The “room” we often have to enter in our careers are rooms filled with well, people who don’t look exactly like us. My own career path — corporate lawyer to law firm manager to startup advisor/co-founder/angel investor to LP in a fund to author — has always included men. From the frat boys of my CMBS days to emerging tech, my path has frequently been cleared or repaired by men, and I have been sponsored and mentored by men (yes, I consider myself VERY lucky to have had mentors of either gender during my career).
Having the guys on your side helps, but isn’t the answer to all your career navigation challenges.
Here is one of my career tips for those who find themselves on a similar journey to mine (read the rest of my suggestions on my blog):
Tip No. 1: Get In The Room!
YOU need to get in a room with the decision makers!
Don’t relegate yourself to the outsider roles and opportunities.
If there’s an opportunity to go to a meeting, you want to be the one who says you want to go. That means sharing the cab to airport, getting in the elevator with that person, showing up 15 minutes before the meeting starts (because you know that’s when all the good stuff really happens).
Do not just be the one who goes back to the office.
If the boys suggest grabbing a beer, go. Go, listen, be there. Sometimes that’s the most important thing to do — simply being seen. Don’t use the excuse “Oh, I’ll go back to the office and do my work…” As for the topic of making small talk (sports, golf…) who cares what they’re talking about! Best thing you can add to the conversation are your ears. Maybe chime in and ask a question.
Knowing you have something to do back at the office is a great excuse to leave once you’ve made the initial effort. They need to see you as that colleague and not just “the reliable girl Friday” — the one who will go back to the office and do the work.
So, as hard as it may be, or as uncomfortable as you might initially feel, you need to take a deep breath and get in the room!