources. While networking-meets-coaching groups like the Pickle Shed have been specifically established to for career-minded mums.
3. Find a Mentor
Once you have an idea of where you want to go a role model or mentor can help you achieve your aims. Consider how a mentor could help you. Do you need a well connected industry expert or someone to keep you accountable?
Regarding the former, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg suggests following up with an email after you meet an inspiring person. Attach an interesting article or connect them with someone useful; establish a relationship; then ask for advice or guidance.
Try: Coachingnetwork.org.uk who’ll put you in touch with professional mentors and coaches who’ll keep you accountable. Alternatively see you preferred recruitment consultant, who coud give you an access to industry-trained advisors with superior expertise.
4. Stepping Up
Time and again research shows women don’t negotiate as often or as successfully as men, which may be contributing to the gender wage gap. And, for many women lack of confidence is a key factor stopping them from doing as well as they should professionally.
Carol Borhani notes: ‘Although confidence may seem innate in fact it’s a skill that can be learned. First lesson: just do it!’
As business coach Marie Forleo says: “As someone who regularly puts it out there, so to speak, I will say that the more you do it, the easier it gets.” Marie says focusing on her ultimate aim gets her through.
Try: Reading seminal self help classic Feel the Fear & Do it Anyway. Plus, surround yourself with a support network, not just your friends, but select people who believe in you and your ideas and will cheer you on when you fall foul of your inner critic.
5. Know Yourself
The ancient Greeks recognised self-knowledge is power. Indeed the more we know about our modus operandi and what we have to offer the less likely we’ll be to wind up in the wrong career or overwhelmed by possibilities. In fact the rise of personal branding has made knowing your USPs key to marking you out from the crowd.
Try: A personal SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – to reveal talents and opportunities.
Creator of Mind Mapping Tony Buzan suggests using a Mind Map to analyse your SWOT. Ask: how do my capabilities and reputation put me at an advantage? Then: how can those negatives be turned into opportunities?
6. Manage Stress
According to a recent report ‘stress tolerance’ – grace under fire – is a personality trait of successful women. Developing stress tolerance has a lot to do with knowing yourself. Get stressed when the printer plays up? Feel like crying when your boss yells? Put things in place to support yourself.
Try: Mindfulness. In essence mindfulness means awareness. Simple and effective even Harvard Business School includes mindfulness principles in its leadership programmes.
Professor Mark Williams, says: “Becoming more aware of your own emotions as they arise gives you more choice on how to deal with them.” Leading mindfulness experts Headspace suggest meditating on your breath for 10 minutes a day for 10 days to get you in the swing – they even have an app.
7. Set Goals & Achieve Them
A recent study found female university graduates were 9% less likely to have a graduate-level job than their male counterparts. Further research on career goals found male undergraduates tended to start thinking about and acting on their career goals earlier. So when it came to applying for jobs the guys had already tested the water.
Try: Turning action-oriented goal-setting on its head and envision not what you want but how you want to feel – very feminine! Keeping focus on how you want to feel helps override present fears, adds Carol.
Plus, set goals you can achieve says Psychologies editor, and life coach, Suzy Greaves. Take baby steps and book them in your diary. Join Suzy’s online Goal Setting Course to sharpen your skills.
Go on, take the leap and bridge that gap!