21 Successful Businesswomen Reveal The Most Valuable Piece Of Advice They’ve Ever Heard

Before we figure out how to be successful, we may need to ask ourselves what ‘success’ really means. There’s financial gain, of course, but also a number of intangible factors: a sense of fulfillment, a healthy work-life balance, strong professional relationships, and a dedication to your personal goals. In partnership with ANN INC., here are words of wisdom from 21 women who have each, in their own way, achieved ‘success.’ This post brought to you by ANN INC.


1. “Every job I’ve ever applied for, I’ve just been very honest about how much I loved the company. It was less ‘this is why you need me,’ and more ‘look, I will give you the work you deserve because I would love to be here.’ Nine out of ten times, it worked. Besides, why would you want to work somewhere you weren’t THAT passionate about? Chase after those jobs where you can be so candid in the interview process.”

2. “It’s a Kelly Cutrone quote — ‘If you have to cry, go outside.’ It’s tough to admit that feelings and emotions shouldn’t exist in the workplace, but it’s true. When men express their emotions, they’re called passionate. When women do, they’re seen as weak or TOO emotional to handle rational business endeavors. Wait until you’re in your office with the door closed, or out of the building and around the corner before you give in.”

3. “Don’t second guess yourself — and please believe you are just as smart as your male coworker (if not smarter).”

4. “If your place of employment pays you less than a man for the same job, find a new job. Demand more money. Working for less than you deserve is just as bad as working for free.”

5. “Always send thank you notes. I stocked up on a few boxes of the same style when I found a card I really liked, and always have one handy (I keep stamps inside the box to make it easy). Nobody sends handwritten notes anymore, and though it might be seen as a little feminine, that’s not a bad thing. It means you’re personal and willing to go the extra mile.”

6. “If you were really in the wrong or messed up, apologize once, and move on. Do better. Do not keep apologizing. And if you were not in the wrong to begin with, do not apologize. You do not need to say sorry for asking a question.”

7. “It’s just a fact: makeup and your wardrobe change how people interact with and perceive you. Make sure your appearance is representing your as you’d want to be perceived.”

8. “When you see someone doing the work you want to do, tell them how much you actually do love their work and aspire to do it. You never know who might actually have extra work for someone hungry.”

9. “Always keep a tube of a flattering lipstick in your desk drawer for when you aren’t feeling like you look your best. Instant confidence.”

10. “The best piece of advice was from my mom. She didn’t give me any advice. She just said do it. She was never a ‘working woman,’ she just was passionate about her work and I followed her lead. It never occurred to me until later in life that it was A Big Deal to be a woman who wanted a career.”

11. “It’s important to have a real life outside your working hours. You’re going to feel like you need to prove your worth and put in extra hours to do so, but you do that, and soon enough, everyone will expect 12 hours as your normal. Turn your phone off. Don’t bend over backward. Make a divide between the office and the rest of your world. ‘Setting boundaries’ is a big one for women, because we’re more likely to overwork ourselves when we’re trying to be helpful.”

12. “Unless there is an explicit dress code that says you have to wear heels every day, don’t. You’re less mobile on heels, and people will think you’re precious and not the go-to person for something that needs to be done quickly or remotely.”

13. “Don’t be afraid to delegate when necessary. You feel like you’re being bossy, but you’re actually just being efficient.”

14. “As a woman, you had better know not just your role, but your industry backwards and forwards. Read as many articles as you can. Subscribe to morning newsletters and go through them on your commute. Network. Ask people questions. Connect to possible mentors on Twitter and LinkedIn. And then when someone asks a question to no one in particular, know that answer better than anyone else has known an answer before.”

15. “Try to see from your bosses’ perspectives. They may have different priorities than you do, and you might have to work to make them understand your needs.”

16. “Be informed, but also don’t let statistics about women in the workplace get in the way of the job you need to do. No matter what, don’t have a chip on your shoulder. It will make things exponentially difficult.”

17. “If you’re not the kind of person to ‘lean in,’ don’t. If you don’t ascribe to anyone else’s brand of work ethic, don’t. Do what you do, and do it well. The fact of the matter is, you’re not just a businesswoman, but a person. You don’t need to be a stereotype, or a caricature.”

18. ”Be specific with your complaints. Like, ‘X isn’t working for Y reason, but here’s a suggestion to improve it.’ It’s much easier for people to work with than a vague “I’m unhappy with the situation.”

19. “In school, they taught you to get the job then do the work, when really, you have to do the work then get the job. You have to, in some way, prove that you can do what you claim you can. ‘Loving something’ a lot is great, but doesn’t set you apart from the other hundreds or maybe thousands of applicants who would also love a great job and a great company.”

20. “If you don’t have confidence in yourself as a person, not just an employee, you’ll begin to overcompensate and feel like you’re never doing enough. Know that this isn’t as valued as people tend to believe it is. Getting the job done efficiently and then having a balanced life is most ideal – overworking communicates to your employer: ‘I’m trying to compensate for a lack I feel I have.’”

21. “Put yourself in the shoes of your bosses and coworkers. Be respectful, even after you leave. Be especially mindful on social media or speaking publicly about your grievances. It doesn’t matter what they did or what happened or how wronged you feel… nobody wants to work with people who are disrespectful at any point of the process, and you never know who’s looking, or who’s at the next table over.” Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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About the author

Ella Ceron

Writer. Editor. Twitter-er. Instagrammer. Coffee drinker. (Okay, mostly that last one.)