Jane Becomes an Adult: Back to Work Edition
Regardless if you're a new grad or looking to switch careers, looking for a job is a full-time job in and of itself. The good news is that there are a million ways to find a job. The bad news… there are a million ways to find a job. It's hard enough to figure out where to start, let alone where you go from there.
From getting your foot in the door to rocking both your closet and your career, here are all the tips, tricks, and advice that we've learned from successful women who have led the way. Get ready — your dream job is waiting for you.
The key to nailing a job search is preparation. Picture what your ideal position is, create a plan, and don't be afraid to take risks in pursuing your dream career. Use websites and apps to help, but also build and leverage your network to make some real-world connections. Clean up your social media profiles (seriously, no one needs to see your Cabo spring break antics), do your research, and always follow up and be respectful. Keep an open mind; thinking out-of-the-box can sometimes lead to wonderful opportunities and companies you never imagined.
Your resume is essentially your first impression as a job candidate, so make it a good one. Keep it simple — leave the crazy fonts and designs for your BFF's birthday card. Lead with your best and most relevant achievements, showcase both your journey and your impact. While you don't have to put every single job you've ever had on there, note that if you have gaps or part-time jobs, you can still find valuable skills to list. And since most companies use automated screening software, take the time to modify your qualifications for each job application to outsmart the bots and get your resume in front of actual human eyes.
You've got your foot in the door, and now it's time for you to prove yourself in person. Research the company, products, and interviewers ahead of time. Practice your answers to both common and tricky interview questions. Be honest, concise, and considerate. Know your audience, and keep the conversation on topic.
Dress to impress: Wear something that is polished, reflects your personality, and makes you feel comfortable and confident. No one wants to be sitting in an interview constantly readjusting an ill-fitting shirt, no matter how cute it looked when you bought it.
And don't forget: You're interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask questions. Trust your instincts. If you get bad vibes or see other red flags somewhere along the process, you can always walk away. After all, the only thing worse than not getting a job offer is taking one you don't really want.
The wage gap is real, and unfortunately, it isn't going away fast enough. One way to take matters into your own hands is to learn how to negotiate your salary. Do your homework on comparable companies or jobs, know your worth, and ask for more than you want (knowing there will likely be a counteroffer). Always keep it professional and not personal.
If there isn't any wiggle room in terms of salary, find other negotiable perks, such as earlier performance reviews or work-from-home days. It's also important to remember that there doesn't have to be a loser in a negotiation; try to find a creative solution where both parties walk away happy. Everyone loves a win-win.
Being a good employee is tough; being an indispensable one is tougher. While there are few people in the world who are truly irreplaceable in their jobs, you have the power to do everything you can to come close.
Managing up is a key part of any job, no matter how high or low you are in an organization. That means, communicate, take initiative, and be an asset. Never stop learning, and look for challenges to help tackle and opportunities to shine (for both you and others). Be the person that your coworkers turn to when they have a problem. Don't be that person no one notices is missing when you're out on vacation.
Half the battle of rocking a job is looking the part. Business casual is one of the most nebulous dress codes out there, but it doesn't have to equate with a boring wardrobe. Success and style can go hand-in-hand.
Mix high and low, find your own look, and don't be afraid to add a pop of color. Invest in some statement pieces. If you have to question whether something is appropriate to wear to work, then it probably isn't. Most importantly, how you feel will reflect how you look and vice versa, so add an extra layer of confidence — it goes with everything.
Like it or not, there is some truth in the idiom, "the squeaky wheel gets the oil." If you don't speak up for what you want, no one will ever give it to you. While it's important to be a team player, it's also important to be little selfish in pursuit of your career goals — in the long run, it will banish burnout and help you be the boss you know you are.
Often we're too eager to say sorry and too hesitant to say no. Standing up for yourself doesn't mean stepping on others. So stop apologizing for everything and recognize when to step up but also when to set boundaries. Your biggest critic, and also your best advocate, is looking at you in the mirror.
Behind every successful woman is a group of other women copyediting her emails; supporting her goals; cheering her on; and lending a hand, an ear, or sometimes even just a Tide pen. Work wives and mentors aren't just nice-to-haves in your professional world; they motivate and help you be a better employee, coworker, and entrepreneur.
Be true to who you are, strike a balance between professional and personal at work, and try to be a team player. Surround yourself with diverse women who complement your strengths and support your weaknesses. Network relentlessly, and give back when you can. Because while most things in work and life aren't guaranteed, this is: Empowered women empower women.
(Illustrations by Sarah Tate, photos via Getty)