Five must-know career tips from the books of highly successful women

04 Apr 2014

Arianna Huffington's just released a new book sharing her views on 'success' along with plenty of lessons for working mothers and those seeking to re-examine their work/life balance.

She's the latest globally known successful woman to have released an autobiography imparting wisdom and insightful lessons on how to manage work, life and happiness.

There's Hillary Clinton who has written a number of books about her climb up the political ladder, while also sharing her ideas on how we can help other women, Anne-Marie Slaughter whose upcoming release will expand on the conversation she unleashed with her 'Have it all' piece for the Atlantic in 2012, and of course Sheryl Sandberg's much discussed plea for more women to Lean In at work.

We've taken a look at some of the key lessons shared by successful women in their books, and how they can help you at work, at home and in life.

 Find yourself a mentor – it doesn't matter who it is.

As the US secretary of state during the Bush administration, Condoleezza Rice was one of the most powerful women in the US. Since leaving that post in 2009, the sports enthusiast and Soviet expert has been pretty busy writing several memoirs about her climb in politics.

Rice has overcome plenty of gender and racial barriers which she outlined in her 2010 book release Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me. She recounts her experience as the daughter of parents who convinced her that, "even if she couldn't have a hamburger at the Woolworth's lunch counter, she could be president of the United States".

Another person she credited with guiding her career is Josef Korbel – who also happens to be the father of another former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.

In her book she examines the role of Korbel, and other inspiring mentors she's had throughout her life who have guided her life and career since she was a college student. She imparts a fundamental lesson that while all women can benefit from mentors, such mentors don't necessarily have to be other women.

"It's good to have female or minority role models. But the important thing is to have mentors who care about you, and they come in all colors."

  Ignore the haters

Tina Fey, former SNL writer, actress and all 'round funny woman, released her book Bossypants a couple of years ago, in which she recounts some of the hurdles she has faced as a woman in comedy and as the head writer on a historic TV show – all the while battling against the old adage that "women can't be funny".

Her struggles to prove herself and her talent sound remarkably similar to plenty of us non-famous office workers who also face these issues in everyday life. And Fey's got some fantastic tips for those facing adversity in the workplace – ignore the haters, work hard and once you reach the top then you can extract revenge.

"So, my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: "Is this person in between me and what I want to do?" If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you're in charge, don't hire the people who were jerky to you."

 We all need to support each other

Whenever Hillary Clinton speaks there's invariably reference to her call to arms to empower girls and women around the world. She's a crusader for opening opportunities for education of girls and women and spent much of her time as the US secretary of state expending plenty of energy on this issue.

And though much has changed since she first released her book It Takes a Village in 1996, many of the sentiments she writes about could still be applied today.

The education and empowerment of women and girls -- "the cause of my life" as she calls it -- is still just as important as ever. It's the responsibility of all of us to support each other and to understand the freedom that women can have in the decisions they make regarding their careers, family and life.

"We need to understand that there is no formula for how women should lead their lives. That is why we must respect the choices that each woman makes for herself and her family. Every woman deserves the chance to realize her God-given potential."

 Forget perfection, just get on with it

Sheryl Sandberg is the poster child for dispensing lessons to help other women in the workplace 'lean in', but there's one particular anecdote she shares of a poster hanging at Facebook's headquarters that stands out. The poster, in big, red letters states: "Done is better than perfect."

"I have tried to embrace this motto and let go of unattainable standards. Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst."

This is one of the key take-outs from Lean In, and it's something anyone can employ in their career. It's a wise lesson to us all to stop aiming for perfection and instead aim to simply get the task done. And if you're working at your highest potential, done probably means you did a pretty great job anyway.

 It's time to re-examine success

In Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna Huffington makes a compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today's world, which was prompted by her own wake up call in 2007 when she found herself passed out in a pool of her own blood after fainting from exhaustion in her office.

Huffington subscribes to the idea that there are four pillars in which we should measure success – as opposed to the traditional idea that success can be defined by wealth and power. By focusing these four pillars -- getting in touch with our well-being, cultivating a sense of wonder, passing on our wisdom, and practicing compassion -- she believes we can live a far more meaningful life

"The way we've defined success is no longer sustainable for human beings or for societies. To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving."

Jordi Roth

Jordi Roth is a writer and producer for Women's Agenda.

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