The wage gap is closing, in large part due to women who are no longer satisfied with just a steady income.
Though Nebraska is often touted as a thriving job market for men and women alike, the state has earned a C-minus grade for employment and earnings of women from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and is ranked 31st in the nation—behind Iowa, Missouri, and most of the East Coast. Women in Nebraska are earning an average of 73.1 cents for every dollar made by men. While the wage gap is closing, at this rate of progress, Nebraska will not achieve equal pay for men and women until 2066.
However negative these statistics may seem, the job searching process for women is brighter today than it has ever been. The career search and application process is changing rapidly, and women learn at a fast pace. Thanks to the availability of resources to determine salaries of others in their prospective field, women are finding the process to be significantly less daunting and more hopeful.
When engaging in a job search, an activity that local résumé writer Bridget (Weide) Brooks says is now occurring close to every two to three years in an adult’s life, women are less commonly left to guess at how their salaries stack up to those of male counterparts in the same field or wonder about the dollar value of their unique skills.
Career coach Cindy Wagner finds that the biggest mistake women make in their job search is to underestimate their skills, or “undersell themselves.” Wagner works with women to discover skills that they tend to disregard. She looks for the unique, and often less quantifiable, talents of each individual. As she guides a client’s career search, she starts by helping people uncover what truly drives them to seek out a new career, the idea beyond a simple paycheck.
The wage gap is closing, in large part due to women who are no longer satisfied with just a steady income. As more and more women make their way into higher ranking positions within companies, potential employees are setting higher goals than previous generations—and achieving them. Motivation to not only get a job, but to be hired by a company where their passions and talents will be utilized, is increasingly enabling women to surpass competition in the job market.
Wagner’s next step is working with clients to develop a picture of what their ideal job would look like, factoring in their individual passions to create a fulfilling career concept. Then she helps with résumé, LinkedIn profiles, and other factors in her clients’ personal branding to make sure that the materials clearly and accurately reflect the value of the individual.
A common problem faced by many women trying to create their personal brand is accounting for time outside of the workforce, often spent caring for children or aging parents. Taking time off to care for children can be especially problematic in Nebraska, which the Institute for Women’s Policy Research ranks 50th in reproductive rights. Although many might consider a gap of a few years or more in their work history to be a weak point on their résumé, professionals such as Brooks and Wagner see such areas as opportunities for articulation of “softer” skills that could be a major asset for any job seeker. Companies hire employees because they have a problem, a need that is unmet. A potential employee who is able to discuss their problem-solving skills articulately makes for a strong candidate in almost any field.
Volunteer experience, work with school organizations, problem solving, and interpersonal skills can all help raise the value of potential employees. Brooks emphasizes that gaps in work history are not necessarily a weakness if workers know how to showcase that time in a clear way. While it is helpful to take a few classes or continue to work part-time outside the home, the most important strategy to rejoining the workforce is to maintain connections with coworkers.
Overall, the uncertainty Brooks and Wagner see the most frequently in their female clients stems from a lack of confidence. Women tend to be less aggressive in their job search and avoid “bragging” in their application process, which can impact a potential employer’s perception of their value as workers. Advice from a professional career coach or résumé writer can help build that confidence and show women that their skills translate to career opportunities.
With information about the dollar value of talents available on the internet, women are now more prepared than ever to use their skills as leverage in negotiation of salary, benefits, and flexibility of hours. Women are great at building relationships, especially with other women, and shouldn’t be afraid to use those connections. Brooks states plainly, “people hire people.” Research, some self-reflection, and a strong résumé can help women and their prospective employers understand that their skills are worth far more than 73 cents on the dollar.
Visit omahacareercoach.com for more information.
Top Ten Networking Tips
by Bridget (Weide) Brooks
Person-to-person networking is the single most effective way to find a new job, according to a survey conducted by Right Management, with 46 percent of jobseekers identifying networking as the reason they found their most recent job. Here’s 10 easy ways for women to build, nurture, and grow their personal network.
1. Don’t wait until you need a job to build your network. You should be constantly building—and strengthening—your connections with your network. Do something to build your network each and every day, whether that’s sending an email to someone you haven’t talked to in a while or identifying someone new you want to meet.
2. Don’t think of networking as some big, scary thing. It’s talking to people. It’s asking them for help. It’s offering help. It’s about cultivating relationships, not doing some forced, fake thing.
3. Identify who is already in your network. Take out a sheet of paper and make a list of all the people you know: friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents and relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, your community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.), alumni connections, and your doctor, financial adviser, attorney, etc. Your holiday card list can be a good starting point for identifying who is already in your network.
4. Remember the principle of “Six Degrees of Separation.” Research shows that you are likely six people away from the person you want to reach. There’s fun in figuring out how to get to that person. A practical application of this is to look for the person on LinkedIn and see who is connected to that person that you already know. Reach out to your contact offline (not on LinkedIn, but by phone or in person) and ask if they can help you connect with that person.
5. The power of the network is not just the people you know—it’s the people those people know. What if you can’t find a contact in common? Don’t be afraid to ask your network to help connect you with someone who has the information or resources you need. A very practical way to do this, for example, is to send a group text message or Facebook Messenger message that says, “Do any of you know someone who works for ABC Company?”
6. Give to get. Be the person who reaches out to your network of contacts regularly (at least a couple of times a year) to see what they are doing, to acknowledge those efforts, and to offer to provide assistance (should they need it). Segment your list of contacts into a “to do” list of check-ins. But make sure you are focusing on them when you make contact, not on you. You probably know someone who only contacts you when they need something. Don’t be that person.
7. Make time to get out and see people. The most powerful networking contacts are in-person, one-to-one interactions. If possible, arrange one to two coffee or after-work happy hour meetings with someone in your network each month. Also, when possible, attend networking events (for example, those hosted by a professional organization). If you can’t do that, network where you already are: your child’s soccer game, your neighborhood grocery store, and even at sporting events.
8. Network online. Participate in an online community. This can be a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn, an alumni site (like Classmates.com) or your trade association’s website (which might have an e-list or message board to connect members). However, remember that online networking is not a substitute for in-person networking.
9. Be very specific when you activate your network. Identify the specific need you have, and then contact people who are in a position to help you reach that specific goal. You’ll sometimes see someone post a public request for help finding a new job—but more often, these types of requests are made individually and not as a broad “call for help.”
10. Once you build it, use it! Women are extraordinarily talented at creating small, powerful networks—we just need to do a better job of using them!