Figuring out which career to pursue for the rest of our lives can be difficult and stressful. It is hard to decide which passion to follow and what’s right for us. Especially when we don’t have experience in those fields or even somebody to ask questions about a specific field. Thus, by compiling a list of advice regarding career and life advice from several trailblazing women who have had successful and fulfilling careers, we can apply this helpful advice to our careers and lives. I hope to comfort individuals who are unsure or in a tough spot in their career journeys. We don’t need to have everything figured out 100% of the time—and that’s more than okay. Rather, we have to learn to believe in ourselves and recognize that everything will eventually work out.
Women have historically faced a plethora of systemic challenges in the pursuit of a successful career. However, by focusing too heavily on these constructional obstacles, we tend to forget that a lot of career hurdles can also be self-imposed. Our self-limitations and doubts restrict us from fully unleashing our potential, and, ultimately, from pursuing a rewarding career and completely excelling in it. I hope the advice below will help to break down some of these self-imposed career barriers.
You Don’t Need to Have it All Figured Out: 15 Pieces of Career Advice from Ambitious Women
1. While it sounds like counterintuitive career advice, executive assistant to publishing director at Cosmopolitan, Lynn Goldstein-Garguilo, advises young women to “not be overly obsessed with their career path when they start out, to try out different avenues to help them learn what is the best fit. They will know soon enough” (“The 30 Best Pieces Of Career Advice for Young Women” Goldstein-Garguilo). If an individual is strictly set on one career path, then they don’t allow any room for exploration to see which field truly fits them the best, since they are too focused on their already set career choice. Exploration is incredibly important because our interests, and who we are, consistently change; what interested us two years ago may no longer bring us as much joy as it used to. Specifically, we all had childhood career dreams but those probably don’t match the career interests that we have now. Not only is it imperative to explore all of our passions to find what we like-- exploration can also unveil to us what we don’t like. Therefore, it is important to be open to trying a multitude of different careers rather than being fixated on one.
2. Lori Fradkin, Executive Features Editor of Cosmopolitan, suggests not to “fall prey to imposter syndrome. You were hired for your job because your boss thought you were smart and capable. You're not just fooling everyone. It's not just a matter of time before you're found out. It's normal to feel occasional self-doubts, but you have to also remind yourself that you do know what you're doing, and if something goes beyond what you've done in the past, that's OK too. Be confident in yourself" (“The 30 Best Pieces Of Career Advice for Young Women” Fradkin). It is vital to not let our negative self-talk stop us from trying out new opportunities and progressing further in our careers. It is normal to feel doubt-- almost everybody has experienced a time where they didn’t believe in themselves--, and it is crucial to recognize that feeling, remind yourself that you’ve worked hard, and give yourself a chance before you beat yourself down.
3. Jessia Matlin, Deputy Beauty Editor of Cosmopolitan shares that her “advice would be to not be so linear about your career path. Being very linear may seem like you're focused — and that's a good thing! — but it keeps you narrow and can set you up for disappointment if things don't go according to plan. If you're flexible — and you're willing to zig and zag — you'll spot new opportunities and grow strengths and interests you didn't even know you had” (“The 30 Best Pieces Of Career Advice for Young Women” Matlin). As I mentioned earlier, it is important to be open to many different career paths. By trying out a variety of distinct careers, you not only uncover what truly makes you feel alive but you also establish more connections and can unlock exciting opportunities that wouldn’t have been available prior.
4. Managing editor of Cosmopolitan, Alexandra Martell, urges young women to not “give up. If you don't hear back from someone, follow up. If you don't get a job, ask why not and keep applying. Do whatever you have to (within reason and normalcy) to make something happen. I applied to work at nymag.com three times and got it the third time because I took a break and spent six months commenting on everything on the site under my name, so they'd know I was smart, funny, and informed” (“The 30 Best Pieces Of Career Advice for Young Women” Martell). Far too often people are told no and automatically give up that pursuit instead of recognizing that there is so much to learn from failure. And, this gain of knowledge and a new perspective can be integral in eventually receiving a yes. Do whatever it takes to learn from your failures, ask for advice on how to better yourself, grow as an individual, and never give up because in due course your hard work will pay off when you least expect it to.
5. Michelle Ruiz, the senior editor of Cosmopolitan, proposes "Don't be too sensitive or precious about your work. Learn to see criticism, comments and notes from your bosses as ways to grow and understand your field better. Even if something stings, move on from it tomorrow and come to work with a smile on your face. Having a thicker skin is for the best: No one has time to hold your hand and give you a cookie over every assignment that comes your way” (“The 30 Best Pieces Of Career Advice for Young Women” Ruiz). Being able to accept criticism and understanding that it isn’t a personal attack on one’s character is a powerful skill to have and learn. We have to be able to grow from our mistakes and failures, and hearing others’ opinions can be extremely helpful in that regard.
6. Beauty Director of Cosmopolitan, Leah Wyar recommends to "Consider your 'plan' a 'flex plan.' March of my senior year, I had been accepted into a master's program in psychology (my major). But I saw a job posting for an assistant beauty/fashion editor at Health magazine, and something in my gut told me I should apply, even without an ounce of experience in the industry. I got the job and decided to test it (and NYC) out for one year. Fast forward 14 years: I have a career as a beauty editor—something I never would've been had I stuck to my original plan of being an organizational psychologist. Nothing should ever be written in stone. Give yourself six months to a year to try something different. You can always go back to some version of Plan A” (“The 30 Best Pieces Of Career Advice for Young Women” Wyar). Being open to new opportunities is paramount. Life never works out the way that we intend it to -- we change our minds, endure challenging situations, grow, embrace new situations, etc. Thus, it is crucial to embrace new opportunities and see where they take you career-wise.
7. “Know that you deserve it” (“Ten Career Tips For Every Working Woman” Ali). Far too often we downplay our achievements rather than celebrating them and accepting acknowledgment of our hard work.
8. “Perfectionism can be exhausting” (“Ten Career Tips For Every Working Woman” Ali). Societal expectations emphasize perfection to be successful, and that everything has to be done in an XYZ manner. But, that is not the case at all. It is important to put effort into your work but it is impossible to always make your work perfect. In fact, perfection is unattainable in the first place. Thus, trying to achieve perfection is an inadequate use of one’s time that could be put toward completing other tasks.
9. “Delegate” (“Ten Career Tips For Every Working Woman” Ali). All of the work doesn’t have to be done by a single individual. Rather, it is vital to have a team where specific tasks can be delegated toward members who have a strength for that task. Sharing the work not only helps with reducing stress but can also create a more diverse and successful output because of the collaborative nature of delegation.
10. “Don’t fall for the tiara syndrome” (“Ten Career Tips For Every Working Woman” Ali). Tiara Syndrome is when a person acts too modest because they expect others will recognize their hard work. While there needs to be a balance between modesty and boastfulness, it is still very important to highlight your success because others are less likely to notice your hard work. You have to be your biggest supporter if you want to develop a successful career because nobody else cares as much about your success as you do.
11. “Embrace the power of no” (“Ten Career Tips For Every Working Woman” Ali). Constantly saying yes can lead to burnout and giving others the opportunity to walk all over you. You have to use your voice and stand up for yourself by saying no when you have to prioritize your tasks, mental health, feelings, needs, etc. Saying no is very healthy, and it doesn’t make you a bad person nor will it impede your career trajectory.
12. “Acknowledge that you are enough” (“Ten Career Tips For Every Working Woman” Ali). It is difficult to not compare ourselves to others and believe that we should be doing XYZ instead. Yet, we are all on our own journey of self-discovery-- personally and career-wise--, and we will end up where we need to be. Success can happen at any age, and it looks different for every individual. Thus, it is important not to compare. What you’re doing is enough, and you are enough for any position, task, and yourself.
13. Teresa C. Younger, president and CEO of Ms. Foundation for Women shares that “First, recognize that there is always a tomorrow, so you don't need to get everything done right away” (“31 Powerful Women Share the Advice They’d Give Their Younger Selves” Zipkin). Success is not a race nor is there a predetermined timeline for it. It is okay to take it easy because success begins in small steps, and maintaining your mental and physical health triumphs over any task.
14. SVP of marketing at Ripples, Monica Long, suggests to “Be more confident. You know more and are capable of more than you think. I read that women typically need to feel 100 percent certain they can do something before committing to do it, while men only need to feel about 60 percent certain. That uncertainty plays out as women missing more career-building or career-defining opportunities than men when they're probably just as (if not more!) capable. At worst, you miss the mark or fail. Those experiences are valuable to learn from” (“31 Powerful Women Share the Advice They’d Give Their Younger Selves” Zipkin). As mentioned over and over, don’t be afraid to try new opportunities. Worst case scenario you fail and gain incredible knowledge, and best case scenario you succeed. Either way, you grow personally and professionally from trying out new experiences.
15. Beth Monaghan, CEO and co-founder of InkHouse, advises to “Trust yourself -- your talent, your ideas and your gut. You'll waste way too much time at the start of your career trying to mold yourself into what you think success looks like (or what someone else tells you it should be). You can't build strong relationships or a strong business by turning yourself into someone else” (“31 Powerful Women Share the Advice They’d Give Their Younger Selves” Zipkin). Most importantly, be true to your authentic self. Never compromise yourself for any career. As I mentioned earlier, success looks different for everyone. So, craft your own version of success and recognize that your individuality will help you attain it.
A common aspect of all of the advice listed above has to do with oneself. Ultimately, every successful career begins with you-- believing in yourself, trusting yourself, letting yourself try new things, failing, and trying again despite that failure. While we cannot control the systemic hurdles that we will come across, we can overcome our self-imposed obstacles and make those systemic hurdles easier to jump over.
The 31 Best Pieces Of Career Advice for Young Women (cosmopolitan.com) Ten Career Tips For Every Working Woman (forbes.com)
31 Powerful Women Share the Advice They'd Give Their Younger Selves (entrepreneur.com)