In my last job in the corporate world, I spent several years watching my husband's career leap ahead of mine. Eventually, I realized it wasn't some magic glass ceiling or luck. It was because he fought for what he deserved while I waited to be given what I deserved.
It is a small but critical difference. In the past 100 years, women have stepped into the work force on an equal footing with men. But, somewhere while growing up, many of us were given incomplete information. We were taught to work hard and succeed. A critical step, known by many of our male counterparts, was left out of our process: Work hard, fight hard, and succeed.
Here are nine ways to fight hard and jump start your career:
1.) Decide What You Want. Before fighting for anything, you need to know exactly what you want. You don't want to go to your boss and say, "Treat me better" or "It's unfair so-and-so got the promotion and I didn't." Come up with specific goals. Want a raise? How much? Want a promotion? To what position?
2.) Check for Structural Problems. Before launching a fight you need to make sure you aren't running straight into a brick wall. For example, I once worked for a big company that ranked their employees from one to five on a curve. During one review, my boss said to me. "You are great and deserve an increase in rank, but I would need to demote someone older. It's easier just to keep you where you are." Time for a new job. If your manager can't (or won't) fight for you, then it doesn't matter how much you fight, you still won't get what you deserve. Make a lateral move to a team with a stronger or better manager, and then work on moving up.
3.) Calculate Your Value to the Company. - Your company's goal is to get as much work from you for as little as possible. You can't enter a negotiation and expect them to fill in the details of why you are valuable. Create a detailed list of the unique assets you bring to the company. What have you done to add value lately? What have you done that no one else has done? Write it down and reread it until you can recite it forwards and backwards in your sleep. Take it with you to any meetings about your job. Stress can do weird things to your memory. Ask a trusted coworker for honest feedback if you need help creating the list.
4.) Figure Out Where You Need to Improve. Before starting a negotiation, you need to see both sides of the argument. You don't want to go to your boss and say, "I want X" just to hear, "But you didn't do Y." It's time for some honest self-evaluation. Think of everything negative your supervisors could say and create a plan to fix each thing. This way, not only do you have a plan to improve no matter what happens, if any of the negative things come up during the meeting you can say, "Yes, I've realized that was a problem before. I have started doing X, Y, Z to fix it."