September 14, 2018

Career Advice from 15 Smart Women

A few months ago, I came across these wise words: The only people worth impressing are your 5-year-old self and your 85-year-old self. This saying has really stuck with me and I’ve been using it to check in with myself as I navigate my career path and other big life decisions ever since.

So! I’m excited to share this collection I’ve compiled of other (sometimes funny, always brilliant) career tips from 15 smart women:

On working hard:

“People talk about confidence without ever bringing up hard work. That’s a mistake. I know I sound like some dour older spinster chambermaid on Downton Abbey who has never felt a man’s touch and whose heart has turned to stone, but I don’t understand how you could have self-confidence if you don’t do the work.” –Mindy Kaling

“Work harder than everybody. You’re not going to get it by whining, and you’re not going to get it by shouting, and you’re not going to get it by quitting. You’re going to get it by being there.” –Barbara Walters

On being confident:

“Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says, ‘I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?’ Make statements, with your actions and your voice.” –Tina Fey

“I think as women and young girls, we have to invest the time in getting to understand who we are and liking who we are. Because I like me. I’ve liked me for a very long time…But you’ve got to work to get to that place. And if you’re going out into the world as a professional and you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what you want, you don’t know how much you’re worth, then you have to be brave. And then you have to count on the kindness and goodness of others to bestow that goodness on you when you should be working to get it on your own. Because you deserve it.” –Michelle Obama

On perfectionism:

“I cannot imagine where women got the idea that they must be perfect in order to be loved or successful. (Ha ha ha! Just kidding. I can totally imagine: We got it from every single message society has ever sent us! Thanks, all of human history!) But we women must break this habit in ourselves – and we are the only ones who can break it. We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it. (There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.) At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is – if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. Which is the entire point. Or should be.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

“I think this ‘perfectionist gene’ that too many young women have holds them back, and instead they should really be aiming for ‘good enough.’ You don’t have to be perfect. Most men never think like that. They’re just trying to figure out what’s the opening and how they can seize it. They’re not thinking about, Oh my gosh, I’m not perfect, my hair’s not perfect today, I wore the wrong shoes. No.” –Hillary Rodham Clinton

On earning respect:

“Respect isn’t something you command through intimidation and intellectual bullying. It’s something you build through a long life of treating people how you want to be treated and focusing on your mission.” –Lena Dunham

On being ambitious:

“I believe ambition is not a dirty word. It’s just believing in yourself and your abilities.” –Reese Witherspoon

“A bossy woman is someone who cares and commits and is a natural leader.” – Amy Poehler

On dealing with criticism:

“The most important advice I would give my younger writer self is what I’d give my younger woman self: What other people think of you is none of your business.” –Anne Lamott

“Don’t try to win over the haters. You are not a jackass whisperer.” Brené Brown

On learning life lessons:

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” –Ruth Bader Ginsberg

“Be open to learning new lessons, even if they contradict the lessons you learned yesterday.” –Ellen DeGeneres

On following your own path:

“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what your plan is to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history of economics or science or the arts.” –Cheryl Strayed

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” –Nora Ephron

And if all else fails…

“Sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched.” –Mindy Kaling

Amen, sister.

Do the work, believe in yourself, ignore the haters, and know that you are good enough. And don’t forget the lip gloss.

About the Author 

Cortney is a professional writer and editor with a background in book publishing. She loves yoga, reading, chasing after her toddler son, and the sound of her husband’s laugh.

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