It’s an exhilarating thing to get the job you want, the job you fought for, that you spent months or years working toward. But if you’re a millennial woman, earning a leadership position typically comes at a price — a financial and emotional one.
The truth is painful: In 2016, women in the U.S. earn, on average, 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. That means I can grill a steak, scream at a baseball game, and singlehandedly build a dresser from IKEA — engage in every possible stereotypical, heteronormative, distinctly masculine act — and still earn less than my male counterpart. Famous feminists have made moves toward gender equality both socially and fiscally. Think of Emma Watson’s HeForShe campaign and Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In (the book and the subsequent circles). Society is still learning.
But for those of us who are neither famous nor high-powered, millennial managers who have simply climbed high enough to look down and see people newer and lower than us on the corporate ladder, forcing these changes is difficult. It can feel like a lonely road, especially when all you really want to do is your job — well, and with dignity and respect. That’s why I’ve put together the following tips to help my fellow millennial managers thrive in the workplace — all without compromising integrity or precious sleep.
Make your voice heard
There are few quirky character traits I loathe more than a low talker, especially in a professional capacity. I have great hearing, so trust me when I say that if I can’t hear you, neither can anyone else. The same goes for passive voices.
Coworkers, clients, and superiors may ask for your opinion, but they’re not going to beg for it. Oftentimes, you get one chance to say what you need to say before the moment’s gone and the floor is no longer yours. Cut the “just,” “um,” and “but” language from your verbal and email vocabulary and please, please — speak up.
Do the work
Maya Angelou (always) said it best: “Nothing will work unless you do.” Unfortunately, you will encounter people over the course of your career who take shortcuts, take credit for other people’s work, play favorites, or play at being a favorite. My advice is simple: Don’t be one of them.
Do the work. Don’t take shortcuts or steal credit. And when you’re given the opportunity to help or hire someone in a position below yours, promote and delegate based on merit, not popularity.
Support the team
Getting to a point where your decisions affect the company and the people around you is not the finish line. Your career as a manager is a marathon that requires supporting your team, and making sure you’re actually leading the pack — not just running it.
Remember that this in no way means doing other people’s work for them. Young people hungry to prove their worth and work ethic tend to forget this. A get it done attitude doesn’t have to mean get it done all by yourself. Truly great managers understand this. They lead by example and educate the people they manage in order to help them grow their skills.
Strike a balance between humility and pride
Leading a team means making yourself accessible during normal working hours. It also means believing in your own abilities and volunteering to get your hands dirty when the need arises, even as you move up the ladder. The greatest rewards, both personally and professionally, come from working with dignity and respect — for yourself and those around you — no matter how old you are, or how far along you are in your career.