2020 hasn’t been easy for women in the workplace, according to McKinsey’s annual report on the topic: Not only does progress towards gender parity remain modest, but the COVID-19 crisis is pushing as many as two million women to consider leaving the workforce.
In this climate, it remains more important than ever to learn from the habits of the female leaders who are paving the way towards a more positive future by fighting against external forces to climb the corporate ladder.
“I have front row experience witnessing the pain and glory of professional women. I’ve supported professional women through tear stains, giggles over wine, and the grind of office survival,” says career coach Michelle Snow.
We’ve asked Snow for her insights on what the women who advance their careers fast tend to do. And while successful women share several career-advancement habits you can take a cue from, sacrificing wellness in the name of success is not one of them.
“While money, power, and position are active ingredients of success, alone they make a terrible [reality]. Truly successful women embrace that one cannot sacrifice peace, mental health, spirit, and relationships for the sake of status.”
Ready to grow your own impact on corporate America without losing your sanity in the process? Get inspired by these seven things that women who advance their careers fast focus on.
1. They play the long game
Successful women keep their eyes on the prize. They know they’ll have to face more obstacles than their male counterparts but aligning their daily actions with their big vision keeps them focused.
“She is laser-focused on the ultimate expected outcome. She’s embraced her vision as reality. She is keenly aware that every decision may impede or impact her ultimate goals. She aligns her personal and daily habits to carry her vision like cargo,” says Snow.
2. They equate failure to learning
According to Snow, women who advance their careers fast know how to constantly pivot and adapt — and that does involve embracing failure:
“This career woman does not become friends with bitterness, gossip or despair. Her experience has taught her that failure is a lesson in action. Failure is not permission to quit.”
3. They focus on self-mastery
Snow says pillars such as performance, awareness, skill-building, passion and execution fuel the trajectory of the highly successful professional woman: “She masters her skill-capabilities and takes responsibility for her weakness, failures and success.”
Women who relentlessly work to advance their own careers know they’re working against sometimes daunting systemic forces. But focusing on their inner and outer game and striving for continuous improvement is their way of putting all odds on their side.
4. They choose their battles
Part of playing the long game and aiming to advance in an environment that can sometimes be unfair does include picking which battles to fight — for both energy preservation and to serve the ultimate outcome.
“She’s confident enough to not prove being right in every circumstance. Sometimes her work will speak louder than her voice,” says Snow.
5. They only compete with themselves
While stereotypes can sometimes make it easy to imagine the women who make it to the top as cutthroat, ruthlessly competitive characters, they’re more often than not collaborators who celebrate the power of community and collectivity. They don’t see success as a zero-sum game where when others win, they lose.
“Her greatest competitor lives within her mind — not the office next door. She has traded competition for industry and workplace peers,” says Snow.
6. They nurture professional relationships
Highly successful women understand that the ability to create and nurture professional relationships is one of their greatest assets. “She creates and maintains strong respectful relationships of reciprocity within her peer group and her leaders.”
It makes sense: Mentors and sponsors in positions of power are critical when it comes to a woman’s ascension of the career ladder. And teamwork is needed to achieve collective goals that also reflect well on individual performance and contributions. Not to mention the fact that a strong network gives you access to more opportunities.
7. They avoid putting themselves in boxes
Women in the workplace have to face internalized gender biases — both their own and others’. The most powerful, successful female leaders strive to continuously be aware of their own assumptions and avoid putting themselves into boxes.
They embrace their multiple facets and don’t reject their unique femininity (whatever that means to them). “She’s born with an innate ability to multi-serve, code switch, appropriately emote, be sweet, soft, feminine, courageous all while being brilliant,” says Snow.
According to her, it’s about both celebrating your numerous, distinctive attributes and knowing when to tap into each aspect of yourself so you don’t burn out trying to be everything to everyone at the same time. “She must choose what woman she is and when. For best results and most successful outcomes she decides daily what [version] is necessary for that day, task — and in life.”