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If you’re a woman in the U.S., you’re probably aware that the current pay gap is such that we earn 79 cents to every male $1. But what if our earning potential was, in fact, within our control? What if our bank balance could be boosted by actions we take rather than stagnant because of statistics we see and believe? Here, five mistakes women make early in their career that decrease their earning power in years to come.
Simply stating your case for an increase is a big part of career advancement, whether or not you initially receive one. "Women who consistently negotiate their salary have increased earnings of at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don't," say Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever in their book Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation—and Positive Strategies for Change. A million dollars. And hey, that's just the money. A salary-increase dialogue also opens up career acceleration talk, which puts you on the path to leadership.
"Oh but I'm not a self-promoter!" you cry. The reality: That mentality is harming you. A former boss once said over a martini one evening, "Unless you highlight your wins around here, management simply won't know about them. Help us help you get recognized." The meek shall not inherit the earth (nor the next promotion). Women who let their accomplishments shine will. Don't be afraid to speak up about your success, raise your voice in meetings sharing your recent positive experiences and forward praise-filled e-mails from clients or colleagues to your manager. A simple "This made my day!" will suffice. It's not bragging, it's celebrating.
If there's one thing successful women do, it's strengthen their connections. There's an old adage that your network is your net worth, and it's true. The people you know have a direct correlation to your earning potential, because if you want a new job or an introduction to someone in a new city, your network is the fastest route to landing it. So fire up LinkedIn every week. Add people you encounter at meetings, parties, even on plane rides. Make an effort to show up at industry events. Get to know the people around you who aren't on your team. Help out others when you can by being a connector yourself. Play the long game, because your career will last your entire lifetime.
Forbes reported last year that one-third of millennials have a side hustle—a paid gig outside of their nine to five. Having more than one revenue stream is the new normal. Many women we know work full time in a cubicle but spend their evenings and weekends as personal stylists, beauty bloggers, jewelry designers and yoga teachers. The only limits you have are the ones you set yourself.
Think you need fancy initials after your name to hit the big time? You're wrong. Times have changed. Nowadays, skills pay the bills. So do confidence and setting a vision for your life. Did you know that neither Anna Wintour nor Rachael Ray nor Jessica Alba have a college degree? They just understood their passions and worked their strengths to keep moving forward. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx (a company she started as a side hustle while selling fax machines), attributes regularly consuming inspirational material as a massive factor in her success. Do you listen to uplifting podcasts? Read personal development books? Attend the occasional self-help seminar in your city? You may want to give it a try.
Investing in your confidence, your voice, your community, your ideas and your relationships is an investment in yourself. And that is the most profitable investment you'll ever make.