Today’s job seekers face a multitude of challenges from the economy to graduating with a large sum of student load debt to finding a career that suits their talents. For women, however, there are also other unique obstacles standing in the way of career advancement.
We caught up with C. Pitts-Kyser, author of “Careeranista: The Woman’s Guide to Success After College” to discuss some of those potential roadblocks, and get her tips on finding career happiness no matter what your gender.
Can you share with readers how you came to write the book?
I wrote Careeranista: The Woman’s Guide to Success After College because I felt there was not a book out there that adequately addressed the many challenges young women face as they make the transition from college student to young professional. Beyond just job searching and interviewing, there was a need for a book that also discussed what it takes to succeed in a professional environment, as well as how to handle common career issues, such as handling conflicts with co-workers and balancing work and life. I geared the book toward women because I wanted to focus on the unique experiences of women, share other women’s stories, and to write in an uplifting tone in which women could feel like they had a big sister sharing advice.
Any quick story from your own early job history that you’d like to share?
I was fired from my first professional position as an editor of a weekly newspaper, and as I share in the chapter on coping with job loss, it was a very traumatic experience. But being let go from the job set me on a totally different career trajectory and led to amazing experiences. Women should always look for the hidden benefit of job loss or anything else that happens in their career that they immediately perceive as negative, and then look for opportunities to make their lives or careers better than before despite the obstacles they have faced.
What unique challenges are young women facing today when it comes to finding a job?
I think that women, more so than men, suffer from a lack of mentorship or large network. Since most jobs are obtained through networking, this can reduce their chances of getting hired within a company. Women need to expand their professional circles and take the initiative to reach out to people in positions of power who can help them obtain a job.
How can women become good negotiators for salary and other benefits?
The first step toward becoming a good negotiator is not seeing it in a negative light. Too many women are afraid of being viewed as pushy or ungrateful if they ask for anything other than what was initially offered, and thus when they try to negotiate, they approach the employer with a lack of confidence and ask for less than what they truly desire. To build their confidence, women should practice negotiating more in everyday life and speaking up when they feel they deserve more.
How important is it to network and find a mentor in order to succeed?
Having a mentor is crucial to young professionals’ success. Starting out, there are just so many things you don’t know, and worse, things you don’t know that you don’t know. Mentors can help you see potential roadblocks and how to get past them, as well as help you mature into a savvy, sophisticated professional. Networking with people in and outside of your industry is a necessity at every step of your career. There are so many opportunities out there, but if your professional network is small, or filled with the same type of people, you’ll never know about them.
Why is professional image so important for today’s job seekers?
The way you walk, talk, and dress is the first thing that people notice. So, no matter your degree or how smart you are, if you don’t immediately come across as a young professional worth knowing or investing it, you will be ignored. And unfortunately, there are many stereotypes that exist about today’s new graduates, such as that they have a poor work ethic and lack interpersonal skills because they rely too much on technology. Young job seekers have to be aware of these stereotypes and be sure they are not perpetuating them.
How can women in particular navigate aggressive, mean, and sometimes inappropriate bosses/co-workers, especially in a male-dominated office?
At some point in their work lives, women are bound to come across men who forget we aren’t living in the Stone Age, and don’t see or treat women as their equals in the workplace. Women should speak up, confidently and tactfully, when they feel that they are being treated inappropriately because of their gender—be it someone hitting on them at work or making rude comments about women. Staying quiet to keep the peace—or to keep a job—leads to undue stress and can reinforce the belief that such behavior is okay. And, the bottom line is, women should not feel compelled to work for people or organizations that support a hostile work environment for women or any other group of people.
Along those lines, how can women overcome gender stereotypes?
A woman can work to overcome gender stereotypes (such as women can’t handle pressure), by confidently opening discussions about such stereotypes—and why they are not true. Often, people don’t even realize they are shutting women out of opportunities because of their beliefs of what women are and aren’t capable of. For example, a manager might think that a woman won’t be comfortable or will have a hard time managing a group consisting of mostly men—and thus will overlook her for a male candidate. Speaking up about such stereotypes and career-blocking opportunities is a must.
Chaz Pitts-Kyser is the author of Careeranista: The Woman’s Guide to Success After College and a professional speaker focusing in the areas of undergraduate success, career preparation, and women’s empowerment. She is also the founder of the Careeranista.com, a career website geared toward young professional women.