For this installment of Life Lessons, we focus on four women who have found their way to the top in their chosen professions through focus and perseverance. Their advice can help you in any arena, whether you’re starting an entry level sales job or founding your own company.
Barbara Corcoran: Defy Your Naysayers
Shark Tank star and real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran told ivillage.com that an ex-boyfriend was a big motivator for her success:
“When I decided to end my first company, which I’d started with my business partner/boyfriend, he said to me on the way out the door, ‘You know, you’ll never succeed without me!’” Insult can be much stronger than advice, and for me it was the best motivator. I knew right then and there I would rather die than let him see me not succeed! I sold my business 20 years later for $66 million.”
Kate White: Listen to Your Critics
Best-selling author Kate White told ivillage.com that the best advice she has received is to listen when people criticize you. They might have a point.
“‘Get all the information you can.’ This sounds so basic and simple but before you think, ‘I know that,’ hear me out. Often people refuse (intentionally or not) to gather the information they need. They believe what they’ve always been told, they don’t listen, or they don’t dare go below the surface. Information is power, absolutely. For instance, if your boss calls you in and criticizes something, don’t get defensive. Hear her out. Think about what you may be doing to justify her impression. When you are networking, listen more than you talk. Look for information that you can run with (legally, of course!)”
H. Paulette Eberhart: Have Fun, Keep Up with Current Events
H. Paulette Eberhart, CEO of engineering and staffing firm CDI Corp., told philly.com that keeping up with the news enough to be conversant in current events is important for your career progress. She also says it’s important to have some fun in your work.
“You’re not trying to change someone’s opinion, but you’re just trying to be able to have an intelligent conversation about what’s happening in the world. I think that people need to do that more as opposed to just talk about business in their current world. You have to branch out and understand the world in a larger view.”
“People ask me for career advice, and the first thing I tell them is do something you enjoy. You have to have some fun along the way. If you are not, you really have to look at that and figure out what it is that will bring you joy.”
Catherine Bessant: Be Flexible, Be Excellent
Bank of America executive Catherine Bessant told the Old Gold & Black student newspaper at Wake Forest University that the key to her success has been performance. “It’s about really doing your job and doing it to a high standard to produce a really outstanding work product,” she said. She also says you have to consider everything when looking for a job.
“Cast a wide net, because in an economy like this, your hit-ratio will be lower. … I think that really being flexible about how you come into a company and where you live are real positives. If someone wants to come into our company with a technology background and they want a finance position, they should take the open technology position and work their way into finance.”