Are you sick of just about every buzzword or phrase that applies to women’s careers in the 21st century? You’re not alone. Being a woman with a career in 2014 means navigating a minefield of conflicting advice and ideologies. Here are the biggest pitfalls to dodge.
(Photo Credit: Jennifer Kumar/Flickr)
1. All women should do X, Y, or Z.
There are two kinds of people: those who believe there are two kinds of people, and everyone else. In reality, no one way of living or working will work for every person in any group, whether it’s women or baseball players or sushi chefs.
In fact, Sheryl Sandberg and Ariana Huffington, et. al., probably never intended to speak for every woman on the planet when they advised us to lean in and/or thrive. But that doesn’t stop the media and individuals who consume their messages from applying their advice universally to 51 percent of the population.
“People of both sexes are better off listening to advice from peers in their own fields, because standards and experiences are so wildly different depending on what you do,” writes Jessica Grose at Slate. “There is no such thing as ‘women in the workplace.’ There are women in hospitals, women in law firms, women in TV news, women in magazines, women in the restaurant business, women at Walmart.”
2. Everything is within your control/nothing is within your control.
Why do men still earn more than women? Theories include sexism, self-selection into low-paying fields, and lack of recognition for work that gives back to the community instead of the individual. The reality, of course, is that it’s all of these, in varying degrees, depending on the occupation, individual, and corporate culture.
3. Follow your passion.
Forbes contributor Caroline Ceniza-Levine does a great job of explaining why this is probably bad advice for everyone, but the short version is this: passion is necessary, but not sufficient, for building a successful career. Without the hard and soft skills to back up your enthusiasm, you’re nothing but a cheerleader for good ideas — and you’re worth more than that.
Anyone can fall into the passion trap, but it’s especially dangerous for women, who aren’t as encouraged to learn to code, or to think of themselves as being good at math and science, and whose leadership skills, as Sheryl Sandberg points out, are so often framed as “bossiness.”
So be passionate, but be informed, and make sure you’re got the skills to back it up.
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