I was recently curious about what my friends felt made them awesome at their job. What words of wisdom helped them along their way? So, I went and asked ten real women in my life about some of the best career advice they have received. Not only was in an amazing opportunity to catch up with old friends, but I was surprised at the variety and depth of the advice everyone had to share. So, read on and get wise!
Noel, a Freelance Copywriter, gave practical advice she has heard from successful people: “Having multiple streams of income is a pretty responsible goal to aim for. Reading up a lot on successful individuals, most have several if not dozens of sources of incoming revenue.”
Italia, an Executive Assistant, talked about her time working with those in high positions: “I really took to heart my boss telling me to not wait for people to grant me permission to speak whenever I have something relevant to contribute. He told me to just speak up and be assertive with my ideas and comments. It’s intimidating sitting in meetings with executives that have been in the industry longer than I’ve been alive, but being able to contribute to the discussion makes me look and feel more competent.”
This advice lined up excellently with what my friend Faith, a Wells Engineer, mentioned when she read the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg: “The major takeaway I got from that book was to sit at the table. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like you are important or just learning – don’t sit down by the edge of the room. You need to sit at the table and participate! It builds confidence and people get to know you. It’s made a really big difference to me.”
Especially with women, many of us receive advice about being assertive in order to move our careers forward. Annie, a Pharmacy Student, said: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable” – always put yourself in uncomfortable situations that pushes your boundary and challenges your ability.” It’s against human instinct to step out of that zone, but talking scary opportunities can be the best way to grow.
April, a Peace Corps Volunteer, shared a story of great advice she actually received from a professor. She recalled: “One day the professor, while coaching us on essay writing, told us to be proud of our hard-earned knowledge and opinions, to be bold and confident, to use strong phrases like “I think” instead of the more timid “I believe.” She told us, “own your ideas.”” April mentioned that these words remind her to speak up for and be confident in what she believes in.
Kristi, a teacher, said to “do the best you can at the time you are doing it with the info you have”, because when you’re an overachiever and starting a new role, you might have a thousand questions about what to do, and that’s ok. I laughed at the contrast between what my mother Cynthia, a Chief Financial Officer, said: “ Don’t make assumptions. Get all the facts before making a good decision.” Both pieces of advice highlight being that you should be willing to ask questions, and to not be afraid to request more information.
This lined up with my conversation with Kelsea, a Business Systems Analyst, said her best advice were two different things “First, don’t be afraid to ask ‘why?’ and secondly, to cautious of how much overtime you’re willing to give, make sure to take vacations, and to notice the time you’re using work devices off hours.”
This lined up exactly with what Yesenia, a Certified Public Accountant, brought up in regards to having a work life balance: “It’s okay to say no… I was once told that work-life balance only exists if you create it. In a world of 70 hour work weeks, any time you get to spend with yourself, your significant other, family, and friends is precious. It is important to know that you can say no without consequences to your career, therefore boundaries are important to establish early on in your career…” Yesenia mentions that you should “give it your all” the hours you are at work, and your managers and peers will respect you for it.
Lauren, a Digital Editor, talked about the importance of having a mentor to have your back. Her mentor helped her feel empowered and believe in herself. “She really helps me work through everything and my thought process. She also is really great at what next steps I need to take. When I was looking for a job she gave me contacts to reach out to and how to market myself and just always thinks I can do anything. I feel super positive after taking to her.” Both formal and informal mentors exist in the workplace, and finding one to help guide you can make a difference in accelerating your career.
All of the advice my friends had received helped me to reflect on my own aspirations. While we may have heard some forms of this advice in one way or another, it’s good to be reminded of what actions we can take to further our careers.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten in your career?