9 career tips for women (and everyone else)
September 18, 2023
By Joyce Stack
Here’s what I’ve found useful throughout my tech career
Earlier this year, I wrote a Tweet thread sharing some of my own experiences of being a women in technology. I turned them into a blog post because others (men included) may find them useful.
1. Quit being shy about your career goals
If you have aspirations about a role — ask for it! I’m in application architecture because I emailed the Chief to ask him for a job. He said yes.
Once, when an interviewer asked me if I had any other questions, I said: “I really believe in what you’re doing, and I would love an opportunity to get involved. Please give me the job!”
And they did!
Of course, they can always say no. In fact, that’s what happened the first time I tried this.
I have also asked for pay raises and promotions.
I do realize that this would be super challenging for some of you, especially if you are shy. Maybe it’s something you could raise in a resource or support group. Which leads to the next tip.
2. Find — or create — a group in your organization for support
Finding a small crew for mutual support, feedback and talking over problems and solutions has been massively helpful for me. In my case, it’s an informal gathering of trusted colleagues, but you could also find an existing “resource group.” At Elsevier, we have a wide variety of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), from Elsevier Pride and the African Ancestry Network to Women Connected, Generations and an online group for Neurodiversity.
It’s about finding a little tribe in your organization that you feel safe with.
3. Learn how to give assertive feedback
Often people sit and suffer in silence about how they are feeling at work. Following an assertive feedback template(opens in new tab/window) is a one way to lay out your observations and feelings constructively.
4. Understand your values
It’s crucial to know what you truly believe in — the values you want to live and practice.
Here’s an exercise that takes some effort and iteration but has helped me a lot. You can use Dr Brené Brown’s List of Values(opens in new tab/window) as inspiration. Start by circling those values that resonate with you. Then for each one:
Define what it means to you.
Reveal what you gain from it.
Indicate where it turns up in your work.
The reason this has resonated with me so much is that it’s easy to feel like there’s something wrong with us if we don’t get something we’ve been striving for. But maybe that’s because it doesn’t fit with our value system. Understanding your values will help you align your goals with who you are.
5. Craft a personal mission statement
This has helped me stay focused and grounded on what I care about. Otherwise, it’s easy to get pulled between multiple competing priorities.
In my case, I value connection over community. Let me explain. As an ambivert, I identify equally as both an extravert and an introvert. I like connecting ideas and people in my day-to- day work with API design. However, while I enjoy working with people and making new friends, I don’t feel the need to be part of a big community or socialize with lots of new people. So I view “community” is a way of sharing a vision and being helpful.
My mission is “to help developers make decisions faster by influencing, leading and building an open and fair community of API practice because this community will allow individuals to achieve their goals faster.”
While mission statements are usually just one sentence, they can take time to compose — but it will be worth it. Here’s an article about how to write a personal mission statement(opens in new tab/window).
6. Before you call out behaviors in others, check yourself
Remember, when you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you. If you’re not getting what you need from your team or colleagues, take a look first at some of your own behaviors.
7. Understand your state of mind and how it can craft stories that might not exist
In simple terms, thoughts create feelings. If you think anxious thoughts, you will feel anxious. If you feel angry, don't write the email; try to understand what’s at the root of your anger.
If you’re interested in this approach, then read Sydney Banks and the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought(opens in new tab/window). A career coach introduced me to these principles.
Another great read is Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy(opens in new tab/window) by Mo Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer of Google.
8. Stop and ask yourself what success actually means to you
I've been focusing less on achievements and more on enjoying the process — and I feel much happier.
Willingness is a great motivator. Personally, SMART goals don't work for me, and its OK not to use them. If they worked, I would have a six-pack by now. 😊