Career Advice from the Most Powerful Women in the World

3rd April 2018 Jess Kadel Careers and Finance

With graduation slowly looming it’s natural to be getting some jitters right about now. The combination of exam stress and anxiety for post-uni life won’t make you feel particularly confident about your future career. However, there are also some things to celebrate at this time. 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of women in the UK being allowed to vote. So to celebrate women’s suffrage and give you some much-needed confidence for the future, we take a look at Forbes’ Most Powerful Women and share some career advice from the ladies whose risks paid off.

Advice from Hillary Clinton

Forbes’ 100 most powerful women, of course, includes runner-up for US President, Hillary Clinton. Although she hasn’t been in the limelight much since her loss, she has recently released a book titled ‘What Happened’, which looks at the election and women in politics.

In an interview with Glamour, Clinton shared advice for those starting a job:

‘I will say, keeping your head down and doing the best job you can in the beginning gives you the opportunity to be evaluated on the basis of the contributions you are making. I often would listen more than talk in my early meetings with people…. [Then], when you feel strongly about your work or about a position, you’ll be given more attention [than] if you hadn’t done that constantly.’

‘At the same time, you cannot be afraid to present yourself. And sometimes that takes practice. If you’re not comfortable with public speaking—and nobody starts out comfortable, you have to learn how to be comfortable—practice. I cannot overstate the importance of practicing. Get some close friends or family members to help evaluate you, or somebody at work that you trust.’

Powerful women - Hillary Clinton

Mary Barra

Mary Barra is the Chairman and CEO of General Motors Company, not to mention the first female CEO of a major global automaker. Placed 5th on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women, Barra is a famous advocate for feminism.

In a LinkedIn article, Barra states:

‘The best advice I ever received came from my parents, who encouraged me to work hard and pursue my early love of math. This was great advice for two reasons:’

‘First, it led me to do something I really loved. In my experience, in work and in life, there are lots of smart, talented people out there. But talent alone is never enough. One of the things that distinguishes those who truly make a difference is passion and hard work. There is truth in the expression that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. And the passion that drives hard work comes from doing something you really love.’

‘The second reason this was great advice is that it steered me toward a career in engineering at a time when few women were pursuing work in science, technology, engineering or math – fields that, collectively, we now call STEM.’

Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has managed to bag the top spot as the most powerful woman in the world. She boasts a PhD in quantum physics as well as the title of TIME magazine’s person of the year in 2015.

The Telegraph shares Merkel’s inspirational quote:

‘You could certainly say that I’ve never underestimated myself, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious.’

Sheryl Sandberg

As the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, chances are you might have heard of Sheryl Sandberg. On top of that, she is the founder of the Lean In Foundation and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, which offers women inspiration to achieve their goals. 

When asked what advice she would give her younger self on Quora, Sandberg replied:

‘There is no straight path to where you are going. If you try to draw that line you will not just get it wrong, but you will miss big opportunities. As Pattie Sellers of Fortune Magazine says, careers are not ladders but jungle gyms.  You don’t have to have it all figured out. I recommend adopting two concurrent goals:’

‘A long-term dream: It doesn’t have to be realistic or even specific. For example, you might say you want to work in a specific field, travel the world, have more free time. Even a vague goal can provide direction.’

‘An 18-month plan: Set personal goals for what you want to learn in the next year and a half. Ask yourself how you can improve and what you’re afraid to do (that’s usually the thing you should try).’

Melinda Gates

Number 3 on the list of Forbes’ most powerful women is Melinda Gates, who is the most powerful woman in philanthropy. She’s the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has managed to reduce maternal deaths in Ethiopia by 57%.

Talking to CNBC, Gates shares her advice for graduates:

‘This is a time in your life when a whole host of opportunities will suddenly open up and if you stay in your comfort zone, you’ll miss out on so many things worth experiencing.’

‘But while you’re challenging yourself to embrace the discomfort of new environments and situations, also remember to treasure the things that make you uniquely you. The world doesn’t need more people who think and act the same — so resist the temptation to conform to what’s around you.’

Beyoncé Knowles

Finally, a list of powerful women quotes had to include Queen Bey. The multi-award winning and possibly most famous female musician is a symbol of female empowerment.

Beyoncé’s advice is as follows:

‘I can never be safe; I always try and go against the grain. As soon as I accomplish one thing, I just set a higher goal. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am. When I’m not feeling my best I ask myself, “What are you gonna do about it?” I use the negativity to fuel the transformation into a better me.’

We hope you feel a little more motivated after our powerful women quotes! If you’re a budding entrepreneur yourself, there’s a Global Forum of Women Entrepreneurs Launch on the 20th April, at the Institute of Directors in London. This event will feature Ted Talks, seminars and panel discussions from female entrepreneurs.

Jess Kadel

Jess Kadel

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