Womxn

As a student or alumni who identifies as a womxn, you may have questions about your job search. Below are some resources that may aid in your career development process.

How do I find mentors or sponsors in career fields that are of interest to me?

  • Know the definitions. It’s important to understand the difference between a mentor and a sponsor. To put it succinctly, mentors advise and sponsors act. Whereas a mentor can guide you through the working world and give you advice that will help you advance your career, sponsors use their leadership and powerful positions to advocate for you and actively help you advance your career, such as by helping you go up for promotions and raises.
  • Clarify what you want in a mentor or a sponsor. Think strategically about your short-term and long-term goals and which mentors and sponsors would help you achieve them. Think intentionally about what qualities you want in a mentor or a sponsor to help you think of specific people who could fill these roles. Consider what kinds of experience, knowledge, skills, values, interests, career field, position type, position level, and even personality you would like your ideal mentor(s) or sponsor(s) to have. Instead of reaching out to someone randomly, assess who is already in your network and think about whether you could ask one of your existing connections to be your mentor or sponsor. Identify people who hold positions that you may want one day, who work in organizations you may want to work for, or who are working on projects or initiatives for which you’d like to become involved and consider asking them to be your mentor or sponsor. The more you think intentionally about what you want out of a mentorship or sponsorship relationship, the more strategic you can be about selecting a mentor and a sponsor who will make meaningful impacts on your career.
  • Don’t wait - Be brave and ask someone if they would be willing to be your mentor or your sponsor. Proactively asking someone shows your confidence and ability to take initiative. The worst that can happen is the person you ask says no. You’ll never know unless you ask. Your request doesn’t have to be overly formal. You can just ask if they would be willing to take some time to provide you with guidance. Start with a simple request and your relationship can evolve from there. If you have no idea who to ask to be your mentor or sponsor, talk to someone about what you’re looking for in a mentor or a sponsor and ask them if they could recommend anyone they know to be your mentor or your sponsor. These referrals can help open the door to new mentors or sponsors you weren’t aware of before.
  • Set expectations early. It’s likely that both you and your mentor or sponsor have busy lives and are constantly juggling multiple responsibilities and priorities, so honor your time and their time by using your time together wisely. Ask for reasonable amounts of time that your mentor or sponsor would be willing to devote to you. For example, you might ask them if they would be willing to give you 30 minutes every few months, or you could offer to take them out for lunch or a treat every month for an hour to check in. Also, tell your mentor or your sponsor what you’d like to gain from your relationship and ask them what would work best for their schedule so that you can both meet your needs. By setting these expectations early, it is more likely that you will be able to cultivate healthy relationships with your mentor or sponsor.
  • Make it a two-way value exchange. Mentorship and sponsorship relationships should not be one-directional, but rather both parties should benefit from the relationship. While the value exchange between you and a mentor or you and a sponsor might be heavily weighted toward your growth, that doesn’t mean you can’t also reciprocate by offering to support your mentor’s or sponsor’s own work, reputation, projects, or advancement. Ask them about their work and where they might need or want help, then reflect on your unique set of skills, experience, knowledge, and personal qualities and offer to help in ways that will help them work toward their own goals. The more you offer reciprocal value to your mentor or your sponsor, the more likely they are to stick around and invest in your growth as well.
  • Be patient and keep at it. Don’t expect a mentorship or sponsorship relationship to blossom overnight. Invest time in getting to know and working with your mentor or sponsor little by little over time. It usually takes time for you and a mentor or you and a sponsor to find your groove and make the most of your relationship if you do not know each other well already. As you work together, learn as much as you can about your mentor or sponsor –and use these insights to regularly inform your dynamics and the evolving nature of your mentorship or sponsorship so that you make the most of your work together.
  • Pay it forward and mentor other womxn. We all have a unique set of accomplishments, strengths, knowledge, experiences, etc. that have shaped us into who we are, no matter what stage we’re at in our career exploration process. So even if you feel like you still have a long way to go on your career journey and you aren’t enough of an ‘expert’ to serve as a mentor or sponsor to another person, keep in mind that sharing many of the challenges you’ve overcome, successes you’ve achieved, and lessons you’ve learned with other womxn could benefit their career advancement. Something as simple as checking in about their career journey, passing along a useful resource, referring them for an opportunity, or recommending that they connect with someone you know could help you serve as a mentor to another womxn. The bottom line: Never doubt the incredible value of your previous accomplishments, resilience, and learnings and the impact you could have on other womxn. Your stories are worth sharing with other womxn.

How do I stand out in male-dominated fields/industries?

  • Be really good at your job and invaluable to your colleagues. Hold yourself to a high standard. Play to and communicate your strengths. Don’t focus on being one of the only womxn in your field. Instead focus on the work you have to do and do it well. Strive for excellence and work hard. That alone will help you get noticed among your colleagues and develop your reputation as someone who is a respected professional in your field.
  • Speak up, share your ideas, and be direct and concise in your speech. Don’t use qualifiers that weaken your words, such as “I’m not sure you’ll agree”, “I’m sorry”, or “I’m not sure what you’ll think”. Be brief and unapologetic. Find ways to step out of your comfort zone and become visible. Be brave and share your ideas – they are worth hearing.
  • Present confident, strong body language. Sit up straight, keep your shoulders back, and hold your head high. Occupy enough space for yourself and speak loudly and clearly. Exhibiting confident body language helps others notice your strength and feel confident about your abilities.
  • Keep your knowledge sharp. Stay up-to-date on trends and best practices in your industry. Combine this approach by setting specific goals for yourself that motivate you to continue your learning. Reflect on and re-evaluate your goals every 3-6 months, then set new ones so you can keep growing your knowledge.
  • Maintain a can-do, positive attitude. Demonstrate you are up for taking on new projects and solving complex problems. If your supervisor doesn’t approach you about new initiatives, try not to get discouraged. Instead, brainstorm action items you can complete and present them to your supervisor. Ask to assign yourself to new projects/assignments. Doing so will demonstrate your initiative to your supervisor.
  • Build and grow a powerful professional networkMake new connections and nurture existing connections with strong contacts who can bring value to your work. Developing relationships with people in your field will help you gain credibility in your field and help you learn more about your industry.
  • Learn to say “No”. Don’t agree to take on traditional ‘roles’ for women in male-dominated industries. Avoid taking on tasks that are outside of your role because you might be expected to as a womxn. Standing up for yourself and learning when to say “No” will earn you respect in your work environment and show your colleagues that they cannot take advantage of you because you are a womxn.
  • Commit to your role and don’t give up. Be tenacious and stand up for your seat at the table at your organization. Try new things and prove your worth in your organization by making powerful contributions. When you get tired or frustrated, reenergize yourself in whatever ways work best for you and get back at it.
  • Learn to negotiate and advocate for what you’re worth. Reflect on your skills, knowledge, education, and experiences and generate evidence to support the salary and benefits you feel you deserve. Research the typical salary range for your position in your given location to support your request. Practice negotiating regularly for smaller things so that when it comes to negotiating your salary, you will feel for confident.
  • Remember that you are in control. Take time to reflect on your performance and your growth. When you pause and self-reflect, you may realize that you’ve been spending way too much time worrying about your work environment or the politics of a particular situation. Refocus your attention on how to be excellent at your job and channel your energy into that.
  • Stand up to sexism. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your opinions. Stand up for yourself and womxn colleagues if you feel you are being mistreated. Cultivate a work environment where there is no tolerance for sexism. Speaking up will help you set the standard for what is expected of your colleagues.
  • Get a sponsor or a mentor. A sponsor is a mentor who will promote you within your organization, who has your back, and who will tell the rest of the organization – including senior leaders – how great you are and that you deserve recognition for what you do. Also consider finding a mentor – someone who can relate to you and from whom you can ask advice and seek out support should you need it. Find womxn role models that inspire you and remind you of your worth as a womxn in your industry. Once you are in a position of strength, help other womxn as well by being their mentor or sponsor.

What information do I share in an interview surrounding pregnancy or relationship status?

By law under Title VII, it is illegal for an employer to ask any questions relating to pregnancy or relationship status in an interview. For example, employers cannot ask if you are pregnant or whether you plan to become pregnant, your marital status or whether you plan to marry, the number and age of children or your future child bearing plans, child care arrangements, the name and employment status of your spouse, or whether they should refer to you as Miss or Mrs. Because such questions are illegal, you are not legally required to answer them.

If an employer asks you these questions, we strongly advise against answering them, as it could lead the employer to illegally discriminate against you on the basis of your pregnancy or relationship status. In general, it’s a best practice to leave personal information, such as about pregnancy and/or your relationship status, out of an interview to increase your chances of succeeding in an interview. Instead of answering these questions, you can 1) Explain that you are not comfortable answering that type of question, 2) Ask the relevance of the question to the position, or 3) Answer the intent of the question by addressing what you think is the employer’s underlying concern. For example, if an employer asks you, “Do you have any children? If so, how many and what are their ages?” their underlying concern may be whether you have any restrictions that would prevent you from traveling. In that case, you could say, “I’m not comfortable answering that type of question. However, it sounds like you’re trying to ask me about whether I would have any restrictions that would prevent me from traveling in this position. If that is your question, I don’t anticipate having any restrictions. I would be happy to discuss the travel requirements for this position in more depth at any time. ”

Campus Resources

  • Women's Enrollment Initiative
    A. Ray Olpin University Union
    200 S Central Campus Dr
    Room 411 SLC, UT 84112
    801-581-8030

Community Resources

  • Advancing Women provides career to support business and leadership goals.
  • Career Intelligence provides resources to help women manage all phases of their careers.
  • Career Women provides job seekers targeted access to top employers and recruiters who are actively looking to recruit and hire women.
  • Fairy God Boss was Born in 2015 while our CEO was interviewing while 2 months pregnant (and hiding it), Fairygodboss helps women get hard-to-ask questions answered. We help you get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. We offer company ratingsjob listingsdiscussion boards and career advice.
  • National Association for Female Executives provides resources to empower its members to achieve both career and personal success.
  • Women for Hire offers signature career expos, inspiring speeches and seminars, a popular career-focused magazine and customized marketing programs.
  • Working Mother is the digital hub for career-focused and entrepreneur moms.

We understand these resources may not cover all of your questions. To talk further about these resources or other topics, login to Cranium Café (ConexEd) to make an appointment with any available Career Coach if you are a current student or login to Handshake to make an appointment with our Alumni Career Coach if you are an alum. We also know that the content we have shared here is not exhaustive and that resources on identity are continually evolving. If you would like to share your comments or suggestions with us to help us improve our content, please email us at careers@sa.utah.edu. We welcome your feedback anytime.

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