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!
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.