1. Following up with a note. The tendency to follow things up with a note — a thank you, a small review of what was learned, or just a “can’t wait to do it again” — is a hugely underrated one. It’s not just about putting a little card in the mail after a great party or event, it’s about taking the time to let someone know that you appreciate all they brought to a project or meeting. And thinking about the little things, as Martha Stewart would say, makes all the difference.
2. Looking put-together. Anyone who has worked in an office with a super-slack dress code knows two things: Women tend to look put-together of their own volition, and men tend to descend into a vague land of t-shirts, loose pants, and hoodies when it gets cold. The tendency to dress with effort and thought for work does wonders for both “putting you in the professional mindset” and “being prepared for whatever the day throws at you.” You never know who you’re going to see, and the first impression you might make. The pencil skirt is the equivalent of keeping your bed made — things just feel better, and shit gets taken care of.
3. Bringing snacks. Everyone falls in love with the person who brings bagels. Come armed with snacks every now and again (and they don’t even need to be that special, or homemade) and you will have won the war. A little bit of care and attention, when food-related, goes very, very far in any work environment.
4. Understanding what it means to be underestimated. We’ve all experienced the male colleague who didn’t think to shake our hand, or the condescending pet names, or the comments that question our competence in a very gendered way. And this is terrible, but it also arms us with a) an empathy for good workers who are constantly undervalued, and b) the ability to surprise people. Humility is something everyone needs, and even though we are forced to have it, we can put it to use in important ways.
5. Initiating communication. Starting the conversation is half the battle, and while conversation can often be regarded as “feminine” or “superfluous,” it’s an advantage to anyone who is good at it. Not being afraid of going up to someone and talking something out in person isn’t touchy-feely, it’s great for problem solving.
6. Actually listening. We’ve all seen the glossed-over eyes of a guy who stops listening as soon as it stops being advantageous to him. We have been raised to listen, and sometimes it can feel like a big burden to carry, but you’d be surprised what people will tell you when you just listen to them talk.
7. Organizing get-togethers. Being the glue that holds a team together socially, and making sure that the human side of the team is connected, pays off in spades. It might not seem immediately important to organize those regular get-togethers, or to let people blow off steam, but the teamwork and ideas that can come out of some free conversation — not to mention the morale and energy boost — make it enormously worth it.
8. Being ready to apologize. Yes, sometimes we apologize too often, and saying sorry all the time isn’t great. But our capacity to take criticism, be honest with ourselves and say, “Yes, that was my mistake, I apologize,” is invaluable. While men are busy protecting their egos and pushing the blame, we have no problem saying where we could do better.
9. Engaging in small talk. Part of our training all throughout our childhoods as girls is how to make small talk, how to make people at ease, and how to be kind to new people. Being able to listen and (at least appear) genuinely interested while meeting someone, as well as being reasonably flattering to them, is a remnant of the Ladies’ Home Journal-era hostess-training that serves us enormously in any kind of networking.
10. Being attuned to people’s emotions. Perhaps the most important thing we have in our pocket is the ability to understand people’s emotions, listen to them, and value them. Communicating in an empathetic way, and earnestly asking “What’s wrong? Is there anything I can do?” is a deeply human, deeply essential skill. At the end of the day, everyone in the office is a real person with real problems and joys, both in and out of the office. We respect that, and that changes everything.