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9 smart strategies for women’s career advancement

9 smart strategies for women’s career advancement

Want to get ahead? Apply our tips for women's career advancement

While women in the United States have started to close the gap in recent years, they remain underrepresented in leadership roles. Just a quarter of American C-suite leaders are women, according to McKinsey & Company. Their study blames a "broken rung" on the corporate ladder that holds women back from ever reaching the management level. Stepping over that rung is challenging, but when you apply these tips for women's career advancement, it's not impossible.

Keep your resume current

A current resume accurately reflects your qualifications and experiences. Updating your resume whenever you take on new responsibilities or earn new degrees or certifications helps you quickly seize more senior job opportunities when they arise. When you upload a resume that's current to our website, employers can also understand that you're a good fit for their advanced roles. So don't get complacent about your resume. Keeping this document current can help you make the right impression on any prospective employer.

Develop and promote a strong personal brand

Studies show women are more natural storytellers, with more advanced vocabulary and a knack for expression. You can use this skill to your advantage to develop a strong personal brand that sets you apart from your competition. Good branding shows your personality, background, and skills.

Once you know what your brand is, promote it on social media, on your personal website, and in person at industry events. Self-promotion can be challenging for some women, especially those who prefer to be humble, but how can you expect people to notice you when you're not making any noise? When people know who you are and what you can do, opportunities for advancement may come your way.

Build and nurture your network

Often it's who you know, rather than what you know, that helps you get ahead. A strong network of people can lift you up and support your goals of advancement. A diverse network featuring people inside and outside your organization can offer different perspectives and opportunities. You can build your network by:

  • Attending after-work functions and mixing with people outside your team
  • Joining online groups relevant to your industry and local business community
  • Going to industry events and mingling with other attendees

Nurturing the network you've built can keep it strong. Regularly talking with the people in your network and ensuring your connections are mutually beneficial can help you maintain powerful connections.

Work with a mentor

Many successful women credit their mentors for helping them achieve their goals. Mentors can be powerful allies in your network, offering advice, inspiring your journey with their own career experiences, and championing your successes. Many women find senior women make the best mentors, as they have often experienced similar career challenges. However, don't dismiss the impact of a male mentor. As men hold most positions of power, being mentored by a male leader may give you more opportunities, especially in male-dominated fields such as science and technology.

Ask for and accept feedback

Feedback can be confronting, but it's a valuable tool for improvement and growth. It can also help you meet your employer's expectations and show your commitment to learning. If your employer doesn't routinely offer feedback, ask them for a performance review every quarter. You might also ask for feedback after submitting a major project or tackling a new task.

If you receive negative feedback, don't stress. Women tend to take criticism personally, but it's important to remember that your supervisor is critiquing your work, not you. Process the feedback and apply it for a better result next time. As you continue learning from the feedback you receive, you should become a better candidate for advancement.

"That broken rung makes climbing the corporate ladder more challenging for women, but with drive and dedication, it can be done."

Embrace new challenges

Do you hear a nagging voice of self-doubt whenever you're asked to take on new challenges? If so, you're not alone. Women are usually less willing to take risks than men. The 2019 KPMG Women's Leadership Study showed 45% of women with less than five years of experience are willing to take large career risks, compared to 37% of women with 15+ years of experience, even though these women are so seasoned that they're more likely to advance. While many women resist risk-taking, 55% of those surveyed believe that people who take career risks advance faster than those who don't.

Taking risks can be daunting, but there are real payoffs. It helps you develop new skills and impress people in your workplace with your can-do attitude. When your risks pay off, you build confidence and feel more willing to rise to new challenges in the future. If you stumble a little, you'll learn from your mistakes and do better next time. So next time you hear that nay-saying voice, tell it to take a hike. Embracing new challenges has too many benefits for you to just sit on the sidelines.

Specialize your skills

Becoming a specialist can differentiate you from others and put you on the advancement fast track. You might become a specialist by undergoing more study or training in a niche area of interest. Alternatively, your role may let you focus on specialist cases that interest you. Following your passion can help you carve out a strong career, so it's important to choose a specialty that's in demand. If your industry changes, you might specialize in another area. Having sequential specialties can make your resume more appealing to a potential employer.

Speak with confidence

Have you ever noticed that the people who advance quickly are often the ones who can command a room? That's because people who speak with confidence appear more competent and in control. It makes sense that if you appear to be confident in yourself, other people will have confidence in you. The following strategies can help you speak more confidently in meetings and presentations:

  • Plan your speech. It's easier to be confident when you know what you want to say, rather than speaking off the cuff.
  • Practice what you want to say. When you're well-rehearsed, you can feel more confident that you won't stumble.
  • Focus on speaking more slowly. While many women naturally speak fast, speaking quickly can make you seem nervous.
  • Join an online or in-person group. Groups like Toastmasters can help you get used to speaking in front of other people.

Ask what you need to do to advance

You know you want a promotion, but how are you going to get there? Asking your supervisor for guidance can put you on the right path. They might suggest you enroll in a specific course or get more experience with the business first. Their advice can help you put a clear plan in place that should help you advance.

When supervisors provide clear advice, it's a good sign that they want you to succeed. However, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you do everything you can to ready yourself for advancement and a promotion still doesn't come your way, you may be better off looking for a senior position at another company.

That broken rung makes climbing the corporate ladder more challenging for women, but with drive and dedication, it can be done. Persevere along your career path, and your gender won't hold you back from achieving your goals of advancement.

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