Real women share their best advice on life and work, from choosing a job to wasting less time to getting clear on what really matters

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advice from women 2_BI GraphicsShayanne Gal/Jasmine Shells/Sarah Kaler/Jennifer MahajanFrom left to right: Jasmine Shells, Sarah Kaler, Jennifer Mahajan.

  • Advice on how to find a job or start a business is thick on the ground. But who knows better than people who have done it?
  • Business Insider asked 20 professional women for their best advice on life and work.
  • Responses ranged from how best to manage time, to the importance of a support system, to why it's better to try and fail than never to try at all.


If you're looking for advice on how to find a job, start a business, or feel better about how much you accomplish every day, you've come to the right place.

Below, entrepreneurs, execs, and professionals across all levels share the advice they've learned, earned, and want to pass on to people at any stage.

From Deloitte CEO Janet Foutty's advice on taking credit for your work, to AUrate New York co-CEO Bouchra Ezzahraoui's thoughts on being unapologetic about your goals, to SoulPowered CEO Sarah Kaler's insights on the importance of authenticity in every aspect of your life, these women know what they're talking about.

Read on for their best advice.

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Give yourself credit for your accomplishments.

Give yourself credit for your accomplishments.

"Give yourself credit for your accomplishments, and when someone congratulates you, accept the acknowledgement for the work you did. Too often, I hear my female colleagues say, 'Thanks, it was a team effort,' instead of 'Thanks, I worked hard on this.'

"It's like we're all Meryl Streep at the Oscars: 'Oh, oh, thank you. I don't deserve this.' Yes, you do, Meryl! You're amazing! If we can't communicate our accomplishments, then we can't advocate for ourselves — for that position, that promotion, that pay-grade. If we see ourselves as leaders, the world will see us that way too."

- Janet Foutty, Chairman and CEO, Deloitte Consulting

Don't give up your life for a job.

Don't give up your life for a job.

"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 The idea that the longer you work, the better job you do or the more you deserve a pay rise or promotion, is outdated.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 Mowbray, Evolved Digital

First thought, best thought.

First thought, best thought.

"Women are urged so often to suppress impulses while men are praised for quick, instinctive, decisive actions — whether or not they succeed. I've faced adversity and have also made my share of off-the-cuff errors in judgment.

"The best advice I could offer any women is 'first thought, best thought,' meaning trust your instincts before fear and doubt can kick in."

- Ariane Daguin, CEO, Co-Founder & Owner, D’Artagnan

Most people waste time in increments of 15 minutes.

Most people waste time in increments of 15 minutes.

"A teacher of mine once shared with me how most people waste time in increments of 15 minutes. For example, if there is only 15 minutes before a scheduled commitment, people tend to squander those 15 minutes rather than doing something productive.

"Those 15 minutes can be used wisely to jump start tasks (i.e. chopping up vegetables for dinner, separating clothing for the wash, planning out your to-do list for the week, etc.) versus playing games on your phone or hopping on social media. Your time is the most valuable thing you own."

- Jasmine Shells, cofounder and CEO of Five to Nine

Focus on the contribution you're making in all areas of your life.

Focus on the contribution you're making in all areas of your life.

"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.

"If you are contributing in a way that's in line with your strengths and values, you will ultimately make momentous progress, create deep fulfillment, and meaningful impact."

- Sarah Kaler, CEO and Co-Founder of SoulPowered

Go after what you want.

Go after what you want.

"Go all out and be unapologetically determined. That's the only way."

- Bouchra Ezzahraoui, Co-founder & Co-CEO, AUrate New York

You are not beholden to what you said at 25.

You are not beholden to what you said at 25.

"There's often pressure to declare what kind of woman you are — like do you want kids or are you a career woman. Don't feel like you have to share that with others but even if you do, it's ok to evolve and change your goals. You are not beholden to what you said at 25."

- AJ Smith, VP of Content Strategy and Financial Education at SmartAsset

You'll be an alum longer than you were a student.

You'll be an alum longer than you were a student.

"If you had a positive college experience, consider the fact that you will be an alum for longer than you were a student and take the opportunity to give back to those who come behind you."

- Patricia Bravo, Leadership Development Consultant, Bravo for You

Build relationships across your organization.

Build relationships across your organization.

"My career advice to women is to surround yourself with a talented team and build relationships across your organization. Having champions, not just in your managers, but also in your peers and direct reports is critical in establishing your leadership potential.

"Your trajectory at your company will be driven not just by your achievements, but by your ability to make other people successful. Don’t underestimate the power that having a positive impact on a rising individual’s career can have on your own."

- Anika Agarwal, Managing Director, Insight Venture Partners

Don't worry about things that have nothing to do with you, or that you can't change.

Don't worry about things that have nothing to do with you, or that you can't change.

"Each time someone is upsetting you or making you feel anxious ask yourself the following questions:

"1) Is this about me or about the other person being miserable and projecting onto me? If the answer is the latter, then give yourself permission to just leave it and move on with your day.

"2) Am I in control and can I actually change something? Again, if you actually can't change anything, then give yourself permission not to worry.

"3) When you catch yourself criticizing yourself, ask yourself whether you would talk to other people that way. We tend to be much stricter with ourselves. So again, if you wouldn't be talking to someone else (especially your children, for example) that way, then you deserve to be kinder to yourself as well."

- Christine Hansen, FDN-P, CSSC, Nutritional Therapist, Sleep Like A Boss

Be smart about how you choose your next job.

Be smart about how you choose your next job.

"Choose the people, not a fancy company name."

- Jen Drexler

Figure out what your career options truly are.

Figure out what your career options truly are.

"For many people, their first job becomes their career: Acknowledge that you don't know what you don't know and speak with many diverse professionals to understand what your career options are."

- Lydia Kim

Don't think you have to be all things to all people at all times.

Don't think you have to be all things to all people at all times.

"Balance is elusive. Some days my career wins, other times it's my family. When I was younger, I kept waiting for everything to get easier. Now that I'm more experienced, I understand it never really does.

"Instead, I've built in a strong support system that helps me feel confident in my daily choices. I no longer feel the pressure to be all things to all people at all times, and that's empowering."

- Trisha Price, EVP Product Development & Engineering at nCino

Always expect your name will come up when you're not in the room.

Always expect your name will come up when you're not in the room.

"Find your advocates. As women, we often have to work twice as hard for our performance to be recognized. 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 organization.

"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."

- Jennifer Mahajan

Be bold.

Be bold.

"Be bold. I have never regretted trying and failing, but I've always regretted not trying at all.

"Personal growth can be incremental, but the big steps I've take in life, the ones with the highest risk (from, among others, setbacks, disappointment, embarrassment) have also yield the highest return (from learning, accomplishment, pride, satisfaction).

"I've always grown more when I've pushed myself beyond where I'm comfortable and feel capable, whether in relationships, skills development, exercise, work and leadership.

"My advice to myself is: 'Always try.' Trying sows the seeds for growth. "

- Hilary Gosher, Managing Director, Insight Venture Partners; Founding Member, Parity Partners; Adjunct Professor, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs

All the advice in the world may not teach you as much as experience.

All the advice in the world may not teach you as much as experience.

"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 Hawlk, Going Beyond Wealth

Be punctual.

Be punctual.

"Always arrive on time. Check your spelling/grammar. Ask questions. Start saving money for retirement ASAP."

- Caroline Kaczor, LCSW

Do what you need to do.

Do what you need to do.

"I have an intention written on my mirror right now that says, 'Do what you should do.' Should you be working on that new idea you thought of or binge watching Netflix? Should you be spending quality, undivided time with your partner or scrolling through social media?

"In our heart of hearts, we know where we ought to invest our time and efforts, but we regularly dismiss the priorities we give lip service to for less meaningful, thoughtless activities. If you can intentionally, regularly re-center your focus to what you know you should do, you'll find greater productivity and purpose in all aspects of your life.

- Stacey Mattinson

You can't let impostor syndrome stop you from being your best.

You can't let impostor syndrome stop you from being your best.

"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."

- Navah Maynard, Business Insider

For more work-life balance, plan ahead.

For more work-life balance, plan ahead.

"For me, time and events with my family are important, and if you plan far enough in advance, you can be successful at keeping plans and commitments. Generally, planning ahead for both work and personal life can lead to a balance that doesn't always exist in today's world.

"Success in your career is dependent on remembering and prioritizing what is important for you."

- Carol Larson, Senior Audit partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP, Champion for women executives in finance for Deloitte's CFO Program

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