This summer, new college graduates are entering Arkansas' workforce and they are a more diverse group than ever before. In my 15-year career in the banking industry, I have witnessed a significant increase in the number of women in leadership roles. I see it in my own company, where I serve on our local leadership team that is roughly split between men and women.

Leading companies are investing in the success of their female employees. Nevertheless, it is important to be your own advocate. Here are five tips for our next generation of female leaders. 

 

1. Join employee networks   

Building a strong network is pivotal to career advancement. Engage in employee networks offered by your company or start one yourself with management support. Employee networks can offer many benefits including mentoring, networking, skill development and access to business leaders. I have taken advantage of Bank of America’s Power of 10 and LEAD for Women programs, which provide resources to help participants grow in their careers. 

 

2. Look for opportunities

I recently spoke to Bank of America’s Arkansas Student Leaders. I told the recent high school graduates how important it is to be active in interest groups during college, as it can lead to a more well-rounded experience and potential employment opportunities. That same advice applies to those beginning their careers. For seven years I led Bank of America’s community volunteer network, working closely with Arkansas nonprofit organizations to help meet their needs. This role allowed me to connect with company leaders and provide opportunities to grow as a leader myself. It is what put me on the path to serving on our local leadership team today. 

 

3. Establish a strong network of mentors 

Identifying and establishing relationships with mentors will benefit you throughout your career. Learning from someone more experienced is invaluable, and a mentor can help you look at your career and growth with a fresh perspective. Keep these connections active throughout your career. 

 

4. Listen to others

Being a strong leader also means being a good listener. Be present during team meetings, take notes and be sure to follow up with a colleague if you don’t understand his or her perspective. If your colleagues know you value their opinions, they will be more eager to participate and work with you, creating a collaborative environment.

 

5. Take risks and share your goals with others  

Staying in the same role forever may feel comfortable, but you could be missing out on another opportunity. Sometimes a role may be a lateral move to gain experience in other areas before you can advance. Raise your hand for new responsibilities and assignments at work and be open to growth opportunities that can benefit you in the long run. 

 

Whatever career path you choose, employing these tips will help you become a stronger leader and professional. Congratulations and good luck!

 

Heather Albright is Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager in Global Commercial Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Little Rock. Email her at heather.albright@baml.com.