We dread that infamous glass ceiling, but hope that if it is something we even come in contact with, it won’t be until we are comfortable in our future post-graduation job waiting on a promotion. Waiting is a terrible mistake. While you are waiting on that big promotion, everything you’ve done up until that point secures your current position: face pressed against that glass ceiling, wishing you were on the other side. Young women executives need to start building those glass-breaking habits at their first job, whether it is Wendy’s or that coveted summer internship. If you take these three steps starting today, the glass-ceiling will one less thing standing in the way of your success.
- Work hard…. But not too hard.
This past summer I had a dream internship. The position was rotational, so I started out in one position, and halfway through the summer I was moved to a totally new department. By midway through the summer I felt confident that I knew the company culture like the back of my hand and was going to do even better in my second position. I worked my tail end off, cranking out twice the work of anyone else in the department and felt like the management viewed me highly from the start. I was shocked when I got a sub-par evaluation one week after starting work in my new position. My manager said it seemed like I took the department move as a demotion. Why did he say this?
I was enlightened last week while listening to interview with Dr. Lois Frankel, Author of Nice Don’t Get the Corner Office. You aren’t given a position to work harder than anyone else; you are given a position to add value to the team. Regardless of what your job is, don’t put your nose to the grindstone anymore than anyone else on the team. Spend your time building relationships, finding ways to improve your project, or improve methods to make them more effective and efficient. Be mentally engaged at work and observe all that’s going on. You want to be the person that others will come to when they have a question, and that management will come to when they have a promotion available.
- Just because you aren’t a man, doesn’t mean you have to be a B****.
Unfortunately, a misconception often occurs when women think of breaking the glass ceiling. Do people have to see you a soulless creature in order to view you on level playing field with the men at work? No! In most cases, one of the many perks of being a woman in the workforce is that your employees and even your peers will come to you before a man if they are having an emotional problem inhibiting them from working at their usual pace, or if there is a harassment issue in the workplace. The key is to connect with others and build a relationship, without getting too emotionally involved.
- Show your character. When you come into work, greet as many people as you come in contact with. When you start a job, ask everyone their names and do your best to remember. If you work a front desk job, but walk through the laundry department everyday when you get to work, walk in with a smile on your face and greet everyone. This will start your workday off right, and if you ever need a rush order on some clean towels, they will be happy to help the girl who takes the time to say hello to them everyday.
- Big girls don’t cry at work. It’s okay to show that you are an emotional being, but it’s not okay to cry at work. Why? Because you make other people uncomfortable. This may sound insensitive, and it’s absolutely terrible that your boyfriend broke up with you before you came in to work today, but if you really need to let the waterworks out, excuse yourself and go to the restroom until you have control. If you have cried in front of your co-workers and/or managers, they will not see you as a person who can handle difficult situations, and therefore won’t move you to a more challenging position or check that box on your recommendation. Your peers and superiors want to see that you aren’t soulless, but they also don’t want to see you at your weakest moments.
- When you ‘re offended at work, let people know. Showing your kindness doesn’t mean you have to be nice when others aren’t. If you are offended in a meeting, calmly take the offender aside in an appropriate manner and tell them how you feel using “I” statements.
Rather than – “You wouldn’t even let me speak!” Say – “I felt like I could not get a work in edgewise when we were talking about such-and-such. Next meeting I would really appreciate if I could be heard.” The goal is that they hear you and see your maturity, not to start a fight. Also, word travels fast at work. This is a way to build your reputation as someone who does not get walked on, and as someone who can handle a conflict without turning it into work-drama.
- Empower your fellow females to help you shatter the glass ceiling.
I once had a manager at a job that was so catty; I could hardly believe she made it to the professional position she was in. She was similar to me with a similar background and we became instant friends when I first got the job. As I got to know her in the workplace, I saw that she was not as happy for my success as she had indicated at the beginning of our work relationship. When I made normal beginner mistakes she would make me feel even worse about them, and assure me that the head manager of the department was mad at me, even when she wasn’t. A few months into the job, I excitedly told her of my future goals with the company. I had found success since I worked there, and gotten outstanding reviews, so my goals were reasonable. She responded with “Well…. I don’t think you will get *insert goal position here* or even *insert level beneath goal position here* but maybe, one day, you will get *insert position I don’t even want here*” …. Needless to say my jaw was on the floor. Here I thought the person who would be my number one supporter and even mentor, was making me feel lower than low. What should you do if this happens to you? Don’t listen and let it be a reminder to never make others feel this way. If you’re confident in your work, and have gotten other positive feedback, ignore those who are jealous of you.
Learn to differentiate between when jealousy is speaking and when someone is telling you an uncomfortable truth. Unfortunately, when you find success, jealousy follows. My point in saying this: break the cycle! Just because someone else gets the position or review you wanted at work, doesn’t mean you can’t still find success. My mother once said, women who put other women down in the workplace are polishing the glass ceiling, ensuring that it is there to stay. We have to lift each other up and break through the glass ceiling together. When your sister makes a move toward the top, be the one there to give her a boost and your turn will be coming sooner than you think!
Sarah is a hospitality professional in her last at the University of South Carolina. She’s a passionate worker, eager intern, people person, fitness enthusiast, and adventure seeker. Sarah is always searching for personal and career growth opportunities, and excited to share her learnings!
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