Article creator image

BY Georgene Huang

The One Thing You Must Do In Order To Get Promoted

Woman climbing mountain

Photo credit: Creative Commons

TAGS:Career goals, Yahoo, Career advice, Gender equality, Research

Running Fairygodboss, I hear a lot of opinions about what women should do in order to be successful. Most of it is amazingly helpful and thoughtful. But sometimes, I hear things that are well-intentioned but worrisome (and potentially misleading) in their simplicity. The one piece of well-meaning advice that bothers me the most? “Just work hard.”

I hear this advice everywhere from panels on leadership to articles about how to advance your career. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently gave an interview in which she said, “My husband [the venture capital investor Zachary Bogue] runs a co-working office in San Francisco. He runs his company out of there and other startups cycle through. And if you go in on a Saturday afternoon, I can tell you which startups will succeed, without even knowing what they do. Being there on the weekend is a huge indicator of success, mostly because these companies just don’t happen. They happen because of really hard work.”

Commitment and dedication are important to achieving goals and working hard is obviously a key success factor for many professionals. The problem is focusing exclusively on hard work — because while research shows that hard work is correlated with success, the jury’s out on whether it’s sufficient.

For example, there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that others’ assumptions and unconscious bias affect us in the workplace. And so does gender inequality: Fairygodboss recently surveyed over 1,600 working women who reported that, where gender inequality exists at work, unequal promotions between men and women is the top issue.

Fairygodboss: Survey of Women on Sources of Gender Inequality At Their Employers

Women are good at working hard. So if that was really the answer, full stop, wouldn’t there be more women in leadership, making equal pay? Working hard for your success means more than putting your head down and putting in a great deal of effort; it also means taking control of your brand making sure that others know you are working hard and it means asking for the rewards.

Case in point: We may be unduly influenced by swagger (also known as self-promotion — something research has shown men to do more without inhibition) and therefore under-value those who toil away earnestly but more quietly.

Indeed, one study concluded that “Of all the strategies used by women, making their achievements known—by ensuring their manager was aware of their accomplishments, seeking feedback and credit as appropriate, and asking for a promotion when they felt it was deserved—was the only one associated with compensation growth.”

Self-promotional behavior (including asking for what you want/have earned) matters. Yet research shows that women — even the most senior ones — still struggle with it. There are different theories about why there is a gender difference between men and women when when it comes to self-promotional behavior but the bottom line is this: Don’t buy into the career advice that it’s enough to work hard. Working hard is only one part of the puzzle. If you want that promotion or raise, use your swagger and ask for it!

A version of this article was originally published on Forbes.


Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women. 
Join us by reviewing your employer!

You May Also Like

Related Community Discussions

  • I'm a recruiter for the largest staffing and recruiting firm in the country. I'm seeing a lot of people on this thread who are extremely stressed out about finding work, and I think you guys need to start seriously considering working with recruiters to find jobs. NOT ALL RECRUITERS ARE EQUAL! I work for Aerotek, where we value your goals, skills, and interests and we find you a "perfect fit": the job that actually utilizes your experience and abilities. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me if you are looking for work in the Portland, OR metro area. I can be reached via this thread, and, if you're seriously interested, please let me know and I will share my email.

  • I'm at a relatively senior level in my career, and I'm getting married. I'd like to change my name...but I'm concerned about how it could affect my "brand." First of all, people inside my company and out already know me by my maiden name...But also, will it affect my career prospects and make it seem like I am too focused on marriage?

  • Hi. I have been an Executive Assistant, or some other assistant/operations person for over 30 years. After losing my job of many years due to restructuring, I am looking for a permanent position. I feel as though assistant positions are on the way out, given anecdotal evidence by other assistants as well as executives I've spoken to. Please note that I am in pursuit of my bachelor's, but it is not yet completed. Apparently 30 years of experience doesn't mean anything if I don't have a degree. I've been told that it is recognized that I am intelligent and eager to learn pretty much anything (as well as easy to work with) so do not pigeon-hole myself into going after assistant roles, but I don't know what else I should look into or other keywords to use when searching for positions. Does anyone have any guidance on what kinds of jobs are out there?

  • I am seeking a part time Interior Design position but almost impossible to find unless it is full time. I am even willing to become a receptionist at a furniture store just to get my foot in the door.
    Does anyone have any suggestions?

  • Any advice regarding age bias? There is a lot of information about diversity and inclusion but not about age discrimination. I'm actually looking for new opportunity and I have the theory that the reason I have been rejected is age. PS I have doctorate degree and over 20 years of experience.

Find Out

What are women saying about your company?

Click Here

Share This

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Share with Friends
  • Share Anonymously