There’s a lot of career advice out there. Some of it is totally solid — and occasionally earth shattering (ahem, don’t cry at work). Some of it is true, but you’ve heard it regurgitated a million times before (dress for the job you want). And then, there’s something a bit more ominous: the advice that is widely believed…but doing you zero favors.
So, we’re debunking the lies (beyond just relying on karma for your next raise) that have the potential to sabotage your career, with a little help from Stacia Pierce, CEO of Ultimate Lifestyle Enterprises and host of The Women’s Career Conference. From the idea that you’ve missed your window for huge success after a certain age to the B.S. that women can’t be supportive of other women in the workplace, these are the career myths people insist on recycling…that you absolutely can’t afford to give credence to.
Myth No. 1: Most women aren’t supportive of other women at work.
This one irks us to our core, because we most often hear this idea repeated by women. Which just perpetuates the problem. And, Pierce says, “Whether it is due to her own need to protect her position, or a fear of being perceived as showing favoritism [to other women], many women choose to shy away from other female coworkers. With this perspective it is quite difficult to relate to or trust other women who could be very beneficial to your advancement.”
She continues, “Many successful women are open to mentoring other ladies and helping them achieve their goals. In fact, there are more support networks for women in business than there are for men.” And this exists outside of the traditionally corporate environments, too. Pierce points out that “Beyonce’s all-woman band, The Sugar Mamas, is a fine example of talented women who were given a chance by another leading lady.”
Ultimately, as women, we can’t settle for treating each other as competition — or writing off mostly female work environments as being catty and unsupportive. It may seem obvious, but it’s worth remembering that “we have to approach every new relationship with a female counterpart as an opportunity to build an alliance.”
Myth No. 2: Negotiating will make you seem ungrateful or greedy.
We all know that the income gap between men and women, while nuanced and complicated, is due in large part to a negotiation gap. Pierce attributes this to the fact that “many women want to be accepted by the potential employer and not cause any problems at the start of the relationship. Negotiating a salary can feel like you are disagreeing. And yet, it’s also your right, as a future employee.”
The Sheryl Sandberg example of almost taking Mark Zuckerberg’s first offer is widely known — and is worth noting here. Eventually, she did negotiate, once her husband pushed her. And, Pierce points out that that’s “not because the money was all that mattered, but so that her future boss would feel that he had to push to get her — and value her accordingly.”
Just because you’re being offered more than you’re currently making, don’t feel limited. Pierce says: “Consider the entire compensation package, not just the salary. Benefits, stock options, vacation, bonus, and your office space can also be considered during negotiation. You should also think about what you need to succeed on your job. For instance, an assistant or special equipment could make a huge difference in your success.” So, ask for all of that. You could very well get it — and it’s unlikely the word “greedy” will ever come up outside of your own thoughts and fears.
Myth No. 3: You can only have one great career in your lifetime.
“Lots of people find themselves stuck in a rut five to seven years into the workforce. So, what do they do about it? They stay put, thinking that they need to stick it out,” says Pierce. But, that’s just not the world we live in anymore. Your industry will dictate how often you can jump from job to job, but there is no reason you can’t make a lateral move into another industry if you’re truly hitting a wall. Career paths aren’t really linear anymore — and thinking that way is just holding you back.
Pierce’s favorite example of this? Vera Wang. “She started as a professional ice skater, and then spent 15 years as a fashion editor at Vogue. And then became the design director at Ralph Lauren before finally opened her own bridal boutique in 1990 — and becoming the most prominent bridal wear designer in America.”
Myth No. 4: The older I get, the further I get from huge success.
Pierce acknowledges that “the quarter-life (or later!) crisis may have you feeling helpless, panicked, and indecisive about your future success. But, there’s really no need to be alarmed — even if it does feel like every tech billionaire out there is 27. Very few people reach their greatest potential or achieve true success by 30. Even if everything you thought you’d be doing by now hasn’t happened, it really doesn’t mean that it won’t. The secret to reaching your goals is having the tenacity to overcome obstacles, setbacks and rejection.”
“Today you may be pushing papers at your 9 to 5. But keeping your heart and mind open to new opportunities will lead you closer to your goals. Opportunities are often missed because they come in overalls and look like work. Seize every moment to improve your skills and gain more exposure. The work you do today determines your success tomorrow.”
“Case in point: At 30 years old, Stephanie Meyer worked as a receptionist for a real estate company. She considered going to law school because she felt she had no chance of achieving her dream of making it as a writer. And then, with no writing experience at all, she wrote her first Twilight novel in just three months. And, no matter what you think of that series, it’s hard to deny the fact that within the space of that year, her life changed forever, thanks to a $750,000 three-book publishing deal. Now, the author, producer and actor is worth over $125 million.”
Myth No. 5: Successful women are married to their jobs.
Many successful women wear their ‘married to my job’ badge with pride, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Working hard is a powerful things, and at some (or many) times in your career, you’re going to need to put your head down and do it. But, it’s not the only option for anyone looking to find success (or just compete). And, when it comes to balancing that work with having a personal life, it’s really not a zero-sum game. No matter where you fall on the “having it all” debate.
“A lot of people really desire to share their success with a loving partner who supports and understands them. You don’t have to give up on having a love life because you’re committed to your job,” says Pierce. “When you started working, you were most likely young and single with no attachment.”
But, you made time for other personal priorities (whether that happened to be going to the bar with friends, playing in your band, or something else altogether). So, Pierce suggests you “stop saying you don’t have time for a relationship, especially if you’re truly longing for one, deep down.”
Instead, she suggests incorporating more social activities into your daily routine. “To be successful, you don’t have to be one-dimensional. Take real vacations and use your days off to engage in activities outside of work. You’ll instantly find yourself that much close to your personal goals.”