Are you a young female professional having difficulty establishing yourself in the workplace or commanding the respect of your peers? You’re in luck! After years of internships, clerkships, and countless other positions, I’ve come to learn a thing or two about office dynamics and how to attract the proper attention. As a result, I put together a list of 10 simple rules to follow if you want to gain respect as a female in the workplace.
1. Dress the part.
Sure, you can find cheap suits at a discount store for a steal, but you’re a professional now. You don’t want cheap suits–you want amazing suits. A high-end work wardrobe is helpful if you, like me, look young, and it doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank. Tons of department stores offer designer brands on sale or clearance, you just have to be willing to look. It can be hard to gain respect if people think you’re a high school intern–not a mistake they’re likely to make when you’re sporting one of your power suits.
2. Stop apologizing so much.
As people, but especially as females, it’s in our social programming to automatically say “I’m sorry” as a space filler for situations that aren’t actually our fault and usually don’t even require an apology on anyone’s behalf. Make a conscious effort to see how often you apologize every day, and then try to eliminate the words “I’m sorry” from your vocabulary. At most, throw out a “that was my mistake, it won’t happen again” if you actually did commit an error. Otherwise, there’s no need to constantly keep apologizing throughout the day for little things you didn’t do.
3. Avoid relationships and/or flirtation at work.
I wish I could say that it’s 2014, so naturally there’s no double standard when it comes to sex appeal in the workplace, and that women are free to date or flirt with whoever they see fit without facing judgment. Unfortunately, that is just not the case. Women are subject to heightened criticism for any indicia of heightened sexuality, and the last thing you need is people questioning how you really got your job. You may gain friends, suitors, and even a promotion by using your looks, but you will never gain respect.
4. Take initiative.
Nowadays, so many people need their hands held through assignments—don’t be that person. If you were hired for a professional job, it’s because you’ve been trained in the field and asserted in an interview that you knew what you were doing. Time to walk the talk. Try to anticipate follow-up assignments. For instance, if you know a document you prepared is going to require a courtesy letter, draft one ahead of time and have it ready. Running low on work? Ask for more. Thought of a way to make an aspect of your office run more efficiently? Pose the idea to management. It never hurts to take initiative.
5. Be deferential.
As a woman, I know from experience that we like to be right. So it can be maddening to see your boss doing something that you know is just wrong, or dismissing your opinion on an issue because he or she would rather hear it from a more reputable source. Don’t lose your cool and at all times remain deferential. Superiors don’t generally like to be questioned by employees. If you know your boss doesn’t react well to unsolicited criticism or opinions, keep them to yourself.
6. Learn to take criticism in stride.
On the other hand, your boss will most certainly enjoy issuing criticism on you, especially if you’re new. Don’t get angry or take it personally, it comes with the territory and is something you’ll likely have to deal with until you yourself are the boss. Make any necessary edits to your work and methods, certainly, but take it with a grain of salt. Hakuna matata baby.
7. Arrive and leave before and after your boss.
Even if it’s just 5 minutes before and after, the point is for your boss to see your face every time he or she walks in the door, and again right before they leave. This reinforces the notion that you are working diligently and in turn earns you respect for your dedication to the job.
8. Be prompt.
Timeliness is a little thing that makes a huge difference. Being 5 minutes early to a meeting starts you off on the right foot. Being 5 minutes late makes everyone stop, stare, and definitely judge you. If you know you have an hour-long commute ahead of you, leave an hour and a half early. Always allow yourself extra time so you’re not rushing and arriving places looking flustered. A successful female professional knows how to properly manage her time, and respects the time of others.
9. Follow proper business protocol.
While we’re on the subject of little things that make a big difference, thank you notes after a job offer and giving two weeks notice when you find an alternate employment are the best ways to bookend your time with a company. You probably won’t stay at your job forever, so make every effort to start off on the right foot and not burn any bridges if you can avoid it.
10. Always respond to your emails.
The number one biggest complaint in relationships, business or personal, is a lack of communication. When you’re at work, give someone the courtesy of acknowledging that you received their email even if you don’t have an immediate answer. This applies to everyone, from your boss to your clients. When people see you as someone that is on top of their correspondence and generally responsive to inquiries, you’ll start to gain a reputation and in turn, respect in your field.