My Hike up the Career Ladder in Wedges
Young women often face the same challenges of establishing credibility, being taken seriously, and earning the respect of our (older) male counterparts.
More so, when you’re a twenty-two year old girl with the baby face of a twelve year-old.
My path to becoming a director at the largest tenant representation commercial real estate company in San Diego at age twenty-one was unique, but one that many young women around the world can relate to.
After graduating college at 19, from the University of San Diego, I knew I wouldn’t be taken seriously in the business world – especially in a male-dominated industry like commercial real estate – until I had more experience under my belt. For that reason, I decided to earn my MBA, also at the University of San Diego, to both further my knowledge of business and help establish credibility that I knew what I was talking about. It helped that I love business – and I loved attending a program with a 7:3 male to female ratio. Throughout that period, and the majority of my time in high school and college, I filled my time with internships, leadership opportunities, and volunteer work.
I earned my Masters in Business Administration at the ripe old age of twenty-one and decided that it was time to establish myself, regardless of the uphill battle I would face.
As a 21 year-old diving feet first into what has traditionally been called the “good ol’ boys club” of commercial real estate, I had to adapt quickly.
First, I learned to accept the help of others – and to never be afraid to ask for help. I learned this both from personal experience and professional coaching (which I highly recommend, and will get to in a moment). The truth is that people, in general, are very giving by nature. They want to help the underdog, and they want to feel appreciated. I knew how happy and fulfilled I felt when I could help others – but it took me much longer to realize that it makes other people feel happy and fulfilled to help me too. When people offer help or guidance, I am honored, and I almost always take it. There is nothing but good that comes from continuing education and learning from other people’s experiences.
Second, I realized the importance of professional coaching. I am very lucky to work in an environment that values employee growth and development, and provides professional coaching to the team in-house, but there are countless other opportunities for professional development. Through presentation and media training, I was able to hone in on my communication skills to more effectively explain what it is I do, what makes our firm different, and how I can add value to our clients. The results have been astounding, and have absolutely contributed to my success at the firm.
Third, I finally came to accept my age – and even use my meager twenty-two years of life experience to my advantage. What I’ve found is that everything in business comes down to a story – every interaction you have is an opportunity to brand yourself. My age is something that sets me apart, and it provides me the opportunity to share my educational background and how I ended up in the position I am in today. That creates a friendship with an emotional connection, rather than a sterile business relationship.
Last but not to be forgotten, I found that dressing for success – and treating every day as if it’s a million dollar pitch – is crucial both for self-confidence and for respect in the business environment. Getting ready for work in the morning may seem to be an insignificant part of the day, but in my opinion, it is the most important. It sets the groundwork for how you feel, and therefore what you project the rest of the day. If you take the twenty minutes extra to curl your hair, and that results in even the slightest kick in your step, others will notice and be drawn to you.
Times are changing – and as women we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to have it all – and sometimes even all at the same time. The important thing is to be a support system to one another, for that is the secret to climbing the career ladder in our wedges.
Star Hughes is director of business development at Hughes Marino. She earned her Masters of Business Administration at University of San Diego, completing the two-year program in one year at the age of twenty-one. Hughes graduated at the age of nineteen from University of San Diego with her Bachelor of Business Administration, after completing her undergraduate degree in two years.
While attending the MBA full-time, Star worked at one of San Diego’s leading financial institutions, RA Capital Advisors, and as a management consultant for Van der Horst Energy Limited in Singapore.
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