Even if you’re not a woman working in a boys’ club, the workplace atmosphere can be political and competitive. Everyone wants the next promotion, to be considered for a raise or for the boss to highlight your work over your frenemy in the next cubicle over.
But how? How can you be the most prepared at the next meeting? How can you stand out from your peers? Take it from this manager in the semiconductor industry: there are ways to get ahead, and I’m not just going to tell you how to shine… I’m going to give you the keys to being unbeatable.
1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Everyone’s track in life is different and unique. In the same office, you’ve got a baby boomer starting her career in an area “she’s always wanted to work in,” a forty-something mom-of-two who leaves work right at 5 p.m. (so she can get the girls to softball practice) and a millennial fresh out of college who doesn’t quite know what she’s doing but is super focused on learning how to do it. Three generations, three very different lives, one office water cooler. Stop comparing your path to theirs.
2. Say “yes” to everything.
You never know when "that" project might turn into the next big opportunity.
3. Learn how to say “no.”
Burnout makes it look like you can’t handle responsibility. Know what you can handle and what you can't.
4. Take sick (or mental health) days.
If you're not using them when you need them, you're missing out on a valuable resource.
5. Learn how to promote yourself.
Pro tip: I keep a running log of projects and accomplishments so that when someone asks what I’m working on, I always have a great answer. It’s not bragging if they asked, so tell them something amazing.
6. Advocate for your team.
One of the hardest things for people to learn is “when you win, we win.” Make sure you give credit where credit is due.
7. Stay focused.
Lots of things will be thrown at you; everyone thinks that their emergency is your priority. Be sensitive to their needs, but remember — there’s always more work, so you should take each task one step at a time. Break a big project into lots of little ones to make it seem less intimidating.
8. Keep learning, and be prepared.
Anticipate your manager’s — and your company’s — needs and keep finding ways to improve your skill set. (Online courses are great for this.) These personal qualities can make you invaluable and irreplaceable.
9. Handle disagreements efficiently.
Confrontation happens. Do it in person, do it in private; humiliating someone in public makes you look like the bad guy, regardless of the situation.
10. Reach down and pull another woman up.
Not only do women lack advocates and mentors in the workplace, but by showing your employer that you can bring reliable assets to your company, you show your managers that you’re looking out for them and trying to give something back to your workplace.
Follow this short list and you’ll feel invincible, whether at the weekly group meeting or at your yearly review. For more ways to rock it in the office, check out “Why We Should Embrace Millennials’ Work Ethic,” or if you’re considering greener pastures, try “Red Flags in the Workplace.”
Dr. Amanda G. Riojas is a Scientific Computing Researcher living in Austin, TX. She is also the Advice Section Editor for the Scientista Foundation Advice Blog, Liaison to the Corporation Associates Committee of the American Chemical Society, and Chair of the ACS Central TX Local Section Women Chemists Committee. Amanda basically spends all of her time trying to tell everyone that women are awesome—because she has a daughter now and wants her to know that girls can do anything.