Career Advice for Women Who are Sick of Career Advice

@Jessica Hagy

@Jessica Hagy

Let’s just start with this thought:

There is Nothing Wrong with You

I'll come back to that in a minute...

Over the past several years, countless research studies on women and negotiation, power, promotion, family, have been hurled into public consumption and subsequently chewed and digested by all forms of media, and then interpreted into good advice by well-meaning managers, teachers, trainers, coaches, consultants—myself included.

What we began to notice about our clients and workshop participants at She Negotiates was a new kind of paralysis—a deer-in-headlights confusion about the litany of contradictory advice we should pay attention to if we wanted to thrive in our careers.

Just Two Examples

Small talk improves negotiation outcomes – but wait, new research shows that because men aren’t expected to lean on sociability, small talk may actually improve their outcomes, whereas women are expected to lean on sociability, so small talk doesn’t alter outcomes significantly.

Be Powerful but Be Deferential: According to women’s leadership expert Lauren Stiller Rikleen, “Career advancement depends upon connecting with influential people and seeking them out for strategic advice. And, although many women are adept at building networks in their personal lives, the very same people are often painfully uncomfortable building and using their networks in their offices and industries […] Then there’s the projection of power — a skill that poses particular challenges for women since it bumps against the societal norm of deference.

Most all of the research and resulting advice angles toward what women need to do to tiptoe through the minefield of gender expectations, and all manner of macro- and micro-inequities. While I do get that we need to be mindful and aware of the gender landscape, here is my career advice for women who are sick of career advice: 

1. Find Yourself

You are who you are, and you can only be who you are. Yes you can add skills and degrees and certifications. You can sharpen your strengths and delegate your weaknesses. And you can certainly practice new things that take you to the edge and beyond your comfort zone. But as they say, wherever you go, there you’ll be, so you might as well be yourself, and like what you see.

2. Find Your Allies

Because you are who you are and you can only be who you are, and your strengths, contributions and future potential are of value to others—both men and women—connect with them. They need you as much as you need them, especially when navigating inequities. Ask for their support and advocacy and return the favor.

3. Find the Double Coincidence of Wants

Because your strengths, contributions and future potential are of value to others, always be looking for the double coincidence of wants—that place where your strategic career needs meet your ally’s strategic career needs.

4. Find the Elephant

If something isn’t working, there is likely an elephant in the living room. Know that if the elephant isn’t in the living room, it might be in the closet, and you are just the person to let it out.

The net effect of adopting this advice is that instead of conforming to a workplace that may not look or function much like you, the workplace will begin to conform to you. But please, don’t take my advice.