By Helena PowerHouse, Davey Madison
So far in my career, I have made a habit of changing my job description to fit what I want to do rather than what was expected when I was hired. This doesn’t mean I completely ignore what I was hired to do in the first place, but more like I lovingly massage it into a better form. I have been able to accomplish this for two reasons. One, I have never been able to sit still and watch others work. And two, I have never met a challenge I thought I couldn’t tackle. (Full kitchen remodel? Bring it on!)
Like many women graduating during the height of the recession I was just happy to find any sort of employment, even if it was slightly below my skillset and ambition. It forced me to be innovative and a little gritty to prove my worth and advance my career. My English degree did not teach me web design or event planning, but I saw the need and stepped up to the challenge. As my skills grew, I was able to change my job title several times and negotiate for a raise–twice.
I realize not everyone has the confidence of a white guy, but here are three things I think every Powerhouse woman can and should do to craft the job they have into the job they want.
- Set standards early and often.
When starting a new job, it can be overwhelming to say no to anything. Join the birthday party planning committee? Sure! Organize the storeroom? You bet! Grab coffee for our guest? No problem!
Stop it. Women already are disproportionally asked to complete ‘office housework’ so don’t set the expectations that you will always say yes to these non-promotable tasks. Know your worth and clearly define that to your co-workers and your boss. It might be uncomfortable to say no at first. Looking your boss in the eye when he asks the group if they would like coffee and not moving a muscle while your male colleague makes coffee is definitely a sweaty palm moment. But it does get easier and with any luck you won’t have to do as often once the standard is set.
- Find the gaps and fill them.
Deliberately seek out challenges and teach yourself what you don’t know to create meaningful tasks and projects. Challenges are usually glaringly obvious but fixing them can often seem insurmountable. Do it anyway. If you don’t have the exact skills right now, then teach yourself and learn as you go. Google is your friend.
- Take credit for your work.
Girl, you need to speak up and take credit for the powerhouse that you are. It has been documented that women’s ideas presented during a meeting are often dismissed then co-opted by male colleagues and praised. Women are more likely to wait until after meetings to express opinions. Don’t be afraid to use ‘I’ instead of ‘we’ or ‘our office’ when presenting ideas or executing projects. If you did it, take credit!
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