Tips to Take Your Career to the Next Level

Changes that can equal success in the workplace for women.

For many of us, asking for help isn’t easy. As women in the workplace, our reluctance to do so isn’t serving us well, says career expert Aimee Cohen, author of “Woman Up! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success.”

On the contrary, not asking for help is one way that we’re sabotaging our professional lives, Cohen says, and it’s a behavior seen far less often among men.

“We pride ourselves on having all the answers and knowing how to do everything. We don’t want anyone to think that we don’t (have all the answers), and that can be our greatest downfall.”

Different Women, Same Stories

Cohen decided to write “Woman Up!” after hearing about the same career struggles from women year after year.

“The faces on the other side of the table changed, but the stories and scenarios were the same,” she says, adding that guilt often plays a major role in inhibiting women’s success.

“All women walk around with an enormous sense of guilt — if you stay at home, if you’re a ‘working’ mom, if you’re working too much or too little — there’s a constant battle to create that elusive work-life balance. You don’t have to struggle as long or as hard when you have a mentor helping to guide the way,” she says.

Mentoring Equals Success

Mentoring relationships serve as a means for working mothers to learn and become more self-aware at work and at home. Those who are more experienced can offer valuable insight to their younger co-workers, she says.

“Mentoring is one of the greatest differentiators when you’re talking about the difference between male and female success in the workplace,” Cohen says. “Since the beginning of time, men have understood how important mentoring is. That’s why you always hear of a man taking someone under his wing or ‘grooming’ someone else, because it works,” she says.

Strength in Numbers

For women, however, there can be a great sense of competition. But a shift is happening as more women see the value of a collaborative spirit, and strength and power in numbers. The process of finding a mentor can start with something as informal as asking a few questions over a cup of coffee.

“Women need to open up an opportunity for conversation, but it works both ways,” she says. “Seasoned, experienced women need to be more accepting and available, and those in need must choose to ask for their help, advice and support. There’s strength in reaching out and allowing someone to extend a hand down to help you come up through the ranks.”

No Apologies

Success in the workplace depends on some behavioral changes as well. Cohen’s book includes a list of seven deadly sins to avoid on the pathway to progress. One of those is women’s tendency to apologize when there’s no real reason.

“It undermines our power and authority in the workplace more than anything else,” she says. “Men apologize, but only when they believe they’ve done something apology-worthy. Women apologize for all the wrong reasons, and it’s a bad habit that it’s time to break.”

Making the changes necessary for success starts with small tweaks and an elevated self-awareness, Cohen says. “We’re probably not going to have equal pay by Friday, and we’re not going to have gender equality by next week,” she says “There’s a lot in the workplace that we can’t control. And we can take much better control of ourselves.”

Tammy Holoman is a freelance writer from Winston-Salem.

Aimee Cohen’s ‘7 Deadly Sins’ for Women in the Workplace

Ask yourself these questions about your behavior at the office:

1. Kindness Conundrum ― Are you too nice to get ahead?

2. Competency Curse ― Do you know how to say ‘no’ and mean it?

3. Perfectionism Prison ― Is great never good enough?

4. Affirmation Addiction ― Do you need a hug to survive your day?

5. Divulgence Disease ― Do you ‘show up and throw up’?

6. Miscommunication Mayhem ― Does your image boost or bust you?

7. Undervalue Epidemic ― Are you too demure to get what you deserve?

— Excerpted from “Woman Up! Overcome the 7 Deadly Sins that Sabotage Your Success” by Aimee Cohen