With DEI being such an important right now, we spend so much time and energy thinking about how we can be good allies to each other. And to be honest, very much overdue.
But there’s something that women often overlook when it comes to allyship – themselves.
Joining the workforce can be pretty intimidating, especially as a young woman. There’s no manual for how to have an interesting, fulfilling career. For any early career professional there is so much to learn, in what feels like so little time.
As female entrepreneurs, and women with long, diverse careers, Sherilyn and Sky, the co-founders of MT Consulting, want to share 5 things they wish they’d known earlier in their careers.
1. Mentorship is a game changer.
Having a good mentor, who wants to see you grow and succeed in your career can make a world of a difference. Good mentors will be a strong sounding board, as well as help you navigate the hurdles of your career. Your mentor should be able to highlight your strengths and help you advocate for yourself, but also share feedback on areas where you can continue to improve.
Take the time to seek out a good mentor and make sure to foster that relationship. The effort will be paid back to you tenfold.
Our advice? Use your networks! Try reaching out to people you admire on LinkedIn to see if they’re open to mentorship; the worst they can say is no.
2. Understand the difference between mentorship and sponsorship.
f you’ve already tackled #1 and have a great mentor, see if they’ll take it a step further with sponsorship.
The difference between mentorship and sponsorship is quite simple. A mentor is a sounding board who will help guide you on your way. A sponsor is someone who will be on the journey with you, helping to minimize, or even eliminate, struggles along your path.
A sponsor is someone who will advocate for you, and will truly help boost your career, but it’s up to you to seek out their help. Nobody is going to ask you if they can do this for you. Make sure to nurture your relationships and be clear about your goals and asks.
3. Talk the talk.
Talk about your accomplishments. And don’t downplay them! It’s important to be a hard worker, but unfortunately sometimes that isn’t enough. If you want to be an ally to yourself, you need to be ready to advocate for yourself!
It can be scary to start; women who speak up and ask for what they want are often labeled as aggressive or pushy. It’s easy to write in a blog post that “it doesn’t matter, and you should do it anyway!” but when your professional reputation is on the line, it’s never that simple.
Obviously every situation is different, but bottom line, ever let anyone minimize your accomplishments. Be proud of the work you’ve done to get you to where you are, and be excited for where you’re headed.
4. Be mobile.
Staying in one position for too long can ultimately be a detriment to your career, especially early on. Moving to a new organization or even just to a new role in your organization not only provides you a chance to increase your upward mobility, but gives another chance to negotiate your salary.
There’s also always the benefit of learning new skills and meeting new people you may not have otherwise gotten the chance to!
Keep an eye out for job postings at companies you’re interested in, or industry specific job boards. Even if you’re not quite ready to move, it’s always a good idea to stay up to date with qualifications in your industry.
5. Bet on yourself. Always.
What more can we say? Being humble is great, but don’t forget to also be your own biggest cheerleader.
At the end of the day, we are all responsible for our own actions and making sure we are progressing in our careers at the rate we’re happy with. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make it easier on ourselves and those around us.
By advocating for yourself in the workplace, and prioritizing the value you bring, you can build strong, stable careers surrounded by people who want the best for us. And when you thrive, you can uplift the people around you.
Sky and Sherilyn emphasized the importance of building and fostering a community around yourself that is not only proud of your success, but cheering you on every step of the way.
If you are looking to continue your own professional development, see how our Inclusive Leadership Certificate can help advance your career today!
Madisen Gee is a contributing writer at MT Consulting Group.