Today’s women entering the workforce have a unique challenge. Perhaps even more than any other generation before them. They must meet and exceed expectations while also managing to deliver quality work. They also must ensure that they have their best professional interests at heart, and stand strong for their worth/values in the workplace. I’ve witnessed time and time again women struggling to achieve this balance. As a business owner and woman boss myself, I am happy to share some advice to millennial women entering the job market. As I tell my team: Print and Post this to your wall!
Answer Every Email Within 24 Hours
Following up is super important. You don’t ever want others to constantly chase unanswered correspondence. This creates resentment. I suggest some sort of acknowledgment such as 'I’m on it!' or offer a specified time frame for an expected response. Don't drop the ball(s)....and learn to juggle many!
There is no way anyone can possibly remember everything so keep an organized checklist on your desk or desktop and cross out tasks only when it is all tied up. Star or circle, in red, the time-sensitive matters so you can attend to these first.
Keep a Detailed Calendar
Register events, follow up, and plan ahead! I work with a great application called Mail Butler that allows me to prepare and program emails in advance- it’s a lifesaver!
Listen carefully during team meetings and take detailed notes. Be able to then provide the recap to all. This will not only impress your boss, but also enable your teammates to be on the same page, divvy up any responsibilities, and have clear deliverables against timelines. Keep these notes in a file to refer to often, as we all need to jog our memories (at any age!). These notes will also come in handy when you are responsible to train newcomers.
"Know when it’s appropriate to raise an issue and when it’s not, and consider the fall out first especially if it involves co-workers."
Whether it’s an invitation mock-up, blast mail proof, or a landing page for new website, always provide choices! This saves time, shows that you’re thinking ahead and in a variety of ways, and your superior will greatly appreciate the effort.
Don't Show up in Wrinkled Clothes
This tells me your attention to detail is lacking. Buy an iron or a steamer, it’s a small but worthwhile investment. Appearance goes a long way, regardless of if you're on the sales floor or in the back office. I really do believe in the saying “dress for the job you want” – and a polished look will always go a long way in impressing your employers and conveying the right message.
Go Bold or Go Home
Bring strong ideas to the table, give us something we haven’t already done, or that you can do better than we can! That’s why you were hired. It’s ok to push the envelope sometimes and take risks. As long as they are calculated ones. After a couple of months working somewhere, you will get a hang of the culture and the overall vibe. You’ll know where you can push the boundaries. Creativity in this manner can pay off in a big way, so don’t be afraid to make suggestions and come to the table with unique, out of the box ideas.
All jobs and positions are creative, not just the ones in the “creative” department. Find innovative ways to deal with mundane tasks - this can make any job more fun and fulfilling. Remember you are there to get the job done - how you do it up to you. Being creative can facilitate implementation and free up time to do new things, this is especially valuable advice for junior positions.
Diffuse, Don't Ignite
Own it if you messed up and move forward. Talk to your superior, converse if there is a concern, but don't let it fester. Know when it’s appropriate to raise an issue and when it’s not, and consider the fall out first especially if it involves co-workers. This shows maturity and makes for a more comfortable work environment for all.
Be a Team Player
The hiring process is a complicated one today as many people aspire to wear many hats (at our company we wear many gloves!) and with the younger generation especially, they are not always sure what they want in a role. It is important to get to the bottom of what you really want to do within an organization. Sometimes people are hired for one task, but realize they are better suited for something else. Identifying this can bring value to the overall operation.
Nothing is Lost on the Boss
We register everything- trust me!
Two or Three Heads Can Be Better than One
Don’t hesitate to run something by a co-worker and ask for their thoughts. They may see something you missed, find a mistake, offer insight, or have an idea. Ultimately, you want to provide the best option to your superior and egos need to fall to the wayside in order for this to happen.
"Ultimately, you want to provide the best option to your superior and egos need to fall to the wayside in order for this to happen."
Have a Sense of Humor
Bring the fun to the office! It’s important in the workplace for co- workers to laugh together and enjoy coming to a pleasant environment on a daily basis. Self-deprecation can also be useful. No one likes anyone who takes themselves too seriously!
Make Your Boss's Life Easier
Don’t be too proud to offer to make a reservation, arrange travel arrangements, run an errand or call an Uber. Facilitate the busy and chaotic life of your superior, it will be most appreciated.
Avoid Being on your Phone at the Office
Do your social media activities on your own time. Step out or take an occasional coffee break, but your attention needs to be on your job at all times. Remember that social media is part of your CV these days. So if it’s public, it better be professionally appropriate!
Don't Chew Gum
There is nothing more unbecoming for me than to see an employee smacking on a piece of gum. It’s a bad habit. Try a mint instead. Fresh breath highly encouraged!
Talk to Your Parents and Grandparents
The basic rules still apply such as leading from above, going the extra mile, etc. Skills they utilized in their jobs to get ahead are surprisingly still relevant.
The Golden Rule: ASSUMPTION IS THE MOTHER OF ALL MISTAKES! I was told this once, and is ever so true...
Bon Courage/Best of Luck!
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."