When it comes to succeeding professionally, nice girls don't get ahead. Lois Frankel's Nice Girls Just Don't Get It, recently released by Crown Publishers, argues that women need to become more demanding and authoritative, at work and in life.
We talked to Frankel about the top career tips from her book.
1. Be among the first two or three people to speak in a meeting
When sitting at a conference room table, take a chair that's at the table -- not along the wall. "If you're not literally and figuratively at the table," Frankel said, "You won't be taken seriously." The earliest speakers are seen as having the most self-confidence, so don't wait to have your voice heard.
2. Don't be a martyr
If everyone stays at your office until 10 or 11 p.m., that's the norm and you should as well. But if you're often working late nights, it won't help you integrate work into your life, Frankel said. One reason women feel like they have no balance is because they're working too hard and being perfectionists. Don't be afraid to turn out the light at 7 p.m. if that's when people leave.
3. Don't apologize
Apologizing automatically puts you in a lower position. Unless it's an egregious mistake that costs the company millions (and you'd probably get fired anyway), don't say you're sorry. Instead, acknowledge the error. Frankel recommends saying something like: "I realize this didn't turn out the way we intended. Here's what I learned from and here's what I'll do to make sure it doesn't happen again."
4. Manage expectations
If you're asked to do something unreasonable, like meet an absurd deadline, don't say no. You need to be seen as a team player. Instead, say "Yes, I'd be happy to. Let me tell you what's doable with the amount of time or resources we have." If you're higher-level and you're asked to do something like make photocopies, gently decline by saying, "Sure, I'll have my administrative assistant do it."
5. You need to know how to network
Frankel herself dislikes networking, but she forces herself to do it. If you're going to an industry or association event, find a role you can fill – like a member of the welcoming committee, Frankel suggests. Then it's your job to meet people and facilitate introductions. Go with a friend and be prepared to ask people questions about themselves – everyone loves to talk about their lives.
6. Tell, don't ask
If you want to go on a cycling trip in Tuscany in July, do not ask permission to do so. Instead, say "My plan is to take off the first week of July for vacation." You should make the assumption that if others have a problem with it, they'll tell you, Frankel said. She does caution that women can't be as blunt as men, so she suggests adding a line like "If there's a problem, let me know." The assertive tone of that sentence is still different than "Would it be alright?". "Whenever you put your opinion or request in the form of a question, it sets it up for people to pick it apart," Frankel said.
Write to Julie Steinberg