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Being a champion for yourself at work is often a mindset shift for women, who’ve been told to fit in, wait their turn, or lower their expectations. “A champion is also a challenger, offering different perspectives and ideas,” says Kelly Camacho, director of club operations–program manager at Life Time, who recently spoke on a panel about finding your champions and mentors at an event hosted by Women Encouraging Leadership at Life Time (a.k.a. WELL — this affinity group was formed in 2014 to support women at Life Time in using their leadership voices).

Embracing this concept means you might occasionally run into resistance, but these ideas can build confidence and support your career development.

1. Never comprise your values. “Your reputation is worth more in the long run than any potential gains to be had in the short run,” says Susan Mistri, senior general manager at Life Time Westchester, who also spoke on the WELL panel. “Make a commitment to never compromise your most important values for the sake of pleasing others. Never sacrifice your integrity or the integrity of our brand, for personal gain or for the gain of others.”

2. Ask for what you want. You might hear “no,” but you won’t know unless you ask for what you want, whether that’s a promotion and higher salary, a more efficient process, or a new hire to support your project. As Natalie Bushaw, senior director of public relations and internal communications at Life Time, puts it: “Ask. Get. Don’t. Won’t!”

3. Set bigger goals. “If you don’t have any goals, there’s your first problem. If you do have goals but they don’t scare you, there’s your second problem,” says Mistri, who has been with Life Time for nearly two decades. “To become a champion, you need to be setting big goals.”

4. Sing your praises. Do you downplay how well you did on a project? Employees who subjectively describe their own performance with higher marks have better chances of being hired, being promoted, and getting a raise or a bonus, yet men fare 33 percent higher in self-promotion than women, according to a study done by Harvard Business Review in 2019.

5. Do your research. Before starting negotiations, research the job requirements and compensation you are seeking. Understand your rights as a worker and who can address your questions in your human-resources department.

And use company and industry tools for continued learning for fresh ideas and new insights. “To succeed in any field you must continually learn, grow, and increase your value to the marketplace,” says Mistri. “Never stop investing in yourself. You are your greatest asset.” (Tap into advocacy groups, such as Lean In, which provide resources and online options to connect with other women in your field.)

6. Keep track of your accomplishments. A lot can happen in a year, so your early wins may be a distant memory to your boss come review time. Print out critical emails that applaud your work and add them to a file folder. Note in a journal or document key projects you lead or other contributions you made, obstacles you encountered and how you moved through barriers, and feedback from colleagues. Bring this to your annual performance review to provide a refresher and concrete examples of your achievements.

7. Tap into mentorship or affinity groups. Multiple studies have found that professionals who have mentors experience higher salaries and greater job satisfaction. Affinity groups focused on supporting women and female-identifying employees can provide safe spaces for tackling challenging topics or establishing a better position.

Keep in mind these connections are meant to help evolve your career: You may not get promoted immediately, but you will become more promotable. “It’s not about immediate achievement,” say Lois Zachary, EdD, author of The Mentor’s Guide and Creating a Mentoring Culture. “It’s about developing your future potential.” Find more tips for mentees here.

Developed in partnership with Women Encouraging Leadership at Life Time.

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Courtney Lewis Opdahl

Courtney Lewis Opdahl is Experience Life’s managing editor and a member of the Inclusion Council at Life Time.

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