‘Too often women think that if they’re working hard and doing a good job they’ll get promoted.’ So says Dr Sue Black, an honorary professor in the department of computer science at University College London and campaigner for women’s advancement in the workplace. It’s not a surprising assumption, given that it’s the route to good grades and school and university, but you’ll need a more sophisticated approach to drive your career forward.
Less work, more chat
Women aren’t always as good as men at building networks, yet doing brilliant work won’t help your career if nobody notices it. Of course, standing round bragging all day won’t impress either, but make time to talk to colleagues about what you’re working on and find out about their projects. ‘If you’re doing cool stuff, let people know about it,’ encourages Sue Black. ‘It’s not showing off.’
Even better, network and make contacts in your industry outside your company. Your network will help you get noticed: it’s far more effective if someone else tells your boss, or a potential employer, how great you are than if you have to do so yourself.
Good networking involves give as well as take, and not simply talking to people because you think they can help you. That said, don’t limit yourself to colleagues on a similar level to you. On internships, it’s tempting to cling to fellow interns or fresh graduates at lunchtimes or social events. But try to find appropriate opportunities to strike up conversations with more senior colleagues, especially those with a say in hiring decisions or who could advise you on your career.
Make things happen
Proactive is the way to impress, even at intern level. Employers like staff who can ‘add value’ to the business, not just tick the boxes of their day-to-day job. Yes, you need to get on with the work you’ve been set rather than reorganising the company, but if you have a new idea or can see a way of improving processes, do suggest it.
Likewise, grab any interesting challenges that come your way, even if they mean extra work or taking on a project that’s out of your comfort zone. This will give you the experience you need to prove you could work at a higher level.
Plan for promotion from day one
‘Always know what you need to do to get promoted, even when you first start the job,’ advises Sue Black. Interns in particular should heed this advice: make sure you know before you start your internship what the graduate recruitment criteria are and use your internship to fill any gaps. For example, if you know you need more experience of public speaking, volunteer to present the results of a team project.
Keep your own identity
Your own personality is what will get you ahead. Be your best self, not someone else, and use your strengths to your advantage. For example, skills such as empathy, understanding and listening can be used to work out that someone might not mean what they are saying to you.
Get your personal life and work life working together
You’re going to be working hard once you start your graduate career. Once your salary permits, consider outsourcing tasks outside work that you don’t have to do yourself, such as cleaning and gardening.
It’s also perfectly possible for women to combine children with a successful career. ‘Some women have house-husbands; others just juggle,’ comments Sandi Rhys Jones OBE, who raised three children while running her own business employing 12 people. She stresses the value of making contacts, especially with other women. ‘Networking is good as you exchange ideas for how to maintain work/life balance,’ she comments. ‘And it’s great to meet other normal working mums who could be role models,’ she adds.
TARGETjobs Events for women
TARGETjobs Events offers a series of events for female students exploring particular careers. If any of these appeal, make sure you check out the dates and familiarise yourself with the arrangements in good time: