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Great Career Advice from 25 Successful Women

The following is a distillation of some of the great career advice for women that guests have shared on the Advice to My Younger Me podcast.(www.tomyyounger.me)

1. OWN YOUR CAREER. Nobody cares about it as much as you should. If you leave your career in the hands of someone else, you’ve lost control of it. Once you’ve figured out what you want, go for it. It’s unlikely that your ideal career will be handed to you on a platter.

2. HAVE A VISION FOR YOUR CAREER. But you don’t need to have a detailed plan. Your career plan should be like visiting a foreign country. You have an itinerary but you are open to things that happen along the way.

3. PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS. Realize that what you are good at is often invisible to you since it comes so easily. Listen to what others tell you that you are good at. Pay attention to what’s on your calendar that excites you. Craft a career that involves things you’re excited about and at which you excel.

4. CREATE YOUR PERSONAL DEFINITION OF SUCCESS. What are you trying to achieve in all areas of your life – work, relationships, play? Stop listening to what your parents, your teachers, your mentors and your bosses think you should do. 

5. ALIGN HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME WITH WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU. Bring your calendar in sync with your priorities. Make time for work, relationships, self and play. Put a block of time in your calendar each day for the most important things in your life.

6. CULTIVATE CONFIDENCE. Confidence is a better predictor of career success than competence. That’s not to say that competence isn’t important, but just doing a stellar job will not get you ahead. Research shows that confidence makes up 79% of your gravitas.

7. KEEP A “BRAG BAG” OR “KUDOS FILE”. Include the positive comments people make about your work. It will help you stay confident when the inevitable negative things occur. And it can help you remember your accomplishments for your performance review.

8. FORM A PERSONAL BOARD OF ADVISORS. Don’t look for all your career advice in one person. Different people can advise you on different aspects of success – presentation skills, industry knowledge, self-advocacy skills, work-life integration. Men can also be good mentors, as can people outside your company.

9. TAKE TIME FOR THINGS YOU LOVE BESIDES WORK. Even if you love your work, you need balance in your life. Remember that you are not your work.

10. BELIEVE THE POSITIVE FEEDBACK YOU GET – from bosses, clients and colleagues. Write down all the positive things that were said in your review. Too often our minds are Velcro for negative feedback and Teflon for positive feedback.

11. MAKE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS VISIBLE. Don’t be your own best kept secret. It’s not enough to do good work; people need to know you’ve done good work. Share it when appropriate.

12. DON’T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY.  Most of the time, it is not about you. 

13. LOVING WHAT YOU DO IS A LEGITIMATE CAREER GOAL. Find work that energizes you. Liking what you do is one of the most critical elements in career success.

14. TAKE SMART RISKS. Nobody reached ambitious goals without taking some risks. Consider the risk of inaction; it’s often the bigger risk. To feel more confident in taking a risk, break it down into small, manageable steps.

15. DON’T LET BUSYNESS BECOME A BADGE OF HONOR. Don’t think it is virtuous to always be busy. When you are feeling overwhelmed, you literally become stupid. You lose 13 points off your IQ.

16. BE WILLING TO NEGOTIATE – whether it is a project deadline, a new assignment, your salary, or who empties the dishwasher. More things are negotiable than you may think at first.

17. DON’T AUTOMATICALLY SAY “YES”. It’s our natural instinct to say yes immediately. Instead of saying yes right away, say, “Let me think about that”. Then reflect on how the request aligns with your goals and values.

18. COMMUNICATE POWERFULLY. Eliminate “girly words” – like “I may be wrong …”, “I’m sorry….”. Say what you mean. Don’t phrase statements as questions.

19. UNHOOK FROM CRITICISM AND PRAISE Feedback from others (either positive or negative) often tells you more about the person giving the feedback than it does about you. Being hooked on praise may deter you from taking necessary risks or stretch assignments. Don’t look to others to know how you feel about yourself. Find self-confidence from within.

20. INVEST IN RELATIONSHIPS. Job opportunities, career advice, and introductions come through people you know. Make maintaining relationships a priority. In the early part of your career, it’s easy to think it’s more important to eat lunch at your desk to finish that memo than it is to have a sandwich with a colleague. The memo won’t have a long-term impact on your career, but the relationship might.

20. STAY IN TOUCH. LinkedIn and Facebook are good places to continue the connections you have. But don’t forget to have regular face-to-face interactions as well. That’s where relationships are built.

21. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER YOU HAVE. You may have more than you think. And don’t be ambivalent about having and using power. Exercising power is part of being a leader.

22. UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR COMPANY MAKES MONEY. Follow the dollars. Know the P & L of the business. Don’t be embarrassed to ask people to explain the financials – many people don’t understand them!

23. CULTIVATE FRIENDS AT WORK. If you have one person at work who you consider a good friend, you are 7 times more likely to be engaged at work. Who we work with is more important to our career satisfaction than what we do at work.

24. DON’T GET STUCK WITH THE “OFFICE HOUSEWORK” – taking minutes, doing the follow up memo, arranging parties. Rotate who does the office housework.

25. TO BE A LEADER, you need to be resilient, persistent and empathetic.

ADVICE TO MY YOUNGER ME with Sara Holtz (www.tomyyounger.me) is a podcast which draws on the wisdom of women who have gone before to help younger women achieve career success. In each episode, host Sara Holtz and her guests share what they wish they’d known earlier in their careers. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes | Stitcher | Android

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