17 real women share what it takes to land the job, grow your paycheck, and get ahead in your career

Shutterstock.com/Monkey Business ImagesOn International Women’s Day, real women share their best career advice.
  • For International Women’s Day, Business Insider asked regular women for their best career advice.
  • Women across different industries and levels contributed.
  • Responses ranged from the practical (don’t work for free) to the psychological (you deserve your job).

Everyone wants advice from the most successful businesswomen out there: Sheryl Sandberg. Indra Nooyi. Meg Whitman.

But anyone would be smart to take advice from a little closer to home, too: your boss, your coworkers, your professional connections. No matter the level, industry, or location, we can all learn something from each other.

Business Insider surveyed women across various industries about their advice for others. Responses ranged from advice on knowing your worth to effectively communicating your vision to a team. For example:

  • Remember that getting your job wasn’t a fluke. You deserve to be there.
  • Keep a list of your accomplishments and skills so you can refer back.
  • If you’re dreading a job or project, you aren’t being paid enough.
  • Don’t give up your life for a job.

Below, read 17 different women’s best career advice, lightly edited for clarity:


Find your advocates, and take a seat at the table

“Find your advocates.

“As women, we often have to work twice as hard for our performance to be recognised. Participating in teams, committees, even if it doesn’t pertain to your role, will help build a network of advocates of varying levels across the organisation.

“Always expect your name will come up when you’re not in the room – the more advocates you have, the more people will root for you when opportunities arise.

“And always take a seat at the table. You deserve to be there.”

– Jen, 30, New York City Director of Sales working in Adtech/Media


Don’t work for free

Sorbis/Shutterstock

“For new entrepreneurs, do not work for free or undervalue yourself! You are more than capable and qualified.

“Too many times starting out I said ‘yes’ to a low-ball offer or free work for the mere possibility of leads, only to end up spending far too much time on a project that yielded too little compensation.

“I heard a thought one time: ‘If you wake up in the morning dreading working on a project, you asked for too little money,’ and that couldn’t be more true. If you feel valued, the work never feels like a drag.

“As a new entrepreneur (or even more experienced!), lack of confidence is common after the initial excitement wears off. It’s easier to feel confident as an employee because you receive regular feedback on your quality of workmanship. Don’t let fear of failure drive you to accept less than you’re worth.”

– Stacey, 28, Austin, Texas Business Owner: Nutrition Communications & Media


Recognise who is on your team

“When someone is on your team, they are on your team for life.

“I am a big networker, and recently someone I really admire told me he was ‘on my team.’ I took this to mean I did not need to try as hard to impress him – he was already impressed!

“Inevitably in professional relationships and in networking you’ll transition from wanting to impress someone to being their friend, or at least someone they respect and like. Recognise when that transition happens and breathe a sigh of relief! I keep a list of people who are ‘on my team’ and look to them for support and advice, as well as professional advancement.”

– Alex, 30, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Associate Attorney


Focus on your impact

“One key mindset shift that will support living your best life and career is to focus less on achieving titles, external ‘shoulds,’ and cultural norms, and instead focus on, ‘What contribution are you making?’ in all areas of your life.

“f you are contributing in a way that’s in line with your strengths and values, you will ultimately make momentous progress and create deep fulfillment and meaningful impact.”

– Sarah, 37, Seattle
Executive Coach + Business Consultant, Leadership Development/Executive Development


Don’t be swayed by branding

chombosan/Shutterstock.com

“Choose the people, not a fancy company name.”

– Jen, 40ish, New York City Marketing


Know your worth, and don’t accept anything less

“There are plenty of articles, research pieces, and self-help books telling women to assert themselves in the workforce, both in terms of taking on responsibility and requesting proper compensation for our work.

“But women are still not taking this far enough; I could talk about the societal reasons why we struggle with this forever. However, I will stick to the advice: Do your job well, ask for a raise every year, act on the promotion when the opportunity arises, and if your employer isn’t responding to your requests, then get a new job.

“Because I can guarantee you there are plenty of other employers out there who will see your value immediately upon interview and offer you more money, better benefits, and a more fitting title. We need to increase the amount of women in high level positions in all sectors, and it could be you.”

– Aileen, 25, New York City
Public Sector/Local Government


If you don’t like something, change it

knyazevfoto / Shutterstock.com

“Be confident. In your presence, your ideas, your position. And, if you don’t like something, change it.”

– Anonymous, 29, Portland, Oregon Marketing Manager


Know your options

Mario Tama/Getty Images

“Acknowledge that you don’t know what you don’t know and speak with as many diverse professionals as you can to understand your career options.”

– Anonymous, 30, San Francisco
Tech director


It’s OK to make mistakes

“It’s OK to make mistakes, but learn from them and keep moving forward. Don’t be lazy. And never give up.”

– Bouchra, 30, New York City Fashion Tech CEO


Keep track of your accomplishments

“We tend to forget how good we are at things, so keep a list of all the achievements you have ever accomplished and it will help you to remember how great you actually are. It helps you raise your confidence and trust yourself.”

– Christine, 34, Luxembourg
Health and wellness entrepreneur


You deserve your job

“Getting your job wasn’t a fluke. You deserve to be there, and earned it just as much as the person sitting next to you. You can’t let impostor syndrome stop you from being your best.

“Also, side hustles and personal projects keep you sane, independent, and passionate.”

– Navah, 24, New York City
Marketing Associate


Don’t wait for permission to go after what you want

“Don’t wait for anyone else to give you permission to go after what you want.

“I spent a full year trying to apply for the type of position I wanted when I was trying to break into professional writing. It was also a full year of hearing nothing, or going to interviews only to be told ‘no.’

“I finally realised that I was wasting my time trying to prove myself to hiring managers, or convincing someone to take a shot on me and let me show how good I was. I quit sending in applications (and getting rejected), hung out my shingle as a freelance writer, and hustled hard.

“In less than a year after I decided to take a chance on myself instead of waiting for someone else to give me permission to start doing what I loved, I made three times as much as I earned in my day job, quit, and became a full-time freelance writer and content marketer. And I’ve never looked back. Don’t wait for someone else to say, ‘you can do this’ or give you a chance. Get out there and prove it for yourself.

“Also, all the advice in the world may not be able to teach you as much as experience. Sometimes, the only way to figure this stuff out is to go out there, screw up, and learn from that failure.

“Other people’s advice can help you avoid making the same mistakes, but sometimes you need to go out there and totally flop before you really get it on a deep level. Don’t be afraid of that flop. Just be mindful, and seek to understand what failures can teach you, or show you about yourself.”

– Kali, 28, Boston Marketing


With discomfort comes growth

“I’ve made the most career advancement when I have been most uncomfortable. Remind yourself as you are pushing through the tough times that with discomfort comes growth.

“And never be afraid to admit what you don’t know! It’s my most overused expression: ‘I don’t know what I don’t know.’ Embrace it!”

– Suzanne, 46, New York City Personal finance SVP


Empathise with your coworkers

“Things are not always as they appear. You can use empathy to identify or validate what you suspect with team members, peers, and leaders in the workplace.”

– Patricia, mid-career, Seattle
Business and leadership development consultant


Make your vision a shared one

“When it comes to leading a team, it is important to get buy-in to both short-term and long-term initiatives. Day-to-day tasks will become more motivating to employees if they understand how their responsibilities play into the bigger picture. It is key to outwardly and consistently communicate this vision so that it becomes a shared one.

“As women, it is important to advocate for ourselves. If you are a startup founder or an employee of a company, you must be willing to continuously share your value to stakeholders.”

– Jasmine, 27, Chicago
Technology cofounder and CEO


Be the leader you look up to

Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com

“Show up, be prepared, stay consistent, and you’ll be ready when an opportunity comes your way.

“If you don’t like public speaking, work on it. This is a skill almost anyone will need at some point in time and you want to feel confident when you need to speak in front of a group.

“Be the leader you look up to. A good leader lifts the group moral and wants members to succeed.

“Always have confidence (even if you need to fake it a little). Confidence is important.”

– Caroline, 29, New York City
Psychotherapist in private practice and group fitness instructor


More work doesn’t mean better work

Hero Images/Getty Images

“Your worth is often defined by someone else in your career, and you may have no control over how they see you or value you and your skills.

“There may be times when you’ve worked your socks off, went above and beyond, and you feel like it’s shoved back in your face. Learn from that. Don’t undersell yourself, and don’t believe anyone who undervalues you. You may be stuck with their decision for a while, but don’t take that belief and make it your own.

“Also, you can do an excellent job without giving up all of your spare time and jumping through a million hoops. The idea that the longer you work, the better job you do or the more you deserve a pay rise or promotion, is outdated. Research shows that we work better and produce stronger work when we work less and have regular breaks. Don’t give up your life for a job.”

– Danielle, 38, Newcastle Upon Tyne, England
Digital marketing manager

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