Rachel is a woman after my own heart! I've been told all my life I can be very intimidating, now I know it can be an okay thing and not to apologize for it!
Come in, sit down, let’s talk. Among my friends I am the one known for my savvy business skills, and with this designation I tend to give a fair amount of career advice. After holding a wide range of jobs and moving from hourly employee to salaried employee to independent contractor, I've learned a thing or two about what it takes for a woman to succeed in business.
I've come to believe there are unspoken rules when it comes to a woman's success in business. Here are my 10 best rules for women to succeed in business.
1. Don’t come to the table broken
When most women set out to chart their course in the business world, they let their lack of experience handicap their growth potential. They go around asking everyone for help, for advice, for direction. They are not "whole" professionals, they are broken and they're looking for someone to fix them, to show them the way. This behavior needs to be nipped in the bud. You may feel this way, but it should not be your calling card. Focus on what you do well, learn to do more to improve your position. That feeling of being broken? That's your emotions speaking. In this case, ignore them.
2. Don't confuse opportunity with cash
Very often in the business world, you'll encounter someone that begins to pay you quite a bit of attention. They flatter you by complimenting you and tell you about an "opportunity" they have in mind for you. More often than not, the opportunity is for you to earn them money. When you are looking to upgrade your position or sign better accounts, don't confuse opportunity with cash. It's the tangible income that matters, not the unlimited potential.
3. Apply for the job you want
Are you spending all of your time looking for a job on an on-line search engine? Do you attend a lot of career fairs? Do you know women who do?
I've always thought for the most part that was a big waste of time. Ask yourself who would you like to work for and why? If you can answer this question with certainty, why aren't you seeking this person out? I would rather hire someone who specifically wanted to work for me more than someone who answered an advertisement. The best salaried job I ever had I got because I wrote a compelling letter.
4. Accept that most people will underestimate you
I've done some work recently for a man who frequently tells me "you did a great job, you SURPRISED me". Really? I surprised you? What did you have in mind? Any chance you underestimated me because I'm a young female professional? Don't let this bother you. Make this into a strength, it allows you to go fairly unnoticed as you plan your next move up the ladder. Competing for an account against a more seasoned professional? Hopefully they don't bring their "A" game and allow you, the underestimated one, to sign that deal.
5. If no one is threatened by you, you need to sharpen your act
Have you recently done a great job at work? Did you sell more units? Did you get a glowing thank you letter from a client? Or public praise from a boss? If so, chances are someone in your work-world started giving you a hard time or talking about you behind your back. Take these negative behaviors as signs that you are on the right path. If everyone thinks you're "so nice" you probably will not get a raise anytime soon.
6. Stop Apologizing
Sometimes in this world we really truly owe people apologies, and in those moments it is critical that we in fact say we are sorry. That is not what I am referring to when I say "stop apologizing". You know the type of woman I mean, the one who seems to always be apologizing. The one that walks into your office and first says "I'm sorry", the one who is hyper focused on making sure everyone likes her. No one actually takes this person seriously. If this is you, knock it off. You are welcome to take up space in this world and say what you think without apology.
7. Once you cry at work or sleep with a co-worker it is time to get a new job
I've done both of these in my checkered past - luckily not at the same place.
There are those of you out there that may debate me on these points. I think they are fairly straight-forward. You should like where you work, and you should not be distracted by your personal life while doing it.
8. Understand your weakness
Everyone talks about how important it is to recognize your strengths, I actually think it is more important to understand your weaknesses. Most of us have weak aspects of our professional self that we probably first encountered in our childhood. Maybe you suffer from procrastination or lack of organization. If this is the case, don't think you'll change. It's better to plan in advance to get the help you'll need. If you don't understand your weakness, they'll keep sabotaging your career.
9. Honor your brand
What makes you...you? How would your clients and co-workers describe you? The best attributes they mention are your brand. Let's use the popular brand Volvo as an example. How does Volvo distinguish itself in the marketplace? What do we think about people who drive Volvo cars? This is a company that consistently honors its brand. If they got into the sports car business they probably would not succeed, they are a firm that focuses on their customers and what they do well. They know their limits. You can not be all things to all people, know thyself and honor your brand - even if it is unconventional, at least it will be authentic.
10. Ask for the sale and shut-up
I can't take credit for this rule, it was taught to me by a successful car salesman. It's a remarkable rule that works EVERY TIME. The guy who taught me this usually was the top salesperson every month. The guy was kind of lazy, he wore his hair in a ponytail. His smiles were a little unsettling. My point here is if it can work for this guy, it can work for you.
In sales, once you've identified what your client wants to buy, and I mean specifically - not "a car" but "that car right over there". You have to directly ask for the sale. Seriously. A lot of people forget to do this, they think their customer will simply let them know when they are ready. Don't be one of these people. Ask for the sale - and here is the most important part: ONCE YOU DO, SHUT-UP. Stop talking, don't say another word. Don't worry if there is two minutes of silence. The first one who talks after you ask for the sale "loses". This, in my opinion, in a law of physics within the business universe.
I wish you all the best as you move through the busines world!
Rachel Rabinowitz, GRI
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