Workplace Rules for SuccessSeptember 02, 2008
Hannah Seligson’s New York Times article “Girl Power at School, but Not at the Office” looks at how women are excelling more than ever in school, but they tend to face a rough transition into the workplace compared with their male peers. I am a year younger than Seligson and similarly excelled at school, where the rules for success were clear. But my transition into the workplace since graduating from college three years ago has been intimidating, because I’ve found that the rules for success are harder to determine. In contrast, my male partner, who was an average student but is good at networking and impromptu brainstorming sessions, quickly excelled at his workplace. Since graduation three years ago he has more than doubled his starting salary and has been promoted several times. As Seligson writes, it can be shocking for good students to realize that success at work isn’t based entirely on merit or hard work like it is in college — there are other factors.
In addition to sometimes facing sexism, Seligson found that a major roadblock for women at work is the lack of real-world skills like negotiation, self-promotion, networking, and not taking criticism personally. Seligson cited AAUW’s report Behind the Pay Gap, which showed that as early as one year out of college there is a pay gap between men and women. Agreeing with AAUW’s findings, Seligson believes that negotiation, asking for raises and promotions, and learning how to network can help women close this gap. Last week, the Census Bureau showed that we’re making tiny baby steps toward that goal; instead of women making 77 cents to the dollar men earn, it’s now 78 cents. You can download a free copy of Behind the Pay Gap to learn about more ways to close the gap.
I was fortunate that my dad advised me on pay negotiation and encouraged me to not sell myself short when I worried about seeming greedy or self-important by asking for more money. However, networking, sharing ideas, and measuring success in ways beyond completing a project on time are skills I still need to improve.
What have been your experiences entering the workplace, and what advice would you give to women starting their first job?