2019 Is the Year to Level up in Your Career—and Claire Wasserman Wants to Show You How to Do That

Photo: Getty/Westend61; Graphic: Well+Good Creative

Will this be the year you score that promotion, get a big raise, and finally get some help with your insane workload? Claire Wasserman, an advocate for women’s equality in the workplace, says it can be. As the founder of Ladies Get Paid, she’s making it her life’s work to help women earn better salaries and thrive in their careers. Here, the Well+Good Council member shares her boss-lady mojo and demonstrates how you can help yourself level up in all aspects of your career.

While 2018 was dubbed the “Year of the Woman” (IMO, every year is the year of the woman), I believe that 2019 is going to be even more record shattering. Whether it’s the number of women running for office or more lady CEOs, I’m confident that we will continue to make huge strides toward a more equitable society. That being said, it will only happen if we all work hard to make it happen. Progress is not linear so we must be vigilant in holding those in power accountable, as well as continuing to advocate for ourselves in our jobs, our families, and our communities.

My goal for 2019? Level. Up. That means making deliberate choices—in all aspects of my life—that lift me professionally, financially, and emotionally. In particular, I want seek help when I need it, learn how to say no to things that don’t serve me, make more money, and be more strategic about my financial contributions to people and causes that I believe in.

Over the next four weeks, I want you to define what leveling up means to you. I’ll help you make a plan and hold yourself accountable. Then, I want you to tell it to a friend and post about it on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to make a public declaration; it’ll not only help you, but will also hopefully inspire others to do the same.

ReNew Year
Graphic: Well+Good Creative

Week 1: Level up professionally

My goal for this year is to create a support system of other folks who can share their expertise and experiences with me so I can improve and grow my business. Here's how you can do the same:

Tip 1: Identify who can help you
As I put together the Ladies Get Paid 2019 plan, it became clear where and what I need help with. Whether it’s getting a second opinion on the best way to launch a premium membership or what to price our conference tickets, I’ve started thinking about people in my life whose expertise I need and who might be willing to counsel me. I used to think that asking for help demonstrated weakness. I also feared that if I asked for help, I would be bothering the person. I’ve since realized that it’s not so much the ask itself that matters, but how you ask. If it’s done with a specific goal (so not a general “Let me pick your brain”), and respects the other person’s time and bandwidth, not asking is just foolish. Letting someone else into your world can also be a gift to them.

Tip 2: Stay in touch in a meaningful way
While business relationships are largely contingent on how two parties can be mutually beneficial to one another, they shouldn’t feel transactional. The best networking move you can make is to follow up and stay in touch with important people in your life. Don’t just reach out to tell them about your wins or to ask for help, periodically shoot over emails with articles that you think might be interesting to them, or send a short note to let them know how much you appreciate them.

ReNew Year
Graphic: Well+Good Creative

Week 2: Level up emotionally

Since I can only help others if I help myself, taking care of my mental health is my utmost priority. I’ve realized that the greatest thing I can do is say no more frequently.

Tip 1: Identify sticking points in your career
Something I recently learned about myself is that I’ve largely defined my worth by what I do for a living. Because of that, I tend to take on too much and overwork myself to the point of exhaustion. Through a lot of therapy and personal reflection, I’ve come to understand that a lot of this is driven by imposter syndrome. Now that I’ve identified it, I can work on it. What's your biggest sticking point at work, and what's its source?

Tip 2: Learn to say no
I’ve also gotten much better at saying no. That said, my guilt continually creeps up whenever I say no to an opportunity, let an email sit in my inbox for too long, or leave something unfinished at the end of the day. I’ve accepted that I may always feel this way, so my goal is to continually remind myself that this is a process. Because saying no to big things (like an unpaid speaking opportunity) scares me, I’ve been trying it out in lower-stakes situations. For example, I force myself to let low-priority emails sit in my inbox for longer than I feel comfortable. I’ve even started deleting some! Saying no is like building a muscle, and I’ll only get better at it if I actually do the work. This week, figure out one small thing you can do to help strengthen your no-muscle.

ReNew Year
Graphic: Well+Good Creative

Week 3: Level up financially

I moved to New York in 2009 with $300 in my bank account, no job, and nowhere to live. For almost a full year, I lived on my cousin’s couch in the Bronx and hustled my way into my first job as a non-profit fundraiser. While it’s been almost 10 years, many jobs, and larger paychecks later, it’s only recently that I’ve shaken a mind-set of scarcity from that time. I still struggle with guilt over my purchases, no matter how small.

Tip 1: Negotiate your salary
Given how systemic and overwhelming the wage gap is (it’s estimated that achieving pay parity will take 217 years), the first thing you can do to help close it is make more money. As scary as it sounds, negotiating a raise is extremely powerful for both your own wallet and all of us. Studies show that women find it easier to advocate on behalf of someone else, so if you’re struggling to get paid what you deserve, think of your mother, sister, daughter, friend, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and speak up on behalf of them.

Do your research now—check out this article on salary negotiation plus a video (with tool kits and scripts)—so when the time is right this year (maybe during your annual review or when another opportunity presents itself) you'll be prepared to ask for what you deserve. Another key element to this is to build a support system, so think of people who can rally behind you to ask for what you deserve financially at work and then go after that when the time is right.

Tip 2: Celebrate the small wins
While you should have big goals, make sure you’re also celebrating the small wins. Whether it’s tracking your spending, downloading apps that streamline your finances, or even just talking about it more with friends, let yourself be proud of yourself. Accumulating wealth is a process that requires discipline and follow-through, so reward yourself along the way! (And, pro tip: You can celebrate non-financial wins at work, too. Get a nice email from your boss? Star it so you can read it when you're feeling low.)

ReNew Year
Graphic: Well+Good Creative

Week 4: Help others level up

I believe that those in positions of privilege have a responsibility to give back to others, so the fourth part of my New Year’s goal is to be strategic in my contributions to those who need support. Below are three ways I'm working to do this. Try them for yourself, but this week, also spend some time thinking about how you—in your particular situation—can best send the ladder back down to help another woman level up.

Tip 1: Tell a friend about your money and career goals
When a person goes on a diet, it’s recommended that they be public about the goal in order to be accountable and find a gym buddy who can be there when things get tough. The same thing goes for all things career. If you aren’t already, start talking to your friends about their career and financial goals, cheerleading them throughout the year. I'm sure they'll gladly do the same for you.

Tip 2: Buy things from female-founded companies
With increasing press about female entrepreneurs, it’s easier than ever to find great products made by women. A few I’ve been loving are this Great Jones Dutch oven, Billie razors, and these Chillhouse candles. This week, identify some small businesses you'd like to support. That goes for your contributions, too. I find the best two ways to affect change is with our money and our time. This year, I identified progressive causes and female candidates and put together a budget to support them. Even if it’s just $5 a month, a little can go a long way.

If you're feeling inspired to dive even deeper into how to make real, lasting change in 2019, check out our ReNew Year program for endless inspo.

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