The result of this professional confidence gap is especially stark in the tech world. While women make up almost half (47%) of the total workforce, they only hold 27% of computer and mathematical science jobs.
As a new female exec in the tech industry, and a self-proclaimed data nerd, stats like these both intrigue and terrify me. Championing women’s career growth has always been a passive passion of mine, but now as a leader, I feel the moral obligation to take action in equalizing those numbers.
From landing a dream job at Google to experiencing PagerDuty’s IPO, and to now joining Moogsoft as the VP of Growth, I can attribute much of my career to three things: proactive planning, confidence in myself, and being willing to say yes to new opportunities.
Whether you’re in the tech field or navigating the workforce at large, consider these tips that have helped me advance my career.
Career plan often and out loud
One of my favorite managers once told me, “Your career path is up to you and you alone. You decide where you want to go and I help get you there.” Nothing has ever rung so true. I am often asked how I ended up as the VP of Growth, and the fact of the matter is I’d known for well over a year prior to taking on the role that building a growth team was what I wanted to do next.
Treat your career as the most important project you need to manage. Once a month, at the very least once a quarter, take 30 minutes to update and reflect on your own career development plan. This includes answering questions like;
- Short-term goals: What projects do you want to accomplish in the next six months that will give you experience in areas of interest?
- Medium-term goal: What skills do you want to learn in the next year that will set you up for the next role?
- Long-term goal: What role, title, or responsibility do you want to grow into in the next two to five years?
There are a lot of great career development templates out there that are handy to use to guide your self-reflection—like this SMART goals guide from Indeed.
Once you’ve mapped your path out, you’re halfway there. Now to make that a reality, you need to share it out loud and to anyone who will listen. Schedule out quarterly career conversations with your manager. Don’t wait for them to ask. Share it with women and friends in your network and share it with your mentors or other leaders. Communicating your career plan not only creates a commitment to yourself to move forward but gives you an army of people helping find those next opportunities for you along the way.
Apply for the job, ignore the “qualifications”
Now that you have that next job in mind, it’s much easier to narrow your search. When applying for jobs, focus on three things; the responsibilities of the role, the company or product you’ll be working for, and the team you’ll be working with. If those three things match what you are looking for, apply for the job.
Oftentimes, we can get caught up in the “qualifications” section of a job description, but did you know that women are actually more likely than men to get hired if they apply for the job? According to the LinkedIn Gender Insights Report, female applicants are 16% more likely than men to get hired after applying for a job and 18% more likely than men to get hired for a stretch job.
As Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” So take the shot.
Say yes to things that scare you
One last thing that I’ve embraced while growing in my career is the feeling of “Oh crap, can I do this?” that hits your stomach right before you take a big leap into a new project or job. Some may call this “imposter syndrome” or as the feelings of self-doubt and not belonging. But, as Harvard Business Review accurately states, these categorizations incorrectly direct our view toward fixing women at work instead of fixing the places where women work.
Turning it on its head, I like to take that feeling and see it as a sign that I’m pushing myself to grow. Oftentimes, new things are scary. Discomfort is a sign of growth, and the more we push ourselves to be comfortable with the unknown, the more willing we are to take on new challenges.
While there are many things that can factor into your career—timing, inherent privilege (or lack thereof), and a bit of luck—proactively managing your career with intention can only help drive it forward and upwards.
One of my favorite roles I’ve ever had was managing the EMEA SMB Google Cloud sales team which came from a combination of telling my manager I wanted to work abroad as part of my career plan, raising my hand when an opportunity arose for an interim manager role in Dublin, and then saying yes to moving halfway across the world all alone!
So where do you want to invest your time and talent? Pursue this question passionately and reevaluate it often. Believe in your unique value proposition.
You never know what you’ll achieve.
Minami Rojas is vice president of Growth at Moogsoft.