College graduations are coming up, and a whole new breed of young women will be entering the real world. More opportunities exist for women in today's workplace, but securing that first real job can take a lot of work and be a scary transition. What do today's young women need to know?
Rene Banglesdorf has worked in the aviation industry—which is predominantly a man's world—for the past 11 years and is the founder and CEO of Charlie Bravo Aviation. She is also a mentor to women entrepreneurs around the world. For women just finishing school and entering the workforce, Rene offers this advice:
Be eager to learn, but don't be a pushover.
After nailing down your first job, you are going to be the new kid on the block. Be willing to take on certain tasks that may seem mundane or beneath you. This is how you slowly work your way up the ladder and build trust with your colleagues and managers. What is not acceptable, however, is being pushed around, especially if you are working in an environment led mostly by men. You are not the coffee girl. You are not there to pick up lunch for the guys. You are not there to tolerate sexist or discriminatory language, or to be talked down to.
Find other women to connect with.
One of the best things you can do in your new job is to meet other women and make connections. Women in the workplace can have an unofficial sisterhood where many look out for one another. The one caveat: be careful who you confide in or what you say to someone else until you are fully sure that that person is your ally.
It's a different mindset from college.
When you were in school, everything was about you. It was about your grades, your internships, your extracurricular activities, and your ability to learn all you could. The real world is all about your employer and what you can do for them. Take the focus off you and concentrate on the value you can bring to them.
Stay away from comparisons.
Women need other like-minded women in their lives to learn, grow, and hold one another accountable. Don't ever allow yourself to start comparing your life, success, or anything else about you to others. Analysis, assessment, and appropriation may help you process information, but it will also make you critical and judgmental of yourself. Even worse, it can push you toward jealousy and insecurity.
Play your own game.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. One of the secrets that successful women rely on all the time is playing to their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. Focus on the skills that make you the all-star that you are. Keep trying to improve on your weaker skills, but allow your strengths to let you stand out from everyone else.
Approach the first job as an opportunity to get your feet wet.
For many of the young women I coach, a common complaint I hear is, “This job is not what I thought it was going to be.” Understand that this is perfectly normal, and oftentimes it takes time and several employment opportunities to find the perfect fit for you. You are not stuck in your first job forever.
Learn to accept criticism.
It's hard to hear that your skills are not as polished as you thought. When someone gives you feedback that's not what you want to hear, leave your emotions out of it and use their comments as an opportunity to grow and better your skills. Similarly, realize that you are going to make mistakes along the way. Make sure to learn from them.
Don't stop learning.
Don't get caught in the trap that you've learned all you need to know in college. You always have more to learn, whether it's about how your employer does certain things differently from the competition, the latest trends in your industry, or something unique about a client you will be calling upon. All these things can make you stand out and keep your brain active.
Be independent and a team player at the same time.
It's debated as much as the infamous chicken and egg question: Is it better to be a self-starter and work independently, or is it better to be a team player? The most successful women know the answer is, “both.” One of the most valuable job skills you can bring to any profession is being able to work independently when needed but also know when you need to collaborate and be part of the team.
Rene Banglesdorf is the author of the book Stand Up! How to Flourish When the Odds Are Stacked Against You. For the last 11 years, she has been a trailblazer in the aviation industry and is the founder and CEO of Charlie Bravo Aviation. She is also a mentor to women entrepreneurs around the world. Learn more about Rene and her book on her website.