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From Her Office: Career Growth Top 5

This is a new series I’ll be posting regularly. As I’ve grown in my own career, I’ve faced hurdles as a female leader that those who come after me might also encounter, but you shouldn’t have to face them alone. Today I want to kick it off with the five things I wish someone had told me while I was rising in my career.

"I can have it all"1. You have to tell people what you’re working toward.

Someone reminded me about this one the other day. I’d actually forgotten that I gave this advice long ago (apparently mommy brain is a thing). If you don’t tell someone where you want to go next in your career you won’t have anyone on your side helping to pave the way. Find someone who can help you get to the next level and they will want to help you get there (if they’re a good person)! The worst thing you can do for yourself is to keep your dream a secret. Unfortunately, the universe doesn’t just magically carve out a career path for you, but someone else might be able to.

2. Just because you work hard doesn’t mean someone will notice.

I’ve learned this one the hard way. It goes against my nature to talk up my projects. I want to do amazing things and I want people to notice, but I don’t want to tell them about it. Well that’s just backwards. Of COURSE you have to tell someone what you’re doing. No one is going to do it for you and if no one talks about what you’re doing you will get left in the dust. In fact, people might even hear about times when you screw up (oh trust me, it happens) and remember that instead. Don’t be braggy (I made that up), though; no one likes a bragger.

3. You HAVE to take risks and go beyond your comfort zone.

This is one of the biggest differences I’ve seen between men and women in the workplace (I’m generalizing here; this is not a hard-and-fast rule by any means). While men see a challenge and say, “I can do that,” women think, “I might be able to do that, but I’m just not sure. I better not risk it.” GO FOR IT! Have the confidence to know that you will kick butt if you put your mind to it. The great ones always take a leap even if they’re still scared. Besides that, the pay growth arc for women is generally shorter, so challenges are necessary in order to continue upward career momentum.

4. Go out and meet people. They won’t always come to you.

This is a hard one for many women. The first thing I did when I became director of the department was get out and meet with deans, vice presidents, directors, etc. If you don’t go out and meet other leaders how will you develop into someone they can come to? Show people you’re interested in working together and not afraid to make the first move. It’s kind of like dating. You’re going to have to put yourself out there to get ahead in the world.

5. People will get jealous.

The only thing you can do is support others and continuously show people kindness, respect and your hard-working spirit. The last thing we should be doing as women is letting jealousy reign, but it happens. Be the change! Be proud and excited for your female colleagues when they get a promotion. You are a strong, independent woman and letting jealousy sneak into your heart will only bring you down. Encourage others! Leaders, colleagues, friends, and even our daughters need encouragement to reach beyond biases.

What opportunities do you see for empowerment and encouragement of fellow female leaders at OU? Are there any leadership groups or book clubs you would recommend to colleagues?

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