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Ladies, Turn Your Resolutions Into Gold

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I always think the New Year is a great time to reflect on the past and my vision for the future. Surrounded by many others who are making (and breaking) resolutions of their own, I find myself in an environment of desired progressive change. I, too, have made many resolutions this year and while I've kept a few important ones, I've broken many too. Setting goals for yourself is something I have always done -- whether it's at the New Year, after a bad day or while I sit and realize all of the opportunities I have worked so hard for me to take advantage of. And while at times they may not work out, at least I never stop trying.

I find the whole exercise invigorating, and it's a good way for me to annually focus my attention on my overall well-being. I like to articulate my goals in each of the areas most important to me: my family, my health and my business. For example, my career goals for 2014 are to continue to serve my clients and to help individuals negotiate more effectively for fair pay. And looking at my list and many others, I realize just how important a role negotiation plays in all aspects of life -- starting with compensation.

So, I'm here to help you with your list. Negotiating can be awkward and many people (managers and employees) avoid it like the plague. But it doesn't have to be uncomfortable and for many, if you don't raise the issue of compensation, your manager surely won't. That means that eventually you will lose pace with the market, and this mistake will be compounded for the remainder of your career.

Make a commitment to talk with your manager at least once a year. The sooner you start looking at your compensation as an important metric of your career progress, the better. With that being said, I recognize it isn't the easiest topic to discuss. Three reasons people feel most uncomfortable talking about compensation are:

1. We expect less. Often times we don't feel like we are worth more, particularly an issue for women. Research shows that women have systematically lower compensation expectations than men and expect to wait longer for promotions. In one of my previous posts, I discuss the fact that "Women report salary expectations between 3% and 32% lower than those of men for the same jobs. Men expect to earn 13% more than women during their first year of full-time work and 32% more at career peak." This is something that needs to change in our social mindset in order for us to make progress.

2. We don't want to toot our own horn. Women are less likely to promote their own accomplishments. Sheryl Sandberg says in Lean In that when men are successful, their performance tends to be attributed to intrinsic factors such as hard work and intelligence; when women are successful, their performance is often to be attributed to extrinsic factors such as luck or the help of others. This factor causes male success to be overvalued and female success to be undervalued within our society. Make a list of your accomplishments over the past 12 months. The more detailed the information about your successes, the better. When meeting with your manager, clearly articulate how you've contributed to the organization's success.

3. We are afraid that the answer will be no. It might be. But you should still ask. Don't take negative feedback about compensation personally. Remember this is about business, so try to detach your emotions from the conversation. Think about how you would respond to possible objections in a way that keeps the discussion going with a positive tone. Remember that you're asking questions, not delivering an ultimatum.

Whatever the reason, 2014 is the year to get over it and take charge of your career. So even if you are scared, ask anyway. Ask for what you are worth.