It's the time of year for making New Year’s resolutions.  

Women often resolve to get fit, lose weight or save money by shopping less.

While these are all helpful resolutions, what is often missing are resolutions relating to their careers

Across most countries and in most industries throughout the world, women are still under-represented in the ranks of leadership.

While some people believe the solution to this problem is setting quotas or introducing laws to force organisations into taking action, this will only be effective if individual women resolve to take advantage of these systematic changes.

I encourage you to expand your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2014 to include one or all of the following five goals.

On their own, each will help you take a step closer to reaching your leadership goals.

When used together, they become a powerful tool for dramatically enhancing your career not only in the coming year but also in years to come.

Use your strengths

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ignore your strengths.

A common example of this is when women think they have to lead like a man to get ahead.

As we move from a belief that right-brain skills are the key to success and towards a focus on left-brain thinking, women are well placed to lead the way if they can embrace their strengths.

There have been numerous research reports that demonstrate employees prefer a more female, left-brain style of leading, with its focus on collaboration and relationship-building rather than control and structure.

Instead of trying to change who you are, embrace your differences and turn them into your strengths.

Develop the right mindset

This resolution relates to stereotypes and obstacles that women encounter on the path to leadership. You need to develop the right mindset for dealing with them.

If you start to believe the stereotypes — that women are overly emotional and lacking in confidence — then you will start to act accordingly and reinforce them.

If you ignore the potential obstacles, such as broken career paths and family responsibilities, your mindset will get in the way of your success.

The first step to fixing a problem is recognising it and that requires the right mindset.

Resolve to throw out any negative attitudes and focus your mind on the things that are real.

Learn from the mistakes of male leaders

We all make mistakes in our pursuit of a satisfying career. Men and women are no different in this regard.

Given that men are more represented in the ranks of leadership, women have a fantastic opportunity to learn from men’s mistakes, saving them the heartache of repeating them.

Some of the most common mistakes one can learn from include:

•   Mistaking arrogance for confidence,

•   Not considering the organisational culture,

•   Burning bridges when leaving a role,

•   Holding grudges, and

•   Ignoring politics.

So the next time you see a male colleague making a career-limiting move, make a note so that you can learn from his experience and increase your chances of avoiding the same mistake. 

4 Get a mentor

While the concept of mentoring has been around since ancient Greek times, it seems that men are still more likely than women to seek mentors.

Having a wise counsel or guide to help you navigate the often-complicated world of work can assist you in many ways.

A mentor can provide an unbiased point of view, challenge you to think differently and be a source of support when times are tough.

Make 2014 the year you get a mentor or, as I will explore in the final resolution, consider becoming a mentor to support other women.

You will definitely benefit, regardless of which role you take in the mentoring relationship.

Support other women

The old boys network, as it is often called, is simply an example of men supporting other men in their career aspirations.

Women need to learn to do the same because there is safety in numbers and power in coalitions.

Instead of seeing other ambitious women as competition, you need to band together to support each other.

This could be women at the same level as you or younger women just starting out in their career.

That support could be in your workplace or in the wider community.

If more women presented a united front rather than showing up in workplaces as individuals on a personal mission, I believe we could make a huge difference to the world of work.

So which of these five keys to career success are going to be among your resolutions for 2014?


Article by Karen Schmidt, an award-winning speaker, workshop leader and facilitator with Training Edge International. She is a frontline leadership expert who uses her workplace gardening philosophy to help grow frontline managers into frontline leaders.  E-mail or visit