Smart Career Moves By Smart Women

With the conversation about equal pay for equal work reignited, it’s never been more important for women in the workplace to be smart, speak up, and reach for the next rung on the career ladder. But the landscape of career growth can be tricky to navigate. Thankfully, many powerful women have gone successfully before – blazing the trail and leaving women with a treasure trove of insights and advice to help us grab our own slice of the pie.

Whether you’re looking for a promotion, raise, or the courage to venture out on your own, there’s a strong woman you can look to for advice or inspiration. Stop just thinking about making your next career move and start doing something to make that move. To help you get inspired, here’s some timeless career advice.

Speak Up

There’s some kind of Victorian hang-up about women being seen and not heard that still haunts women in today’s workplace. Typically, women ask for raises less often than their male counterparts and when they do, they ask for less money. It’s time to speak up and start asking for what you want.

“Ask for a raise. Every year,” successful writer/blogger Joanna Goddard said. “Make a list of your accomplishments over the past year. Phrase it by saying you’ve “earned” a raise (not that you “deserve” one)…And don’t just ask for raises, ask for everything: promotions, bigger assignments, more responsibility. If you’re enthusiastic and hardworking, you will be amazed by how often you hear ‘yes.’”

If you want the chance to show everyone what you can do – ask for it. If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will. You are your greatest advocate, so speak up and be heard.

Take Criticism on the Chin

We all want to hear how awesome we are, but it can be difficult to listen to criticism – yet there is no growth without it. Take “American Idol” for example. There was definitely a sick fascination with Simon Cowell’s acerbic denigration of lackluster performances, but his comments were usually the only ones that could actually turn a shy Kelly Clarkson into a powerhouse superstar.

“You are going to face many Simons,” career counselor Heather Hay said in a “LiveCareer” article. “And being able to smile in the face of adversity while maintaining your composure is essential.”

Look at criticism as a gift, and take it with grace and an eye to how it can help you improve. You may even want to seek out a Simon-like mentor who isn’t afraid to tell you the hard truth if it’s in your best interest.

Embrace Risky Business

Many of us have fantasized about telling our boss to take a hike and going into business for ourselves. There’s no question that it’s a risky move, but it can be the difference between tolerating our professional life and absolutely loving it.

“When I was working at IBM in my early 20s, I was making great money and exceeding all my sales goals,” Cindy Barshop, owner and founder of Completely Bare spas, said. “But I had a gut feeling that I could do so much more and provide a service to change women’s lives. With big risks come greater rewards and the chance to make a difference.”

But even without a cause to champion, cutting the cord can sometimes be the only way to keep your career flourishing. When Rayna James (Connie Britton) started being sidelined by her label on “Nashville,” rather than quietly handing over the spotlight, she saved her career by launching her own label. Take a page from Rayna’s book. If you’re feeling stagnant, unfulfilled, or overlooked, stepping out on your own might be the best risk you’ve ever taken.

Show Your Ego the Door

It’s called a career ladder for a reason. You often have to start at the bottom and work your behind off to make it to the next rung.

“Don’t ever be ‘too good’ to do anything, and see the big picture in those little tasks,” Joan Otto, Editor of “Man vs. Debt” said. “My first job was typing the obituaries for a local newspaper – a job nobody wanted. But not only did I do them; I developed a system that made them more accurate and quicker to process – and THAT mindset led to a 13-plus-year career there, a management position, flexible hours and more. (And my degree was in mathematics!)”

Your career decisions shouldn’t be ego-driven. If all you’re looking for is an impressive title that will look good on paper, you’re likely to miss out on real opportunities to catch the attention of people who can help you achieve your career goals.

Women have more possibilities than ever to create the careers and lives they desire. If you’re lacking inspiration, look to these other successful ladies and put your professional future into your own hands. Whether it’s a real-life CEO or a powerful television icon, like Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) from “Scandal,” there is no end of strong, smart women to help you take the next step and realize your full potential.