Getting Ahead on Your Own Terms - Sage Career Advice for Women

September 12, 2013

As the conversation about women in the workplace continues to reach new heights, this week, New York Women in Communications brought together an impressive cross-generational panel to share their insight on what it takes to successfully navigate the workplace as women - offering advice that transcends beyond the communications' industry and is applicable to women in all career capacities.

The panel, Women in the Workplace: Risks, Rewards, Real Talk: Getting Ahead On Your Own Terms was moderated by Today's financial editor, Jean Chatzky, with panelists Dustee Tucker Jenkins, VP, Public Relations for Target; Cathie Black, former Hearst Magazines President; Debra Shriver, Chief Communications Cfficer of Hearst Corporation and Jeannine Shao Collins, Chief Innovation Officer of Meredith 360.

Key topics centered around being assertive and adaptable. Failure was also a connecting point with many of the panelists - all are highly successful yet have learned from their failures as much as they have from their success. We share some highlights on getting ahead ahead in your career on your own terms from successful women who have been there.

  • If you have fun at work, you will perform well. A sentiment shared by the panelists.  "If you do what you love, it doesn't seem like work," Jeannine Shao Collins remarked. "Loving what you do is the most important", advised Cathie Black. If this is not the case, pick up and move on to a place where your contribution is more highly valued.
  • Be direct. Cathie Black is known for being very direct. She feels it is of greater value to her team to be clear, concise, honest, and direct. Sugar coating problems does no good in an effort to achieve results. 
  • Be accountable. Dustee Tucker Jenkins said thekey to being successful is stopping, pausing and making yourself accountable. Jeannine Shao Collins employs you to "check your ego at the door."
  • Learn from your failures. Don't be afraid of acknowledging failures when they happen. Treat them as opportunities for benchmarking and learning. Dustee Tucker Jenkins and Cathie Black both provided examples of professional setbacks that ultimately led to successes in their jobs today.    
  • Focus on results. When asked how she handles the difficulties of being a woman in a workplace often dominated by men, Jeannine Shao Collins said that she always keeps the focus on results. If you're a proven performer, male or female, people will respect you.  
  • Be an active participant in every meeting.  Cathie Black emphasized being a contributor, not a guest in meetings. Actively contribute in every meeting that you attend--otherwise, there's no point in attending! Don't go to a meeting and sit in the corner. Be a participant.    
  • If you don't ask, you don't get. You need a reasoned approach for an ask. Cathie Black clarified that "needing something" is not a valid reason when asking for a raise. It's not your boss's problem. You must have a thoughtful conversation with your boss on results and focus on how well you've performed your job, then you might get a raise.    
  • Being respected trumps being liked. It's lonely at the top; you can't be respected and liked, according to Cathie Black. Women are polite and it's normal by nature to want to be liked. You're not at your job to find new BFFs. Friendship at work is an added benefit.    
  • Reinvent yourself. Dustee Tucker Jenkins noted that when she transitioned from Washington to Target, she didn't change who she was, but rather adapted her style to what the organization needed at that time. "Starting a new endeavor should be 75% of what you know and 25% of what scares you to death."
  • Just say no. "Saying no is just as important as saying yes" was another subject the panel agreed on. Cathie Black said women have a terminal case of gratitude. Learn how to say no when you have too much on your plate. Jean Chatzky included, "You don't have to say no, but you can't always say yes." Instead, try "let me find out how we can get that done for you." 

 We ask our Hot Sheet Panel:

  • If you attended the panel, what other pieces of advice resonated with you?   
  • What advice do you offer women who are trying to navigate the complex workplace today?
  • If there is one piece of advice you would tell your younger self when you just started in your professional life, what would it be?


I think we were all energized by the panelists and their honesty discussing the ups and downs of their careers. I  felt as if I was listening through an open window to five friends talking about their challenges and successes.

Some of the key takeaways I journaled and will revisit often are these ... "The key to innovation is collaboration."  "Be bold. Be willing to fail."  "Know who you are."  "90% of life is showing up."  "No job too job too small."  "Do what you love."  "Find a place where your personality, interests, skills fit."  "Life is about imbalance."

The advice I offer women who are trying to navigate today's complex workplace is this ... "Be confident about who you are and what you offer, distinguish yourself by building an authentic personal brand, and communicate with energy and enthusiasm."

Diane Baranello
Personal Branding/Career Coach

Coaching for Distinction
New York Women in Communications Board Member 

One piece of advice I have been given and frequently pay forward to others is to be a hands-on manager of your career.  Treat yourself like a client who has come to you in need of a brand development strategy, and ensure you are making wise investments in developing brand YOU.  Proactively engage in personal development discussions with your Supervisor and Human Resources team so they understand your strengths and needs, and can recommend the right training and development opportunities.  Outside of the office, invest time in professional organizations like NYWICI that are dedicated to helping their members reach their full potential through valuable programs and networking. The more time you give to investing in yourself, the more benefit you receive.  


Debora Coffey
Vice President, North America Communications and Global Public Relations 

New York Women in Communications Board Member 


I attended the panel and what resonated with me was something that I've always said: Raise a hand and speak up for yourself, whether to negotiate a raise or seek a new opportunity, and lend a hand and pull others up with you.

Linda Descano, CFA
Managing Director and Head, Content & Social, North America Marketing
President & CEO, Women & Co.
New York Women in Communications Board Member


Two pieces of advice I would give my younger self: 1. "Don't typecast yourself. Thing big about what you can do." And 2. "Start saving for the future right away."
Michele Hush
Speechwriter, Marketing & Corporate Communications Writer
New York Women in Communications Board Member 


If you attended the panel, what other pieces of advice resonated with you? Cathie's advice that when you are invited to a meeting, you are not a visitor. Participate and don't sit in the corner!

What advice do you offer women who are trying to navigate the complex workplace today? Be resourceful and flexible. If you show that you can go beyond your job description and be a fast and curious learner, you will stand out to your superiors.

If there is one piece of advice you would tell your younger self when you just started in your professional life, what would it be? Not everyone's going to like you and that's okay.

Jessica Kleiman
EVP, Communications
New York Women in Communications Board Member 


If there were one piece of advice I would give it's "Put yourself in a place you can succeed.  Find a work environment that will bring out the best in you, values your skills and experience, and will challenge you.

Catherine Mathis
Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Standard & Poor's 
New York Women in Communications Board Member



Post new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.