Hard work and talent are the pillars of success. But accomplished women will tell you that reaching your career goals is more nuanced. For our how-to guide, we dug for details, details, details from more than a dozen area women who are leaders in big companies, nonprofits or in their own businesses. We grilled them for tips that helped them get raises, stand out in their professions and know when it was time to switch careers or retire. Their collective wisdom will empower and inspire you on your own professional journey.
How to interview for a job
founder, Michael Saunders & Company
BY THE TIME I interview people, they have gone through an extensive process [with other staff members] and I know they have the skill set. I’m looking for passion, positive attitude and an eagerness to grow and learn. I want to know what they bring to the table that’s going to make us better than we are today. I want someone who is ready to join a team and who always says, “I can do that,” rather than, “That’s not my job.” You are more than your resume, and I’m interested in the rest of what makes you who you are. Tell me stories about yourself, not just, “I worked here from this time to that time,” or, “I reorganized accounting.” I want to know if the person researched the company and why they want to work here. I like to know if people are creative, and if they can see a better way to do something. Be curious and do your research. When you’re interviewing, look the person in the eye and don’t complain about your last boss or job.
78 cents—The amount women make compared to every dollar a man makes in the U.S.
How to promote/market yourself
Shelli Freeland Eddie
IT’S A COMBINATION of communication skills and setting yourself apart from your competitors. I worked for the state attorney’s office, in private practice in another law firm and now in my own practice. I use the law as a way to communicate with the community and build business. I blog about the industry regularly, and I use social media a lot with a personal Facebook and a business page. Provide updates and let people know how you are growing in your industry. Learn about your industry and go to the right events, both those in your industry and outside events that will bring you into contact with people who can lead you to business. Plant a lot of seeds; they often yield benefits down the road.
How to stand out during your first year on the job
Emmy Award-winning journalist and media consultant
IT’S AN OLD ADAGE, but you meet the same people going up that you do going down. Be respectful and nice to everybody because you never know where you’ll end up. That was key for me. It’s so easy to get stuck in our own little silos. Make sure to say hello to people. I was approachable and always talked to everyone. And don’t be afraid to smile. The easiest way to communicate is with a smile. Always say thank you, write notes and keep in touch with people. Success is about relationships. If you look at people on paper, a lot of candidates can fill a position. It’s the way you carry yourself and present yourself. And I was not afraid to ask for help if I needed it. You also have to show up on time, work hard and stay on top of your responsibilities. I came in at the right time and the right place. Employers were looking for people of color and women. I was a two-fer. It got me in the door, but I had to work very hard.
“Fit is first and foremost.”—JACKIE ROGERS
How to dress for success on a budget
owner, Style Matters image consulting
YOU HAVE TO HAVE the will to dress for success and the determination to put in a little effort. It never has to be expensive. Whether you buy clothes at a discount retailer or at Saks, fit is first and foremost. If your pants are too long, have them tailored. Don’t wear faded, pilled or wrinkled clothing. Don’t be afraid of color, but pick foundation pieces first—black slacks, black shoes, and add in one dress. Then add another color trouser; navy can swing a lot of different ways and khaki is a nice option. A lot of stores have capsule collections; for example, White House/Black Market has core black and white pieces and Chico’s makes it easier for working women to build a wardrobe. They’ll add in the season’s hottest trend pieces, then accessories—the right shoes, bag and necklace can add polish. If you’re working in a corporate environment, cover your arms. If your company has casual Fridays, wear darker jeans or khakis instead of flip-flops and shorts.
How to stay on a career track while on maternity leave
senior international economist, Ned Davis Research
MAINTAIN A PRESENCE at work using technology, and have a plan. My job has fairly generous maternity leave by U.S. standards and was quite flexible with how I used my hours. Even so, I was voluntarily back to work part-time from home a month after my first child, who is now 4, and five days after my second child, now 1. With my career, I did not think I would have been able to fall off the radar for three months and jump back in. It’s a fast-paced industry that changes on a daily basis, and in a field dominated by males, there hadn’t been much of a precedent set for maternity leave in my office. I was afraid not having a regular presence would work against me. By working remotely for most of my leave, I kept up with my work and maintained a virtual presence, so I was never out of touch.
“Maintain a presence.”—ALEJANDRA GRINDAL
How to stay organized
Wendy L. Fishman
executive vice president and senior trust officer, Caldwell Trust Company
ORGANIZING IS A JOURNEY, not a destination. I keep this in mind as I organize my activities. The quicker I get them under control, the more time I have to concentrate on my clients. For that reason, I don’t skimp when choosing people for my team or selecting technology to keep everything running smoothly. My strategies are: 1) Prioritize. 2) Carry your office in your pocket. Select a good smart phone. Mine provides access to emails and syncs information with my desktop computer. I chose a carrier with a strong signal so I’m in touch wherever I go. 3) Keep an electronic calendar. I use Outlook but any robust program will list your commitments and let you program realistic reminders. 4) Sort tasks by type and color code if your program permits. I can quickly see which commitments are with clients, colleagues or charities, for example. 5) Delegate.
How to motivate employees
owner, El Mariachi Loco market
MY BUSINESS HAS GROWN so fast because of my employees. I treat them like family because that’s the way I feel about them. I have employees who have been with me for 14 years. Their compensation is more than competitive and I’m generous with benefits. They start with one week of paid vacation and I give them flexible, family-friendly schedules. They receive a Christmas bonus equivalent to three weeks’ salary, plus a performance-based bonus. Employees who have remained faithful to the company receive interest-free loans on things such as vehicles and homes. I’m very strict with customer service, cleanliness and honesty. My employees treat my customers well and then the customers come back. It’s smart business.
How to win a promotion
president, Bealls, Inc.
NOTHING ABOUT SUCCESS has changed in the 30 years since I’ve been in business—there is no substitute for hard work. The other key ingredient is to take responsibility for your career and make sure your bosses know what you want to do. You can’t think that your career is their No. 1 priority. Let it be known what you are interested in. I wish someone had told me that earlier in my career. You also need to be patient. Some people are in a hurry to get to that next step and they don’t have the experience and skills to be successful. A little patience and time in the job you are in now will make you more successful when you do get a promotion.
25—The number of Fortune 500 companies that have a female CEO.
How to ask for a raise
planning department manager, King Engineering
BE PREPARED. Understand the market, know the salaries your peers receive and understand the value you bring to the company. Timing is critical; be prepared to ask for more money on the heels of a successful project. Ask the right person; go to the person who has your back and the one who relies on you to perform her job. Even if this person cannot give you the raise, chances are she will advocate for you. Know what you want and expect to get it. Thoughts form your reality. This works for both good and bad thoughts, so keep it positive.
How to combat “isms”
executive director, Laurel Civic Association
I GREW UP in a household with the greatest, strongest, smartest woman who ever lived. She came through bigotry and racism with grace. Colors of people were never mentioned in my household. She chose to be a lady and a human being. She never bowed to using the back door and drinking from the colored fountain. I was allowed always to be me. I’m still me, and I will never let what someone else thinks I should be define who I am. I run the most diverse nonprofit in Sarasota County. Bigotry, racism, sexism and ageism are all around us. Have hope and be yourself. The good will always outweigh the bad.
How to start a business after you retire
proprietor, Sandy’s Designer Clothing
AS A RETIREE from other positions, including as a buyer in New York, I went back to my retail experience to create the shop of my dreams. You must have some knowledge of the business you wish to create. I realized as an older woman I did not have the time to completely re-create myself. You also must have the drive to be able to keep up and change with the trends. If you do not have this drive after retiring, do not go into business for yourself. Finally, you must have a business and marketing plan. Let the public know what you have to offer and give the customer a reason to come through your door. Too many shop owners think you just open the doors to your new business and customers will come.
$34,000—Median yearly wage for Florida women in 2013; $40,000 for Florida men.
How to be a good networker
AS A BUSINESS OWNER and [Manatee] County Commissioner, I try to communicate with as many people as possible. I love networking events and go to as many as I can fit in. I always wear a nametag and introduce myself to people by looking them in the eye and shaking their hand. Be a good listener. Never cut anyone off. Make sure to meet and thank the people who put the event together. You should never leave home without plenty of business cards. You have only the one time to make an impression. Be sincere and always remember that the person you are meeting can help you in ways you can’t imagine. Everyone is important.
How to find balance
Lisa Merritt, M.D.
founder, Kinesia Rehab Group and Multicultural Health Institute
AS A FORMER DANCER and gymnast, I developed discipline, which has helped me stay on my feet when managing life’s complexities. I start my days early, with pre-dawn exercise, reading, prayers and meditation. I take time to tend to my plants, cook for the day or week ahead. I map out each day and the week ahead, with priority lists for personal and work-related goals. Making healthy food choices, gardening, writing and photography help me maintain my emotional center. For all of us, flexibility and forgiving yourself for being less than perfect are the keys to peacefully ending each day knowing you have lived and enjoyed it to the fullest.
How to know when it’s time to retire
retired executive director, United Cerebral Palsy of Sarasota and Manatee
WHEN YOUR WORK is not your priority and if you are financially able, that’s when you should retire. I ate, slept and drank UCP for 28 years and then I didn’t want to do that anymore. I met somebody and my priorities changed because of him. You have to have a plan. I decided I was going to retire about three years before I did. My job was flexible. I never had to have an 8-to-5 schedule. I had already incorporated my life into my work and my work into my life, so I didn’t have that lost feeling some people have when they retire. I still work on events. I also take courses, swim and exercise. Retirement is great if you keep busy doing things you enjoy and expand your social world. If you have somebody to play with, that’s nice, too.
5—The percentage of venture capitalists who are women.
How to know when it’s time to change your career
senior VP for philanthropy, Gulf Coast Community Foundation
YOU KNOW IT’S TIME for a career change when you feel like you are going toward something rather than leaving something behind. Many people decide to change careers because of dissatisfaction, and that is not always the best way to begin a new career. You need to have passion for a new opportunity. I loved my job as a banker at SunTrust and then was presented with a great opportunity at Gulf Coast. I already had been doing so much volunteer [nonprofit] work and my vision was to do more of it someday. The vision came along a lot faster than I thought it would. Once you decide to make a change, don’t expect to be perfect on Day One. If it doesn’t work out, be confident that you will regroup. When you love what you do, it’s all good.
“Acknowledge conflict as it is emerging.”—KATIE MOULTON
How to handle disputes
EVERY WORKPLACE will have conflict when you have multiple personalities, different backgrounds and competition. Also, as a business leader, you want your employees to be engaged, and that naturally leads to disputes. First, acknowledge conflict as it is emerging, such as when you hear grumbling among employees or you see manipulative behavior. For staff dealing with customers [who may have complaints], it’s important to develop great listening skills. Teach them to remain calm, acknowledge the customer’s issues, repeat them back to the customer and then accept responsibility for resolving the problem within a specific time frame. By attempting to resolve a situation, you have already diffused its volatility. ■