Last week, while speaking at a women’s conference Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said he said it is bad “karma” for women to ask for raises but that they should wait for “the system” to recognize that they deserve one and reward them. Obviously, the remarks triggered a firestorm of criticism and he walked the statements back.
On whether women should wait for recognition, far from the truth say experts at New York City-based executive recruiting firm Harris Allied. Women need to take charge of their own success and chart their own advancement in the workplace especially women re-entering the workforce after having children.
“No one is going to hand you a huge raise each year just because you show up and wait patiently for your reward,” says Kathy Harris, managing director of Harris Allied, which specializes in recruiting technology professionals. “Likewise, women who are reentering the workforce after a hiatus need to advocate for themselves at the onset of their job search. It’s their responsibility to be clear about what they need from their new position – such as flexible hours or telecommuting – and they need to be prepared to speak about the value they bring to the company, team and role. A woman interviewing today, especially following a hiatus, needs to present herself as relevant and accomplished. That way, no one is left surprised or disappointed by the outcome.”
“But it’s understandable why many women might feel uncertain when they are about to jump back into the game – both about the value they bring to an organization and what they can legitimately ask of their prospective employer,” Harris explains. “They don’t always know what the company will expect from them or how they will manage their new workload. Plus, technology changes so quickly that many women are concerned that their technical skills are a little rusty after being out of the loop for a few years.”
Harris offers the following suggestions to women who are looking to reenter the workforce to ensure a good fit:
1. Bring your skills up to speed before you start interviewing and share what you know. If you are a developer, read about current and emerging technologies. Get a GitHub account so you can see what people are working on; post samples of your code and use that online resource to get current on what’s out there. Stack Overflow accounts are also helpful – job seekers can pose and answer questions, so join the conversation. You can include a link to these sites or to your online portfolio from your resume so employers can readily check out the quality of your work.
2. Make sure your compensation expectations are aligned with the role. Many job postings have salary budgets posted. Make sure the compensation budgeted for the role is in line with your expectations before you apply and start the interview process. Check the employer’s website for information about work life and other benefits. Speak with your recruiter about your compensation requirements and confirm they are accurate for the market and industry.
3. Be prepared to discuss the gap in your resume. It’s important to be able to speak to your time away from the workplace without apologizing. Let your future employer know that you and your family made the decision for you to stay home consciously and with a plan to return to work when the time was right.
4. Include specific accomplishments from previous roles in your resume. Consider your achievements, honors and major projects that you delivered. Include these on your LinkedIn profile as well as on your resume.
5. Look at all considerations that impact how much time you will spend at work including commute, evening events, client dinners and travel. Be sure to ask about outside work events during the interview process.
6. Be honest with prospective employers about what work-life balance you are trying to achieve. But also be honest with yourself – know what is going to make you and your family comfortable in the long term. Be prepared in advance to have a backup plan for childcare if your babysitter gets sick, for example. Ask your employer about the kinds of hours the position requires. Ask about the work culture. Don’t be afraid to work hard, but be honest with yourself about the kind of scenario that will really work for you.
7. Talk honestly with your recruiter. Ask them the tough questions and be forthcoming about any concerns or restrictions you have. They want both you and the client to be happy and for you to be successful in the role. It’s important to make sure your expectations are aligned with the prospective employer’s.
8. Forge relationships with other women. Even if there are no or few other women in your actual department (that is especially true in IT departments), seek out other women in the company. They might be in the HR or communications departments, for example. They could become your best ally at work.
“Women who are returning to the workplace need to be able to compete in the market in order to win a great job. By being prepared with the right skills and support systems, you will limit the surprises and manage everyone’s expectations to ensure a smooth re-entry into the workforce,” says Harris.