I’m sitting in the sunny corner of a coffee shop in Minneapolis, tucking into a late afternoon latte when my friend slides into the seat across from me. She slaps the table with both hands, leans forward and whisper shouts “You will NOT believe what just happened.”
“Tell me everything!” I whisper shout back.
My friend has been going through rough patch in her business. Like a “I don’t know if I can make my half of the mortgage, should I sell these boots on Ebay” sort of rough patch.
She’d been invited to pitch a project to a new client in Los Angeles. She sluethed a bit and discovered that the woman she was pitching was A Big Deal. Yale MBA, started her own company in her twenties, the whole thing.*
Feeling both intimidated and broke, my friend readied herself for the pitch call. After a few minutes of chitchat, my friend explained how she planned to run this project and shared her quote: $7,000.
There was silence on the other end of the line.
And then a sigh.
Firmly but kindly, the Fancy L.A. Lady said, “I’m so tired of women undercharging for their work. We had $40,000 set aside for this project so I want you to rewrite your proposal for that amount and send it through again. I’ll present it to the board along with the recommendation that we hire you. And I want you to promise that you’ll raise your rates.”
ARE YOU WEEPING YET BECAUSE I AM!!!!
When I shared this story, the nearly unanimous response I heard was “Someday I want to be able to do that for someone.”
Friends, we don’t have to wait till we’re millionaires or CEOs to help people. We can start where we are, with what we have, right now. No matter who you are, where you live, or how much you earn, you can pull someone up the ladder behind you. Click To Tweet
10 ways to pull people up the ladder behind you
But if you’re not good with kids or can’t commit to a weekly meetup, you can still be a force for good someone’s life. Tell your friend that you’d be happy to talk her to daughter about applying to graduate schools. You could take the intern out for lunch and ask him what his post-college plans are.
You could tell your daughter’s best friend that you were really impressed by her science fair project and if she ever wants to talk about working in a lab, you’d be happy to tell her everything you know.
Do you now someone who’s trying to get into the school your best friend graduated from? Introduce them. Your friend is trying to break into x industry and your neighbor has been working in it for ages? Hook ‘em up.
Sidenote: always ask the experienced person if they’re okay being introduced to someone seeking insight. And make sure the seeker is trustworthy and likely to follow up!
Tell people how much you earn and how much you charge
This is especially important if you’re a man and/or white! As we all know, there are huge gender and racial pay gaps. When we share how much we earn, we’re making it easier for other people to negotiate and advocate for themselves.
I know a lot of companies try to discourage this sort of information exchange. Did you know it’s illegal to prevent your employees from talking about how much they earn?
Related: if you’re a woman in the workplace, this book is a must-read.
If someone is amazing, charging below market value, and you’d pay them more, tell them that
I’ve told my hairdresser like five times she should charge more. (Go see Amberlie while she’s still inexplicably charging $35 for amazing haircuts!)
If you regularly get amazing service from someone at a bargain basement rate, it’s totally okay to say “You know, you do an amazing job. I would happily pay more for this and I bet your other customers would, too.”
And if they won’t raise their rates just start giving them huge tips.
If you have a blog or use social media, you have a platform. You can tell your followers – no matter how many – about the electrician you use, the blog post you just read, or the grant you just received.
Many of us would prefer to give our money and clicks to ethical companies or businesses run by women or POC. But if we don’t know about them, we can’t do that. When you find something or someone people should know about, share it.
Literally repeat other people’s ideas and give them credit
We’ve all worked in environments where one person does all the talking and gets all the credit (whether they deserve it or not). Next time someone has a good idea that’s being overlooked or co-opted, use the method Obama’s female staffers used.
When a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution — and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.
Hire the (vetted! hard working!) underdog
Most of us have an unconscious bias towards companies and contractors who
a) look just like us
b) have fancy websites
c) boast impressive testimonials from impressive sources
But when we give those people our business and refer our friends, we’re missing opportunities to quite literally change someone’s life.
The $40,000 contract the Fancy L.A. Lady gave my friend was probably chump change to her. She could have given that contract to an agency or someone more established. Instead, she saw an opportunity to give professional guidance and a contract to a newer (but super talented) person.
Without exaggeration, this contract will change my friend’s professional life. She’ll be able to charge more, she’ll feel more confident, and she’ll up-level the caliber of clients she works with. You can do the same thing for someone when you hire slightly outside the norm.
Help people with overwhelming paperwork
Did you know that around $2.9 billion of federal grant money went unclaimed last year? There are tons of programs that will help just about everyone with just about everything, but lots of people don’t know about them or don’t know how to apply.
If you know your kid’s preschool offers financial aid and your mom friend is overwhelmed by the prospect of applying, offer to help her out. If your co-worker qualifies for a loan-forgiveness program but is intimidated by the forms, sit down with him. If your roommate could get a rent stipend but their social anxiety is keeping them from making that phone call, make it for them.
You get the idea!
Use your professional skills outside of work
Are you an HR professional? Help people who are out of work practice their interview skills.
Are you a writer and you know someone’s struggling with their college application essay? Offer to look it over.
Are you a nurse and you know the ins and outs of dealing with medical bills? Help your neighbor navigate the paperwork from her gallbladder surgery.
No matter your skill set, you could use it to help someone advance in their career, schooling, or life.
Offer free childcare
We’ve all seen those heartbreaking news stories of a single parent leaving their kid in a park for an hour to attend a job interview only to be met by CPS when they return.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent and you’re willing to look after a child in a pinch make that known to your friends, neighborhood, or the members of your church.
But I want to hear from you! Has anybody pulled you up the ladder? Have you done that for anyone?
P.P.S. Huge thanks to my own network of friends who pull me up the ladder, The League Of Extraordinary Women. They helped me brainstorm this list and, yes, that’s really what our private Facebook group is called!