6 Fool-Proof Career Advancement Tips from Powerful Women

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Fashion icon, Diane von Furstenberg once said, ” The success of every single woman is an inspiration for another.” This couldn’t be more true. Although some of the most respected women in business come from different walks of life, their lessons learned about success and setbacks can help guide you in making decisions and avoiding major mistakes.

[Related: 6 Apple Watch Apps Perfect for Women on the Go]

First Lady Michelle Obama is a strong advocate for women’s rights, higher education, and healthy living. Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, believes in staying ahead of the curve and anticipating opportunities to get unstuck and position yourself for success. Star Jones, a lawyer, journalist, writer & President, Professional Diversity Network believes in owning and recognizing your own power. And, Kerry Washington is extremely private about her personal life. Their individual journeys speak volumes about taking control of your own destiny.

Check out some the best career advice from some of the world’s most influential women of our time.

Kerry Washington, Actress, on relying friends, family and a good therapist.
I think it’s really important to take the stigma away from mental health. My brain and my heart are really important to me. I don’t know why I wouldn’t seek help to have those things be as healthy as my teeth. I go to the dentist. So why wouldn’t I go to a shrink?” ~Glamour Magazine, 2015

Dr. Joyce Banda, Malawi’s first female president and Africa’s second, on finding leaders.

I don’t look for paper qualifications. Leadership is not found on paper. For me loyalty, honesty and integrity overtake qualifications.~Black Enterprise, 2015

First Lady Michelle Obama, on what to do if you’re not sure what you want to study, but are sure you want to go to college.

It’s perfectly natural to feel that way. The best thing you can do as you prepare for college is to keep exploring new things. Immerse yourself in a history or English class. Give chorus or drama a try. Push yourself with that math or science course that you’re worried might be too hard. But most of all don’t be afraid to fail. The most challenging subjects are often the most rewarding. ~Reach Higher Initiative

Ava Duvernay, director, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor, on advice for someone wanting to work in a creative field.

To not wait for permission. The key is: What do you want? If you want to be famous and have a big car and a fancy house, that’s a different thing. You have to ask permission for that. But if you want to make a film, say, and your reasons are truly for the experience of doing it and for the storytelling and the art of it, you don’t have to ask anyone. ~Real Simple, Interview

Star Jones, on advice for professional women who may feel stuck in their careers.

I’ve always been the kind of person who believes that when opportunity meets preparation there is no job without reach. So the first thing I would say is make sure you are prepared for the job you’re going after. Be sure that your skill set is up to par. The old people used to say, “You’ve got to be twice as good,” and for some reason that still sticks in my head. I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but what I do know is striving to be the best in the room has really helped me advance in my career. It has helped me approach business in a way that nothing is out of reach.

I also suggest that whatever it is that you’re passionate about and working towards, keep at it even if it doesn’t happen overnight or right away. It takes time and persistence and you can’t throw your hands up when you feel like you’re just beating your head against the wall. I can’t tell you the number of times people have told me no. Heck some of that has even be chronicled in the media, but that’s ok because I really want women, especially African American executive women, to know that no one gets to define you and put you in a box. ~Black Enterprise Interview

Carla Harris, Author of Strategize to Win, on making yourself attractive for career opportunities.

People automatically assume that in order to change jobs or careers they need additional education. That is not always the case. Many of us have skills and experiences that are applicable to a myriad of opportunities. To successfully master an interview, you have to recognize the skills you already have and craft a story that showcases your strengths and connects your skills and experiences to what the interview is looking for.

Prepare well for the “Tell me about yourself” question; it’s your opportunity to show that you have done your research about the company and assure the interview that you can handle the job. ~Strategize to Win, 2014