As a young professional woman of color, I have been guilty of making mistakes that may hinder me, just as many other women have as well. Women are often their own worst critic. We are so hard on ourselves, and despite only being human, we rarely forgive ourselves for our mistakes, while learning from them and making sure to not repeat them.
Here are three mistakes that women need to stop repeating:
I will be honest and say that I had never really noticed how often women apologized until I read about it in various books. Once I made an effort to recognize this error, I found I was guilty as well.
We apologize for awkward conversations such as discussing salary, our appearance when it is not perfect, or for things that are not even our fault, such as a co-workers missed deadline. Unfortunately for our careers, women are raised to always be sweet, soft-spoken, and what our parents and environment considers perfect. While our male siblings get laughs for doing things like farting, being bossy, or using profane language, we get scolded and told that it is not lady like.
It is engrained deep in our core to apologize for being less than perfect. Let me let you in a little secret, men rarely apologize at work. We need to learn from our colleagues and stop apologizing. I’m not saying it is going to be easy, it may even take practice (for me, I literally practiced in front of the mirror when I expected an awkward conversation to come up – read my article about negotiating a higher salary).
You may not be able to break this habit overnight, however, stay focused on how important it is to not only be confident, but radiate confidence so that your colleagues and bosses can also be confident in you as a professional.
2. Downplaying Our Accomplishments
I, unfortunately, still am guilty of being a repeat offender of this mistake. For whatever reason, women tend to make a cardinal professional mistake of downplaying our accomplishments. When asked things like “How good are you with Excel?” we downplay our expertise and respond “I’m good” or “I’m ok” instead of exuding confidence with a response as “I’m great” or “I’m amazing!”
I first noticed that I myself commit this mistake professionally when I was applying for a position within the Federal Government. A guy who was already employed there encouraged me to apply because he would be one of the folks going through the applications and interviewing candidates. After I applied, and was brutally honest and definitely too hard on myself and downplayed my accomplishments and knowledge, I spoke with the gentleman about it. He told me that was a huge mistake.
When he applied he wrote raving reviews about himself, even if he felt that he was definitely over tutting-his-own-horn. That allowed him the opportunity to get an interview, which later turned into a job. Please understand that I am not saying that you should lie about your experience, knowledge, or skills, but rather be confident enough to own them and not downplay them.
3. Following Instead of Leading
In general, most (emphasis on most and not all) women tend to comfortably fall back into being a follower instead of being a leader. Women are comfortable taking the stereotypical positions such as ‘executive assistants’ (aka EA – fancy word for secretary), instead of going for the role of the boss that has an EA. Do not get me wrong, this is not something that will happen overnight. Be confident that you can begin at an entry level position and work your way up to become boss. Never settle, and never let someone put you down.
If you know that you are the perfect person for a position, show them with your experience, knowledge, skills, and determination. Do not stress out about future what-ifs, rather always stay focused on your goals and how you can accomplish them.
What are your thoughts on these three mistakes? Do you agree or disagree? What other mistakes do you believe that women are guilty of repeating that hinders them from growing as professionals?
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