Career Development Activities For Women: Improving Your Career

Many women encounter difficulties in moving their careers to the next level. Here are useful tips to help you along.

Since the mid-20th century, women have entered the work force in an increasingly steady stream. Yet, many still do not receive the same salary levels and benefit plans as their male counterparts.

If you are a woman who is ready to accelerate your professional development in a given career, here are a few tips to consider that have worked for other women:

First, be sure your job skills fit with your current position as well as the next position on the job ladder that you want to reach. If you are having a hard time meeting deadlines and completing tasks in a way that impresses your supervisor, you should move into a lateral position where you can overcome these obstacles and prove yourself ready for the next challenge. Be sure your successes are documented by others or yourself by seeking a co-worker's written evaluation or adding a client's letter of praise to your personnel file.

Watch for opportunities to use your skills to the company's advantage. Volunteer for occasional overtime projects or offer to help train a new staff member. You may wish to offer a workshop or seminar in your field of expertise, which will brand you an authority for future consideration.

Seek a mentor who can share advice, insight, and company history to help you plan a career path. Invite your prospective guide to lunch and let him or her know that you would appreciate career guidelines that may be available. A day or two later, send a follow-up note of thanks. Such courtesy informally underscores the mark of a professional.

Share opinions, suggestions, and concerns with decision makers in the company. At meetings where women sometimes are outnumbered by men who can communicate more aggressively, watch your chance to speak up, or prepare a written proposal ahead of time and distribute it at the meeting. If you still have problems getting others to listen, particularly longstanding male employees, band with another woman or two and arrange a meeting with your supervisor to share ideas.

Avoid "borrowing" traditionally male assertiveness characteristics such as raising your voice, using profanity, or taking a condescending approach to those who work under your direction. Instead, maintain a direct communication style with eye contact and a calm, firm voice to get your point across.

Be visible in your organization. Chair or serve on committees, contribute items to the newsletter, and volunteer to organize employee activities, extracurricular or otherwise. Active, likable people tend to be viewed as natural leaders by co-workers, and may be nominated for leading roles that become available.

Cultivate a leader's style. Those seeking promotion should begin to dress and act like someone in the sought position. Dress smartly, think shrewdly, act professionally. Depending on your company's organizational style, you may choose to adopt a "servant leader" persona, or perhaps a Machiavellian-type approach.

Take a management class at the local community college, or pick up a book or two on the topic. Knowing the names, theories, and successes of national and international leaders can earn you a label of being someone in the know.

Be prepared to ask for what you deserve, whether it be a raise, a promotion, or a change of duties that may require flex time or technical support. Never assume your good deeds will be automatically noticed and rewarded. They may, but chances are you will have to take an upbeat but proactive approach to seeking recognition and advancement.

Women have never had it so good in the American economy as they do today, yet progress is needed to put them on equal footing with male co-workers. As you plan a professional development program, try tips like these to maximize your chances of success.

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