Kelly the Culinarian: Career Advice for my Sister

Monday, May 19, 2014

Career Advice for my Sister

Oh, graduation. So many feelings. I really can't believe my baby sister is a Purdue University alum and ready to take on the world. Where did the years go? Before I wax poetic about how 22 years can flash forward in an instant (I remember Katie coming home from the hospital like it was this morning), I want to conserve my energy for this post.

It's been rolling around in my head and my drafts folder for months. I recently got promoted at work and got pretty introspective about what it's taken to get here. I've caught myself telling friends and coworkers lately, "I wish I understood at 22 XXX." Or, "Someone should have told me that XXX." I probably wouldn't have listened, but at least I would have known.

We visited the Cadillac Ranch
 in Amarillo, Texas, circa 2007
So dear sister, I've made some mistakes in my years of working. I've learned a few things along the way. I'm not sure if these tips will help you in your career - biology is more of a meritorious and objective profession than my pursuits, and maybe being a professional woman has changed significantly since I entered the workforce in 2007. I already wrote a general 10 Things I Wish I had Known About Being an Adult post when Mandy moved to the city, but this post is all about career secrets I wish someone would have told me.

Katie and I during the
Quidditch trip, 2011
Figure out makeup. I hate makeup. It's stupid. It's expensive. It's time consuming. But studies show women who wear makeup are perceived as more competent at work. So suit up, it's part of your daily armor.

Don't apologize unless you're actually sorry. It's a tendency women have to say, "I'm sorry, can you hold the elevator," or "I can't make it, I'm sorry." Stop. You're not actually sorry. It just makes you sound like a push over.

Keep the treats at home. This was a toughy. I love baking, particularly cookies and desserts, but much more than two people need to be eat. You want to be known for your work, not for your famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. If it's a potluck, fine, but don't fall into the habit of bringing stuff just because you have leftovers. Otherwise, it transforms the way people view you in the workplace into something more maternal and homebody than a professional persona can handle.

It's not bragging if you can back it up. Be your own champion. In status meetings, let people know what you're working on. Never pass up an opportunity to let people know you're busy, productive and accomplishing goals. Likewise, if you're not that busy, let people know and take on enough tasks to fill your time.

Start a paper trail. Keep a list of your accomplishments. I have a Kudos folder in my inbox where I keep congratulatory or thank you messages. I also have a Google doc with a running list of "wins." When you're having a bad day, it feels good to have independent confirmation you're awesome. Bonus, you can be proactive when your review comes around. Think about your areas for growth, provide your win list and "I'm awesome" e-mails to your supervisor in advance. Give them a reason to reward you.

Negotiate. Part of the reason a wage gap still exists is that 52 percent of men negotiate their first salary out of college. Thirteen percent of women do. Then you're catching up for the rest of your career. Do your research and know your worth, know you're awesome and be OK with asking for what you've earned. No one will give you what you aren't willing to ask for.

Save the tears for your pillow. Miss Abby had it right. Develop a thick skin because the first time your coworkers see you cry will be the last time they respect you. If you're feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, attacked, angry, whatever - take it outside. Go for a walk, hit the ladies room, sit in your car. Cry it out if you have to, but do it alone, pull it together and get back to your desk. Then start looking for another job. No paycheck is worth tears.

Start a Go to Hell Fund now. Today. Money does not buy happiness, but it does buy security. In grad school, one of my colleagues told me he always took his first paycheck and put it straight in the bank. When you're crying in your car or have the Sunday Night Sads looking at the week ahead, the psychological benefit of knowing you could walk away makes all the difference.

Be awesome. You're amazing, talented, educated, ambitious and clever. Just be you - don't try to mold yourself into anything else. You will succeed because of what you know and who you are. You've never conformed. Don't start now.

What would you tell your 22-year-old self about working in the real world?


Katie @ Live Half Full said...

Great advice. I would tell my 22 year old self to think of each step in my career as just that, a step. I think "kids these days" think that they will land their dream job immediately out of college. Not true, but little by little you can get there.

Maggie W said...

I don't know about that make-up thing ... the study was paid for by Procter & Gamble. Seems fishy. Granted, I rarely leave the house without mascara and a little bit of eyeliner, but my days of full-face make-up at the office everday are long behind me. Just takes too much time and money.

Unknown said...

Hahaha! I've never thought of it as the "Go to Hell" fund! That makes my savings even more meaningful.

As as someone who only bakes sporadically, I have to say that bringing in treats randomly has always been welcomed. It also tends to surprise people I work with since they don't seem to think I can do it. Oh, and my boss bakes all the time and NO ONE thinks of him as a maternal figure. Just the opposite, actually.

Losing Lindy said...

I think there is a lot of great advice in this post. Also congratulations on your recent promotion!

notquitesure said...

Kelly, I have to say that this is probably one of my favorite posts I've read on your blog.

This is great advice, much of which I wish I had when I was starting out. Your sister is lucky to have you in her life.

KellytheCulinarian said...

Thank you so much! I've been mulling this one over for a while. And thanks to everyone for your additional insights!