By Molly Barnes of DigitalNomadLife.org
It can be difficult to see any good coming from the ongoing challenges of the global pandemic. Women, in particular, have been hit hard over the past 18 months. They have lost the most jobs, and they have shouldered the most household burdens. And now, as women are returning to work, many find themselves on an entirely new career path.
To find stability and prosperity, both women and the workplace will need to adapt. By focusing on addressing the unique challenges they face and leveraging the unique skills they bring to the table, women can come back better than ever.
For women, career growth is often limited by a lack of long-term goals and support along the path. Mentors fill both of these roles. A good mentor will reveal the skills needed to thrive, and they will hold their mentee accountable to their goals.
Mentorship programs have been shown to increase female longevity within a business. Often, this is a direct result of the mentor’s guidance in honing an employee’s needed skills.
Of course, not everyone is cut out to be a mentor. Mentoring is extra work for zero pay. Those successful people who are willing to dedicate their time and resources will likely only consider helping those who are truly dedicated to growth. After all, the most successful partnerships are mutually beneficial. Plus, any worthy mentor will be known for their mentorship skills. This means that they’ll often be inundated with requests for help in career advancement.
Mentees should be prepared to act on the teachings of the mentor, not just listen to their words of wisdom. Mentors want to see their tips being used. So, take training courses that address your weaknesses, create action plans for your growth, and include challenging yet reachable milestones, like growing a contact base.
Your personal finances affect your professional life more than most people acknowledge. Without the benefit of financial stability, you may be forced to make career decisions out of desperation. That’s why, in order to pursue their passions and provide for their families, women must focus on building a strong financial foundation.
If you’re starting from scratch, begin with the basics of budgeting, setting aside money for emergencies, and planning for retirement. And, if you haven’t done so by now, start building your credit. Having good credit can save you tens of thousands of dollars per year on interest, allowing you to invest more in yourself. Paying all bills on time and keeping credit usage below 30% are the best ways to build credit safely.
This step is especially important for women business owners, many of whom have already felt COVID-19’s financial impact. While small businesses had access to PPP assistance, those funds aren’t infinite. However, there are other options.
Women owners can look into small business grants. Many grants are directed toward minority businesses owners, and women are indeed a minority in the small business world. Focusing a grant search on your demographic and business type can boost your chances of securing funds. For example, the Amber Grant Foundation provides $10,000 to a different women-owned business every month. Hiring a grant writer can also ensure that you secure those much-needed funds.
If you’ve been out of work because of the pandemic, you will likely need to upgrade your credentials, especially if you’re looking to change careers. Being proactive about learning new skills also showcases your eagerness for success, which looks good to prospective employers.
Check out online professional skill courses from sources such as edX or Udemy. There, you can find programming boot camps, social media management courses, and much more. Many are free, and almost all are tailored to specific skill levels.
It is also smart to consider emerging technologies that are tangentially-related to your current position. If you’re at a marketing firm, for instance, data analysis skills will set you apart, especially when combined with database programming. This will allow you to identify and predict trends based on marketing data.
Soft skills are just as important, and often more difficult to teach. While women as a whole are naturally better at communicating and adapting to change, becoming coachable gives you an even more decisive advantage. Mastering active listening and critical thinking, being able to make active and meaningful contributions in team settings, and knowing how to delegate roles based on personal strengths and skill areas can help you emerge as a leader.
The pandemic has been devastating for many working women. However, it has also created an opportunity for women to come back even stronger. Seek out mentors that will help you develop the needed skills for advancement. Stay on top of your finances for emergency cushions and future growth. Finally, never stop adding to your catalog of skills—the more you can do, the more you will do.