How Job Search Is Different for Women, with Jennifer Kass

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 317:

How Job Search Is Different for Women, with Jennifer Kass

Airdate: October 13, 2021

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. 

Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume. 

Researchers have found significant differences in how men and women approach looking for work. 

Understanding and acting on these differences, says today’s guest, can have a big impact on your career, salary, and success in the workplace.

Jennifer Kass is here to talk about how job search Is different for women.

She’s the founder of Feminista Careers. Jennifer helps women land great jobs faster, and she joins us from Portland, Oregon. 

Well, let’s jump right into it, Jennifer. How does gender affect the way women look for work?

Jennifer Kass:

Mac, gender affects the way women look for work in so many ways. It starts with the type of work that women look for. Women tend to look for jobs with more meaning and more purpose. It has a huge effect on how they apply for jobs. So they tend to be much more cautious and risk-averse when applying to jobs. They tend to write less impactful resumes. They, when interviewing, can really hesitate to share their strengths and to be declarative about their achievements. And then, even when you get to salary negotiation, women are much less likely to negotiate salary, and they also tend to ask for more money. So it’s a far-reaching effect. 

Mac Prichard:

What accounts for these differences? 

Jennifer Kass:

Well, one thing, for sure, is the way that we are socialized. So if you talk to women, you will find that most agree that they were socialized to be modest, to not brag. One client even mentioned the word “conceited” to me the other day. She didn’t want to write something on her resume, and she said, “Oh, that sounds conceited,” which is just a terrible thing, to be conceited or stuck up if you’re a young girl. So you learn to be humble and, kind of, hide your achievements. But on the other hand, we also tend to be rather high-achieving and doing well in school. So the achievement is there but talking about it and telling other people about it is not there.  

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned high achievement and doing well in school. What other strengths do women enjoy in job search because of gender?  

Jennifer Kass:

Well, women actually are very successful in landing interviews. But the reason for that is not necessarily a great one. They are more hesitant to apply for jobs where they don’t meet all of the qualifications. So they’ll read a job posting, and if they don’t hit every single qualification, they may not apply. So they’re applying to jobs where they’re a little more of a slam dunk, and therefore, do tend to get the interview. So that’s a plus. 

They also, and especially when looking for positions that have more purpose and more meaning, they can be very good at networking. So once you get over that hump where you’re not afraid to talk to people and share what’s driving you personally, you’re much more likely to be able to find those positions through, for example, informational interviews that align with your own personal mission and allow you to do something with purpose.    

Mac Prichard:

In your practice, Jennifer, are you seeing some of these differences in how men and women approach job search beginning to change over time? 

Jennifer Kass:

I am seeing some changes. One change I’m seeing is that employers are trying to write job descriptions with less gendered language. So one difference that we do see is that women hesitate to apply to jobs if they are written in what we consider to be traditionally masculine language. So self-starter, that type of language. In the past, employers really defaulted to writing job descriptions in this kind of language, but they’ve kind of gotten the message, and they’re trying to do a better job with that.  

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about some of the steps that you encourage women to do differently in job search, and one of them is that you share with your clients is, to identify your strengths from the start. Why is it important for women to do this, Jennifer? 

Jennifer Kass:

So this kind of self-assessment is important for any job seeker. But if you are going to share your strengths with an employer through your resume, through your LinkedIn profile, through interviews, you need to be able to identify what those strengths are, so taking the time to do some self-assessments before you dive into a job search. 

So, for example, asking questions like, “What am I good at?” Going through a list of both hard and transferable skills and really getting the language around what kind of value do you bring to an employer? And thinking about things like, “How is my workplace different as a result of me being there? What kind of impact have I had?” Those are the kinds of stories that employers really like to hear, and that’s how you can share what your strengths are. And I ask my clients to force themselves to write down ten strengths, which can be a challenge. Most people can come up with three or four. But you need to dig deep and really think about, “What am I good at?” And it doesn’t have to be a unique strength, something that only you can do. But it is something it’s a capability that you would bring to an employer that they would really value.     

Mac Prichard:

What helps your clients, the women you work with, when they get stuck on that second or third strength, and they’re struggling to complete that list of ten? What do you encourage them to do to fill out the list? 

Jennifer Kass:

I love to have them think about their success stories. And I actually have a framework that I ask them to sit down and fill out, and these are the kind of stories that are very important in resumes, again, on LinkedIn, and especially in interviews. So it’s those times, again, when you’ve made an impact, where you feel like you’ve really gone above and beyond, and it starts with any story, setting the stage. You think about what was the situation you were in. What kind of obstacle were you facing, or what kind of opportunity was there? What kind of positive action did you do? And again, with women, sometimes I have to urge them to say what they did, not what the team that they worked on did. So what did they personally do, and then what was the positive result of that action? 

And once you start writing those stories down, and you can identify these stories not just by sitting and thinking about your past experiences, but you can talk to former colleagues, you can look at your performance evaluations, you can ask a friend, you can ask people to give you recommendations on LinkedIn and see what they say about you. So there are many ways to identify what your strengths are, but that’s a great one.  

Mac Prichard:

I know you also say it’s important to sell yourself during a job search, and women, in particular, need to pay attention to this. Why is this a – do women need to pay attention to this, Jennifer?  

Jennifer Kass:

Well, again, and I think that they have a tough time with the word “sell” because, again, it often connotes bragging. So I have women who, we will work on their resume, and I will ask them to try to uncover what strengths or skills they used and some achievement stories, and they say, “But I was just doing my job.” So the achievement, I think, comes so naturally that women don’t think to talk about it as an achievement. So the process of selling yourself is really more sharing yourself. So sharing the strengths that you have and translating that for an employer to, “This is a strength that I have, and here’s how I could deploy that strength at your organization and provide immediate value.” So it really is a change in mindset from selling to sharing strengths. 

Mac Prichard:

You’ve talked about mindset and stories and the importance of accomplishments, and I know you, in your work with your clients, you encourage them to pay attention to how they write their resumes. What do women need to watch out for when they’re sitting down to write or update a resume? 

Jennifer Kass:

Well, once they have gone through the process of thinking about their strengths, it’s a little bit easier to get them to share it in a resume. But there’s still a long way to go because many people are, especially if women haven’t looked for a job for a while, a lot has changed, and a resume used to be a little bit more like an obituary, where it was a list of your jobs and the things that you did in those jobs. But now, it’s much more of a billboard. 

So you need to read the job description very, very carefully. Think about what the employer needs. What problem are they trying to solve? And then, look at your success stories and share on your resume some relevant success stories that will allow the employer to immediately see that you are someone who can help to solve those problems. So a resume is not a document that is meant to get you a job. It’s meant to get you a screening interview. You need to put as much in your resume as you can to convince the employer that you are worth talking to because you have the skills and strengths necessary to provide immediate value. 

Mac Prichard:

Terrific, well, we’re gonna take a break, Jennifer, and when we come back, Jennifer Kass will continue to share her advice on how job search is different for women.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Jennifer Kass. 

She’s the founder of Feminista Careers. Jennifer helps women land great jobs faster, and she joins us from Portland, Oregon. 

Now, Jennifer, before the break, we were talking about how job search is different for women, and there are a number of factors we’re discussing today. One that you drew to my attention when we were speaking before the show is that women need to be aware of what you call the “mom penalty.” What’s the mom penalty, Jennifer? 

Jennifer Kass:

Well, despite all the advances that we have made, when you are searching for work as a mom, some employers will hold that against you. Now, I think anyone who has lived through the pandemic and worked at home as a mom knows what the mom – another kind of mom penalty is. But when you are looking for work, references to being a mother or, for example, being the head of your PTA, anything that makes it very clear that parenting is important to you can be held against you, and it’s very unfortunate. But employers often assume that a woman who is a committed parent and also working full time will have to make sacrifices on the job, and sadly, men have the opposite effect. Where if a man indicates anything on their resume that indicates that they’re a parent, that’s considered a plus because it shows that they are stable and grounded. 

So my recommendation to women is to avoid including anything on your resume or LinkedIn profile that refers to your family unless you have been out of the workforce for quite a while and you have some significant leadership experiences through your children’s school. Because those are highly transferable, and if you don’t have relevant work experience, that can be a great launchpad.  

Mac Prichard:

What do you do, Jennifer, if you’ve taken a significant amount of time, five, ten years, or more, to raise your children, and you need to explain a gap on your resume? What should you say?  

Jennifer Kass:

Well, in situations like that, doing informational interviews and networking becomes absolutely key. Because employers and recruiters are very busy and they tend to look for a round peg to go in a round hole, and as someone who’s taken a long career gap, you are a square peg. You need to explain why you would be a good fit for that role. You probably are a great fit because of all of the qualities that you’ve developed during your career break, and many women are doing important work as volunteers or in leadership positions or going back to school getting certifications; those are all things that you can share on your resume. But the most important thing is to find people who can recommend you as a great potential employee because then you skip over that obstacle that a resume with a big career gap can be. 

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned in the first segment that women can be put off by traditional masculine language in job postings. What should women do when they see this language? Should they give this job a second look? How do you advise your clients? 

Jennifer Kass:

I advise them to remember that job postings are written by recruiters, and they can be very poorly written in many different ways. The gender skew is not the only way that job postings are written poorly. So if it’s a job that seems like it would be a great fit otherwise, I absolutely recommend that they apply but again, do some informational interviewing to get better intel on what the culture at that company actually is because the job posting could be a reflection of the culture. But it could just be a reflection of a recruiter who doesn’t know how to write job postings very well. 

Mac Prichard:

What are some of your most recommended questions to ask in informational interviews when you’re trying to read between the lines of those job postings and suss out the culture of a company? 

Jennifer Kass:

Well, informational interviews are conversations that are so incredibly helpful, and they allow you to get, as we’ve been discussing, inside information on the company. So you always want to ask, what do you love about working there? What types of opportunities are there for professional development? And once you start an informational interview, it becomes a conversation. 

So I always advise my clients to ask someone for twenty minutes of their time because most people are flattered to be asked their opinion. They can spare twenty minutes, and it actually takes them away from what might be kind of a humdrum day and gives them the opportunity to do something a little bit different. And if you establish a connection, which women can be very good at, that informational interview can go much longer than twenty minutes so that you can get much more detailed about what the culture is like, what the compensation is like, what the actual job duties are like. Are they actually what is written in the job post, or is the job itself quite different? Because that does happen. So so much you can learn.  

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned earlier in the first segment that gender difference about qualification. Women often think they need a hundred percent of the required qualifications. What do you suggest to your clients when they should apply for a job? When they have sixty or seventy percent of the qualifications? Do you have a thought there?    

Jennifer Kass:

I advise my clients that if they have at least half the qualifications that they should go ahead and apply. In any job post, of course, there are requirements, and then there are desired qualifications. Many employers have fairly lengthy lists of requirements, which aren’t always requirements, and then the desired qualifications are often everything but the kitchen sink that they throw in there hoping that they will find that purple squirrel who actually does have all of those qualifications. But I advise them, if they have at least half, to go ahead and apply with a very strong application. 

Mac Prichard:

And what’s been your experience with the clients you work with who do that? What kind of success do they see?

Jennifer Kass:

Well, I started my day with an email from a client who just landed a dream job. So that was wonderful news, and I have to say that my clients who are willing to put in the work to customize their resumes so that employers can immediately see all of their wonderful strengths and skills and then are able to go out and do those informational interviews and make connections have great success.     

Mac Prichard:

And let’s talk about salary. It’s, when an employer makes a job offer and then proposes a salary figure, the research shows women often say yes to that first offer, and they don’t negotiate. Why does that happen, Jennifer? 

Jennifer Kass:

Well, I heard a great quote just this week when we were talking about salary negotiation, and another coach said, “It’s not a cage match; it’s a conversation.” And I think that’s the most important thing that women need to understand. It’s not an adversarial conversation. It’s something that almost all job seekers should be going through because employers do not make their best offer in their first offer. That’s just how it works. So women need to understand what the rules are. You need to be very enthusiastic, of course, and respond politely. But you should always understand your worth and get what you’re worth.  

Mac Prichard:

And what kind of difference does that starting salary in a job make financially for you in your career? 

Jennifer Kass:

It makes a tremendous difference, and I don’t think that people understand that. If you look at your starting salary, say, right out of college, a difference of even a few thousand dollars, if you think about the fact that you get a raise or a promotion that’s based on that initial salary, and then inflation or merit raises, that can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career. So it is very important. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Jennifer. Now, tell us, what’s next for you? 

Jennifer Kass:

I’m going to continue my coaching business. I continue to meet incredibly interesting, talented women, and it’s such a privilege to work with them. And I’d love to offer your listeners a free pdf that I’ve created on how to identify your own personal success stories because I think that it will be very helpful for them.  

Mac Prichard:

I know that listeners can get that pdf, and that’s a generous offer, by going to feministacareers.com/macslist. Is that right? 

Jennifer Kass:

That is correct. 

Mac Prichard:

Terrific, and there are many other resources, and listeners can learn more about your services by visiting your website; that’s feministacareers.com.

Now, Jennifer, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how job search is different for women? 

Jennifer Kass:

I want them to remember that they have amazing skills and strengths and that the world wants to know about them, and they need to learn how to articulate those strengths. It’s not hard, and once you start, it becomes much easier.  

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Dr. Jasmine Escalera. She’s a certified career coach who helps her clients get clear about career goals, beat self-doubt, and build confidence.

Many job seekers want to move from the private sector into the nonprofit world. But they struggle with showing employers that they have the transferable skills and experience.

Join us next Wednesday when Dr. Jasmine Escalera and I talk about how to brand yourself for a nonprofit job search. 

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job. 

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media. 

Our sound engineer is Will Watts. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. 

Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

The wage gap between men and women is well-known, but did you know that women also approach their job search very differently than their male counterparts? Women are more cautious, more hesitant to share their strengths, and generally ask for less money. Find Your Dream Job guest Jennifer Kass offers several ways women can change this approach, starting with creating a list of skills and achievements. Jennifer also suggests applying for jobs even if you don’t have 100% of the qualifications and negotiating the salary you’re worth. 

About Our Guest:

Jennifer Kass is the founder of Feminista Careers. Jennifer helps women land great jobs faster.

Resources in This Episode: