Success Insights

Even in 2012, we continue to debate about the salary inequity between professional men and women doing the same or similar jobs. Now, this was hot topic during the election debates and will always be a critical issue for women everywhere.

However, my goal today is to motivate professional and executive women and challenge them to embrace a few key habits that can make a difference in their careers. Of course, I recognize that there are legitimate glass ceilings and male-dominated industries that are ongoing challenges for women, but it doesn’t mean you give up trying.

So, here is some food for thoughts:

Did you negotiate your salary, benefits and total compensation before you accepted your current position?

Studies have repeatedly shown that professional men are eight times more likely than a woman to negotiate their salary before finally accepting an offer.  If you are actively job seeking, take the extra steps to conduct research, talk to other professional women AND men in the industry and have a solid salary range in mind before accepting a job offer.

  • Support your case for a higher salary based on your experience, proven qualifications and the value that you bring to employers.
  • Develop a Critical Leadership Initiatives document to use as a leave behind document in interviews and as vital tool in your negotiation process. Do more than highlight your qualifications, provide solid, quantifiable achievements written in a Challenge-Action-Results format.

When was the last time you had a direct conversation with your boss about upcoming projects and assignments?

There is still hesitation and stigma around promoting women, giving them out-of-town projects or recommending them for new roles that require long days and weekend hours. We can certainly spend a lot of time arguing this issue, but unless your voice is heard, speculation will continue and you may keep getting overlooked for career growth opportunities.

  • As part of your annual review process, do more than develop current “job-specific” goals; take the discussion to the next level and talk about the skills and qualifications that you need for the next level.
  • Focus on direct questions like “What additional experience, qualifications and skills do I need to advance to the next level?” or “What is the next step in my career path?”
  • Establish clear, realistic career goals and objectives so that you don’t wake up one day and realize that you have been left behind.

More importantly, don’t expect your boss to read your mind, if you want a promotion, new challenges or more responsibilities, then speak up.

Do you regularly solicit feedback and recommendations from your boss and other colleagues?

Okay, so this is the part that no one likes – we don’t mind hearing the praises, but when it comes to criticism, we want to run for the hills. Constructive criticism and feedback on our performance, speaking abilities, interpersonal skills and team interactions are what women MBAs need to be competitive.

If your idea of climbing the corporate ladder means that you show up on time every day, work really hard and be nice to everyone, you will be disappointed time and time again. Your personal brand and professional reputation depends heavily on how others perceive you – your easy-going, “don’t-rock-the-boat” approach may seem fair to you, but may get you overlooked as a leader where the company expects you to make tough decisions.

  • Conduct a 360 assessment every year and send out the survey to colleagues, family members, friends and current/former bosses.
  • Pay attention to the most common adjectives used to describe you and your personal attributes and determine your areas of improvement and opportunities for personal growth.

I don’t believe that the above suggestions will erase the inequalities women feel in the workplace, but are you willing be proactive in your career success?

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Abby Locke is an executive resume writer and career transformation coach who helps emerging leaders, executives and professional women to craft compelling career narratives and standout brand profiles.

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