7 Incredibly Useful Career Tips From Women Who Know What They're Talking About
These secrets of SELF Made women will help spark big ideas and bold career moves.
1. Go ahead and jump
"The best advice I ever got was to just stop with the 'someday' talk," says Rachel Shechtman, 38. She took it to heart. After consulting for brands like Bliss Spas and Toms, Shechtman built her dream business: Story, a paradigm-busting store in New York City, where the merchandise changes every month or two — basically, a magazine you can shop. The value of that advice: "You will never ask yourself 'What if…'" she says. "Even if it doesn't work out, you're stronger for having taken the leap." Gutsy moves can be subtle, too. Risk taking is really about initiative and experimentation, says Anne Kreamer, author of Risk/Reward. “Habitually taking small, calculated risks helps you develop emotional shock absorbers,” she adds. Plus, research shows that "near wins" — when victory is just out of reach — make us hungrier for success and better able to stick the next landing.
2. Give your idea a workout
"Sharing your idea with others helps you refine it," says Negative Underwearco-founder Marissa Vosper, 30. She first bounced her minimalist lingerie concept off girlfriends: "We saw there was a big opportunity to make something better."
While pursuing her own venture capital firm, Kirsten Green, 43, of Forerunner Ventures, networked across the industry. "I grew confident in knowing what a successful business looked like by talking to leaders at a variety of start-ups."
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When Adina Grigore, 31, founder of S.W. Basics, began selling her natural skin-care line on Etsy, it bombed. Her fortunes turned when she launched an e-commerce site. "It's important to not say 'Forget it' if it didn't work on the first try."
3. Avoid the perfectionism trap
In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert (of "Eat Pray Love" fame) shares the secret to creativity.
Perfectionism stops people from completing their work — but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work. Perfectionists decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don't even bother trying to be creative in the first place. The most evil trick about perfectionism, though, is that it disguises itself as a virtue. People wear their perfectionism like a badge of honor, as if it signals high tastes and exquisite standards.
But I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear. Underneath that shiny veneer, perfectionism is nothing more than a deep existential angst that says, again and again, "I am not good enough and I will never be good enough."
We women must break this habit in ourselves. At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is — if only so you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart.
Which is the entire point. Or should be.
From Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Reprinted by arrangement with 70 Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Read the full excerpt here.
4. Find a workplace wingwoman
Mentors can help you pursue raises and promotions. But an office wingwoman — that colleague who really gets you and acts as your sounding board and advocate — can do something just as valuable: keep you accountable to your goals and provide solidarity in a competitive environment. Tiffany Dufu, 41, chief leadership officer at Levo League, a career-resources platform for women, relies on her "peer mentors" to keep her honest: “Women often get stuck because we have to be vulnerable enough to say, 'This is where I want to go' and 'I need your help.' Regular check-ins with them give me courage to speak up about what I really need,” she says. Plus, studies show we perform tasks more effectively when working alongside people with similar outlooks.
5. Play to your strengths
As you grow into any new role, "the most important thing you can do is learn about yourself: your strengths, your weaknesses and what motivates you," says Kim Azzarelli, coauthor of the new book "Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose." "Nobody is good at everything, and if you can find other people to reinforce you, you'll have a much better chance of success," This is particularly true for entrepreneurs, who tend to wear many hats, notes Story founder Rachel Shechtman, who at the outset was her company’s creative chief, COO, graphic designer and social media chief — all at once. "My strength was being responsible for the vision, but it took me a lot longer to learn to ask for help and delegate," she says. "Identify what you're good at, then find people who can help you bring your vision to life." And when you really need to flex new muscles, take classes, suggests Negative Underwear's Marissa Vosper. "It's a low-risk way of testing your passions while picking up critical knowledge."
6. HIIT your career
Anne-Marie Slaughter, whose Atlantic story "Why Women STILL Can’t Have It All" set off a national debate, proposes a new career path.
Athletes have long understood that the best way to get into peak condition is to engage in interval training. Going 100 percent all the time never gives your body a chance to recover; you have to be strategic about when and how you ramp up and ramp down. Life, and careers, can be approached the same way. Rather than picking a single professional ladder to climb, over the course of a 50-year career you’ll encounter many hierarchies in various different jobs. Depending on your goals, you'll want to put in the intense effort to climb at least some of those ladders, to do everything you can to make it to a certain level. But between these periods of push, you’ll also be able to plan intervals of less intensive and more flexible work, work that is much more compatible with starting a family or caring for aging parents. Even if you have a longer period of time to devote yourself single-mindedly to your career, you may want to write a novel, live abroad or commit yourself full-time to a hobby you’re passionate about. These broader life ambitions are just as important as your career ambitions; it’s up to you to figure out how to combine them.
Read the full excerpt here.
From the book Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter. Copyright © 2015 by Anne-Marie Slaughter. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House, an imprint of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
7. Remember: passion is a slow burn
Of course you want to spend your days doing what you love. But what if you don't know what that is yet? "It's great to turn passion into a career, but figuring out how to meld the two takes a lot of experimentation," says S.W. Basics founder Adina Grigore. Research shows the average worker doesn't find her "true calling" (that's actually what economists call it) until the middle of her career, in her 40s. "The more you experiment early on, the more likely you’ll make higher wages and have greater fulfillment," says Henry Siu, an associate professor of economics at the University of British Columbia. This is how things played out for best-selling author Sloane Crosley, 37, whose first novel is out this month: "I was a book publicist for 10 years, and I wrote essays — it was all a delightful deviation from my ultimate dream of fiction writing," she says. "If you don't have a singular passion, but you continue exploring whatever catches your fancy, it usually all connects in the end.”
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