Here’s how to win at work — and never look back.
We tend to think about a “career” in a big-picture way, but in reality, our professional lives are made up of thousands of small, day-to-day decisions that eventually add up to our own personal work path. The way you handle difficult conversations in the office, how you react to a particularly bad mistake, or even what you say in response to some of the most common job interview questions can affect your career in ways big and small.
Our jobs are filled with uncertainty, and it’s hard to prepare for specific challenges when you never know exactly what trial or tribulation could be around the corner. But we can help ourselves by leading with a rock-solid philosophy about what kind of employee we want to be.
We checked in with 10 inspiring women who are thriving in their fields to ask about the trusted career advice they’ve built their work lives around. There’s a whole lot of wisdom in the answers they gave us.
The job won’t hug you at night
“If you ever have to choose between going to a work event or missing something important in your family’s life, always choose your family. I learned this the hard way when I missed my daughter’s middle school graduation for a work trip to Paris. When I returned, she said, ‘Mom, I missed you and I needed you.’ That conversation broke my heart, and I never missed an important family engagement again. But I did take her to Paris twice after that!” – Quita Highsmith, VP and chief diversity officer at biotechnology company Genentech
Don’t bring a problem without a solution
“I was once told to always present an issue along with my take on it and a couple of possible plans of action. Having open lines of communication is important, and you don’t want to feel uncomfortable raising issues, but going the extra step to give it some thought and recommendations will show initiative and not make it another thing added to your boss’s plate.” – Kaylin Marcotte, founder and CEO of JIGGY Puzzles, a jigsaw puzzle brand promoting the work of emerging female artists
Work to your strengths
“A few years ago, I met a CliftonStrengths coach who told me that I have no execution strengths and that I should stop doing everything in my business that does not have me on a stage in front of people. At first, I was offended. But after just a few moments of thinking about it, I realized that I had always struggled with sitting my butt in a chair to do focused, solitary work. But getting on the phone with clients or on a stage in front of a group of people I could help? I lived for that. That’s when I realized that I could hire other people to do that execution work, and I began building a team that could do all the things that I was not good at. This was a massive breakthrough moment — and it was the first year that I earned $1 million.” – Rachel Rodgers, CEO of Hello Seven, a coaching firm for female entrepreneurs looking to take their business to the million-dollar mark
Identify your weaknesses
“It can be very easy to know exactly what you excel at, but it’s also very important to identify what you’re not good at. Numbers were never my thing, and we would have closed down within a week of business if I had anything to do with the books. Recognizing and accepting that early on — and ensuring I had someone to cover that department — really helped. Identify your own business weaknesses and ensure you have help and support in those areas. Don’t think that you can do it all yourself.” – Elisa Marshall, owner of the French bakery Maman
Loose lips sink ships
“My dad told me this, and I’ve found it to be really important when starting and operating a business. I think a lot of founders are so excited about what they’re building that they’re inclined to tell everybody everything. And it’s really important to keep things close to the chest and be able to recognize the difference between conversations where you should be more forthcoming or more withholding.” – Lo Bosworth, founder and CEO of Love Wellness, a total body care company for women
There is no guidebook
“As someone who’s charting a new path and building new models to reimagine the power circles of the business world, the best advice I’ve ever received is to focus on trusting and valuing my own intuition. As a young woman leader, society tries to put you in a box, to surround you with people who know more than you. And yes, I surround myself with people who have more experience or a different expertise, but part of my journey has been to trust my intuition and my vision, and to execute on them.” – Nikki Eslami, founder of Wild Elements, a purpose-first platform that aims to restore symbiosis between humanity and nature
Look for lessons in your mistakes
“There is no wrong way to do something. If you think of mistakes as opportunities for growth, you will constantly evolve and surpass what you thought your thresholds for success were.” – Rachel Krupa, founder of socially-conscious convenience store The Goods Mart
Bad news doesn’t age well
“And you don’t need to go it alone when that bad news happens. I’ve lived that one so many times over in my career. The last bit I’ll leave you with is that people don’t always remember what you accomplished or how you performed, but they always remember how you made them feel. No explanation needed on that one.” – Kari Dixon, chief financial officer at air purification company WellAir
Find people who will tell you the truth
“Be sure that you have at least two to three people who work with you who will go into your office, close the door, and give you unfiltered, real feedback. The person who told me that said, ‘If you don’t know people who will do that, you have a higher probability of failing. If you do have those people, listen to them.'” – Marna Borgstrom, CEO, Yale New Haven Health and Yale New Haven Hospital
Your career is a marathon, not a sprint
“There are times in your life where you might not be able to take on more responsibility or be in a position to accept a promotion or relocation due to demands in your personal life, like raising children, caring for a loved one, or supporting demands outside of work. It is OK. Most of us will evolve our careers over decades. So, continue to grow professionally, but think more long-term when it comes to your career and defining success.” – Jeannette Bankes, president and general manager for global surgical franchise at eye care company Alcon