The No. 1 Key to Having a Successful Career, According to 11 Powerful Women

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If this unprecedented time has been instructive in any way, it's proven that every one of us has the opportunity to make a difference. From sewing masks at home for essential workers to ensuring elderly neighbors get groceries safely, it's been difficult not to feel called to arms by the actions everyday people are taking to make this world a safer, more equitable place. 
But how can we take this galvanizing experience and apply it to all spheres of our lives — including the workplace?
In Season Five of Fairygodboss Radio, eleven women who are already making waves in the business world sat down with Fairygodboss President Romy Newman. They shared their career experiences and provided guidance for how we can improve the workplace for women — from steps individuals can take to fight for equity to organizational changes that have made all the difference in their workplace. 
Along the way, they shared their best advice for women who are building successful careers. Here's what they had to say: 

1. Being right isn't the goal.  

“It’s better to win than be right... Getting to the outcome that you’re hoping to achieve or getting the results that you’re hoping to achieve is more important than your ego. Set aside your ego in the interest of getting that end result that you’re looking for... Sometimes if we let our egos get in the way, we’re only contributing to that. My advice is get your ego out of the way. It doesn’t matter. Focus on getting the results you want and that’s what’s ultimately most important.” — Erin Packwood, VP of Total Rewards and HR Transformation, Sysco

2. Learn the "why."

"Learn the organization. Take time to understand how the organization operates, how business is done, why people are doing the work they're doing... Ask them 'why?' The 'why' is the key part. People who ask 'what' will always work for people who ask 'why.'" — Alicia Scott, Director, Diversity & Inclusion & Talent Management, ON Semiconductor

3. Assume the best. 

“Assume positive intent. When you have somebody that’s on the other side of what you’re talking about or even if they’re on the same side, you need to assume positive intent. However, that doesn’t mean you’re a floor mat. It doesn’t mean that you’re just going to keep assuming positive intent, especially when you start to see something that doesn’t seem as positive or seems self-serving. Assume positive intent but have some awareness of organizational politics... Make sure you’re protecting yourself and understanding where you fit into this person’s world and where they fit into yours so that you can’t be taken advantage of. “ — Anne Elkin, VP of Global HR Solutions, Qualcomm

4. Build a strong support system. 

“If you’re going to be successful in business, you need to have a support team around you. When I say support team, I’m not talking about the people at work; I’m talking about the people at home, whether that be a significant other or your children. You have to have those individuals who are truly going to support you at home  so that when you do go off to work, you know that you’ve got people there that support what you’re doing.” — Glenda Fleming Willis, Senior Vice President of Operations, Southeast Division at Walmart

5. Declare what you want. 

“My advice for women is to declare. Declare what you want — from your boss, your partner, your life. Men really don’t have to be convinced of their worth. They grow up believing they can do anything. As women, we grow up believing it’s being nice if we don’t express what we expect or want, or it’s nice for us to be humble and not wear our ambitions or aspirations on our sleeve. But actually, it’s much kinder to say what you want and not expect people to read your mind. Be willing and courageous. Declare for yourself and you’ll be amazed at how people will respond.” — Deb Hughes , SVP, Transformation Communications and Change Management and HR for HR, ADP

6. Be on the lookout for lessons.

“Look for opportunities to learn and go for it. If you’re not taking [these] opportunities, you’re holding yourself back. Why deny yourself the goodness that could come from that experience? Leap forward and enjoy and learn.”  — Pam Maynard, CEO, Avanade, Inc.

7. Your decisions shouldn't be made in pursuit of perfection.  

“You know what’s right for you. Trust your instincts on what type of career to pursue and what type of organization you want to work for. Trust yourself in what works for you. Also, don’t think that the answer is an 'or.' Embrace the 'and.' Be a mother and a professional and an athlete. Embrace the 'and' and pursue what makes you happy. Accept that it’s not about perfection. We have a lot of credentials we could put after our names, but my favorite credential is work in progress. I’m Kristen Kimmell, I’m a work in progress and I’m embracing that everyday.” — Kristen Kimmell – Head of Advisor Recruiting and Field Marketing, RBC

8. Put yourself out there. 

“Being in the arena is the prize. Getting a new role would be a prize, but it’s not the only one. Just putting yourself out there and going for it... the process of doing that brings to you many benefits that you might not have otherwise thought about. It adds to your character. You meet new people, you learn things about yourself. So, being in the arena — and just putting yourself out there — is a prize.” — Kimberly Jones, People Experience Leader, PwC

9. Don't overthink.  

“Don’t let anything stop you... Don’t underestimate your contributions. Don’t overthink. Attach voice to your work and have the courage to ask. Don’t be too critical of yourself.” — Deepa Soni, Chief Information Officer, The Hartford

10. Own your accomplishments. 

 “Own what makes you impressive. Don’t shy away from all of your great accomplishments and all of the things that you deliver to an organization. Own your unique value proposition because that is your differentiator in the marketplace; That is why people will gravitate towards you and that is why companies will hire you, promote you and support you.” — Allison Engel, Sr. Director, Diversity & Inclusion at Northwestern Mutual

11. Try new things. 

“Don’t be afraid to take a risk and do something that makes you uncomfortable.” — Juanita Hendrickson, Vice President, Human Resources, Teradata
For more advice and insights on women in the workplace, listen to Fairygodboss Radio (available on Fairygodboss, Blogtalkradio, iTunes and Stitcher).