Nine career rules for women

What does it take to get the most sought-after jobs? According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, you need to master nine skills to get ahead.

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There are still far too few women sitting in Canada’s corner offices according to a new study released by Carleton University’s Centre for Women in Politics and Public Leadership. The report shows that while women constitute 47 percent of the workforce, we hold only 29 percent of senior management positions in Canada – only 6 percent more than in 1987! The bottom line: women are rising to the top at a snail’s pace. The question is, why? An article in The Wall Street Journal contains some possible answers;  reporter Julie Steinberg finds that women still haven’t mastered the skills it takes to get chosen for top roles. In fact, there are nine key things women need to do in order to make sure they’re ready to bag the big jobs. These are:

1. Work hard

2. Do work no one else wants to do

3. Cultivate the people in charge

4. Know what you want and go for it

5. Promote yourself legitimately

6. Network with your peers

7. Make your own career

8. Leave to get ahead

9. Dress well and play golf

For Ms. Steinberg’s analysis on each of these career rules, click here. While those are nine really important pieces of advice, four in particular have really helped me in my own career:

Work hard

You simply cannot produce excellent work and master skills without a ton of hard work. That means working from the bottom up and understanding how all the parts fit together into the bigger picture. This, to me, is key to leadership.

Do the work no one else wants to do

Stepping up and doing the jobs no one else is volunteering for will get you noticed. It can also give you the opportunity to gain skills and experience you might not otherwise be able to get. One of my first jobs, for example, was one no one else wanted – while the role was quite senior, the subject matter was considered dry and uninteresting. But the job allowed me to learn skills in a new field and carve out a role for myself in the organization. This was a key career stepping stone (I also learned to love the subject matter).

Leave to get ahead

Your parents probably stayed with the same company through their entire career. But you don’t have to do that anymore and if moving to another firm can help you fast track your career then it’s something you should seriously consider.

Dress well (and play golf)

It might seem shallow, but dressing the part can help you get the job. As for the golf part: this is something I struggle with. A lot of my clients play golf but it’s not a skill I have mastered. Perhaps that’s my resolution for 2013: golf lessons.

Overall, I’m not entirely convinced that working hard and dressing well are the main things holding women back from top jobs, but they do help in positioning ourselves to get ahead in our careers.

What do you think? Which qualities have helped you get ahead in your own career? 

2 comments on “Nine career rules for women

  1. Number 9 is sad…on a number of levels. Number 2 also…I work with someone who is incapable in her own job yet agrees to work in a higher position frequently. Finally why do we accept that there are different rulesv for women who want to rise to the top? It’s 2013!


  2. I find it interesting that if you read a men’s magazine on business or Forbes, they say the exact opposite to Rule #2: Do work no one else wants to do. They specifically say that doing it will not allow people to take you seriously and the work is usually dispensable (hence no one wants to do it!), making the person doing it expendable. In my experience, doing the work may get you noticed, but you get noticed as the person who gets dumped the crap tasks because you will do them! I absolutely understand what this rule is trying to say but women still get the short-end of the stick — we do the work and not complain. Whereas men just wont do it!


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