Story | Women in Business

Career Advice for Women in Business: How to Define Success

Apr. 4 2023

Men and women are undoubtedly different, and those differences extend to thought processes and communication styles in the workplace. Author and leadership coach Sally Helgesen is well-versed in the habits and characteristics that aid in the success of a businesswoman. 

How To Define Success?

Before you can achieve success, it’s important to know what success means. Helgesen affirms men’s definitions of success tend to include money and status.“Women tend to define success based upon their experience and ability to contribute,” she said. “They want to make a difference in the world, and they also want to have a day-to-day experience that is relatively satisfying. They want to feel some degree of balance and harmony and feel like they’re using their talents to their full potential.”

For women, success is typically less about a job title and more about utilizing their skills for the greater good. Helgesen notes that women who feel undervalued begin to disengage from their jobs, even if they love a job. This disengagement can leave women feeling stuck in a job with no progression or a career rut.

The Problem With Being Stuck

Feeling satisfied or a sense of accomplishment is difficult when your brain says, “I feel stuck in my job.” Helgesen defines stuckness as frustration with your contribution to your job. She’s heard many women say, “I’m feeling stuck in my career,” but those women often can’t identify the problem.

That’s part of the conundrum with stuckness — there’s a barrier to success; however, the barrier is not clear. It’s hard to solve a problem that isn’t clearly defined. At this point, many women stay in unfulfilling jobs or never fully reach their career goals because they can’t overcome this obstacle.

When Women Resist Change

There is a way to get unstuck, beginning with accepting change. The link between women and success is their ability to make changes. Helgesen advises working women to recognize “what’s at work within yourself that’s keeping you from making changes that would be helpful.” Most people are resistant to change. However, men and women resist change in different ways. Learning how to embrace the ever-evolving nature of a career can help further women’s leadership success.

Typically, when women are faced with change, they take it to heart. They take time to process and ruminate on things, and after a time, they accept it and move forward. Helgesen says many women are not in a position to change the culture or structure of their organizations. The only way to make this happen is to move into leadership positions. The way to obtain a leadership position is to overcome barriers by focusing on your circle of control and being proactive about making changes.

Career Tips

Sally Helgesen’s best career advice for women is to work on how they show up in the workplace. For example, when giving career advice to young women, she emphasizes working communication habits, including building comfortable and professional communication. “Confidence is quite subjective, but aim to have a professional way of showing up in the world, and that will serve you tremendously well,” she said.

Helgesen addresses more habits that build success in her bookHow Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job.” One of these habits is to abandon rumination. When something unexpected or negative happens, learn to say, “Oh well,” and move forward without dwelling on it.

Want More Advice?

If you’re looking for ways to continue to expand your career, Sally Helgesen’s book is filled with them. Another great place to turn to for help is Inspire In Utah. The organization is dedicated to supporting Utah women in business. Visit its resources page to learn more about networking and mentorship opportunities.

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