Finding a job is hard enough for anyone. But it’s even harder when your gender limits you from the get-go.
From an 80% wage gap to unfair biases, women face a myriad of additional barriers when it comes to employment. And while there are many systematic aspects to the problem, there are also small steps women can take to improve their employability.
This advice is less about gaining new skills than it is about recognizing the skills you already have. Do an honest assessment of your abilities.
Maybe it’s interpersonal communication, HTML, or creative problem-solving. Use those to your advantage, and be sure to tell employers how they can benefit you in a new position by updating your CV or LinkedIn Profile regularly.
Just as important, don’t hold your skillset to unrealistic standards. Impostor syndrome is real and hard to overcome, but don’t be afraid to take a chance on a job.
Men will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the qualifications, while women apply only if they meet 100% of them.
Being a woman in the workplace means that you will sometimes encounter men who want to underestimate you.
Another barrier to women’s employability is the perception that women tend to have more creative and interpersonal skills, lacking the technical skills that employers look for.
It’s no secret that women are disproportionately absent from STEM fields. And while it’s not necessary to enter a STEM field to find employment (but kudos to you if you are!), many of the skills used for STEM are highly attractive to employers.
If you’re already in a STEM field, or otherwise uncertain about taking a STEM-centered class, try cultivating unique interpersonal or creative skills that set you apart. Although STEM skills are useful, the demand for soft skills is also growing, especially in technical fields.
Languages are a great example of something that complements interpersonal skills well and is highly sought after by employers. Honing complementary skills that can set you apart in the applicant pool.
Although it can be hard to get the hang of, networking is a vital skill for the modern employee. As people like to say, it’s not what you know, but it’s who you know.
Not only it is useful in finding a job, but it’s also a great skill to have in the workplace. Building a network of people in your domain can make it easier to hear about new opportunities or find resources to accomplish a task at work.
However, research indicates that women are less likely to use networking to leverage opportunities.
Due to a dislike of inconveniencing others and lack of confidence that makes it hard to ask people to vouch on their behalf. This can create a disadvantage when it comes to women’s employability, but practicing by starting small can do a lot to offset this. Finding common ground is a great way to get the conversation rolling.
Another great way to make connections without having to feel like an inconvenience is to be the first one to offer help, such as pointing them to a job opportunity you know of, or offering advice on a task they have.
Networking can take place in a variety of ways and with a variety of people. Don’t overlook a connection just because you don’t know them or see how they might be able to help you. You never know who might land a leadership position at the company you want to work for.
So get to know people in other departments that you usually wouldn’t talk to. Reach out to experienced individuals in your field to grab a coffee and learn a bit from them.
Doing the work that’s asked of you makes you a good employee. But when it comes to standing out in a pool of candidates, being good unfortunately isn’t always good enough.
Employers are looking for the best of the best, the candidate that’s really going to drive the work forward. They are looking for someone who can bring fresh ideas into the workplace. And part of that means taking risks. It means being brave enough to speak up in meetings, brave enough to disagree with your boss, brave enough to try a new method.
Research indicates that women, in general, are more reluctant to risk-taking, preferring to stick to the rules. And while this often produces good work, it doesn’t create the same buzz as the work produced by risk-taking.
You have the skills you need to succeed in the workplace. These skills will hopefully help you succeed in all the efforts that go into getting yourself a spot in that workplace.
Mugdha Gurram is a rising junior at Boston University studying International Relations. After graduating, she hopes to pursue a career in law. In addition to international and domestic politics, she is passionate about accessible education, including the ability of students of all backgrounds to pay for their education.