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Top women in business share tips on how to get ahead

Ned Ehrbar

Each path to success is different, but there are some tactics that prove universal. Yahoo Finance asked some of the top women in the business world to share their secrets about what worked for them on their journeys.

Valerie Jarrett served in the Obama administration as a senior advisor. First and foremost, Jarrett advises hard work and appreciating your audience. “Focus on the job at hand, and recognize that people are watching,” she says. “You might not even know that people are paying attention to what you’re doing, but do your absolute very best.”

The real trick is to transform those people paying attention to your work into active supporters of you as a colleague and candidate for new opportunities, according to Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert. “You need to find sponsors in your organization who are the ones behind the scenes who are going to pound the table,” she says. “If you don’t have that sponsorship behind the scenes, it’s really hard to then move up in an organization.”

Former FDIC chair Sheila Bair agrees that visibility is a primary component to success. “You do need to assert yourself,” she says. “I think in times of crisis, especially in a government job, you need to be willing to take a more public profile and communicate with people and explain to them what’s going on and reassure them.”

Another great pointer? Don’t be afraid to be bold in reaching out to potential mentors and collaborators, Mogul founder and CEO Tiffany Pham advises. “If I was going into an industry that I had some knowledge about but ultimately needed to learn a lot more, I would contact every single person that I respect so much within different facets of that industry,” she says. And don’t be discouraged by a lack of response: “Cold email them six times – since that’s the average number of times that someone will take to respond finally,” she says.

Apply that same persistence to increasing your own profile as well; don’t be too bashful around the office. “It’s OK to promote yourself. The worst that happens is you get a rejection,” Jarrett says. “Having resilience when we fail, learning from it and bouncing back – that’s a part of life. And if you’re not ever rejected, you’re not trying hard enough. You’re not stretching yourself.”

But the most essential piece of advice? Remembering to follow your passion. “Just know that you can build yourself up,” Pham says. “With your passion, with your dedication, with your hard work, anything is possible.”

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