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Vital Career Tips From Top Female CEOs

Lindsay Olson

There's no arguing that the workplace presents different challenges for females than for males. In many industries, women are still making less than men comparably, and females have their own battles to fight in the office. I asked three female executives who have seen it all on their climbs to the top for their advice for career women.

What is your best advice to women looking to further their careers?

Marla Kaplowitz, chief executive officer of MEC North America--one of the largest global media buying and planning agencies--encourages women looking to move up the corporate ladder to be curious and do their homework. "Find the area that sparks the greatest interest and match that to your skill set. Start following the companies you are interested in learning more about on Twitter and Facebook," she says.

Nellie Akalp is the CEO and co-founder of CorpNet.com, a company that provides small businesses with business filings (corporations, LLCs, DBAs). Prior to launching CorpNet.com, Akalp and her husband sold their previous business filing service to Intuit.

Akalp says if you want to be successful, don't make success your goal. "I suggest not worrying about being successful, but working towards being significant and pursuing a career that you really are truly passionate about and would look forward to doing each and every day--and the success will naturally follow."

Julie Smolyansky is president and CEO of Lifeway Foods and the creator of Kefir drinks. She encourages women to find their passion: "If you border on obsession with your industry, brand, or area of expertise and can communicate that passion, you have the best possible chance at a positive outcome or 'success,'" she says. "Besides, life is too short to spend it in a career you are lukewarm about."

What mistakes have you made in your career and learned from?

Akalp says: "My instincts are my most valuable asset. I have learned to rely on and trust my gut more. In the past, I failed to do so, and was burned and hurt in the process. Now I am much more careful."

Smolyansky doesn't look at her past actions as mistakes. "I don't use the word 'mistake,'" she says. "It carries a negative connotation and can hinder us from ever taking any action for fear of making a 'mistake,'" she explains.

She encourages women to challenge themselves, even if it means falling at times. "If you feel too comfortable, you are probably not growing."

Kaplowitz started out at a traditional creative ad agency, but one day realized that wasn't where she felt passionate. She made the decision to "follow my passions and do what I feel most connected to."

What if anything would you change in terms of the path you took to get to where you are?

Smolyansky says she wouldn't change a thing about her journey. "Every experience you have imprints on you," she says. "We are all on a journey. Get really good at listening to your gut. It is generally right. If you need to pivot, it will be the first one to tell you. The times I have second guessed my gut are the times it's come back to bite me."

Kaplowitz wishes she'd had the confidence to take more risks early on. "Being young is the greatest time and opportunity to explore. Every risk led to personal and professional growth as well as the realization that ultimately it all works out," she recalls.

And Akalp appreciates that life is full of obstacles, and the best thing one can do is to embrace them and move on. "I took my obstacles as challenges and life lessons, and used them to become a better wife, mother, and business owner, and that was meant to be my path in life. I would not be who I am today without going down this path."

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.

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