Four successful women on what they tell women who want to get ahead at work.

La Trobe University
Thanks to our brand partner, La Trobe University

Relax – you’ve got this.

Ever sat in a meeting, dying to share an idea you were too shy to voice? Ever watched a female boss giving a kick-arse boardroom presentation, only to wonder whether you’ll ever get a chance to fill her shoes?

Chances are, if you’ve got leadership aspirations, you’re eager to know how to get ahead at work.

Lucky for you, we took it upon ourselves to dig up some powerful advice from powerful women – and it turns out, there are six simple things women can do to become leaders in their field.

Here are six things you can start doing today:

1. Speak up.

Naomi Simson began her career in the corporate marketing field and gained experience with IBM, KPMG, Apple Computer Australia, and Ansett Australia. In 2001, she founded RedBalloon, an online experience gift retailer based in Australia. In short, she knows her stuff – and she recently shared some valuable career advice with Mamamia.

“One of the main things is to have a go. Have a crack and put your hand up. Make sure people notice that you’re prepared to contribute and try things that haven’t been done before,” she said.

Naomi Simson. Image via YouTube.

I think we’ve all been sitting in a meeting with an idea in our head that we’re just not sure about, only to have the person next to us pitch it while we hesitate.

If you have an idea, tell the room – even if it’s not fully formed, you’ll be able work through it with your colleagues and maybe even come up with a better one. We get the most out of meetings when we have a passionate discussion about something.

2. Get to the point.

Naomi also highlighted the importance of being succinct.

“Don’t use 100 words when 10 will do,” she said.

Whether it’s in an email or a meeting, women should say what they think, and say it upfront. Basically, if you have an opinion, don’t be afraid to share it clearly – and when writing emails or preparing reports, don’t bury it 15 paragraphs down where no one will read it.

3. Be patient – there’s a lot to learn.

A number of female CEOs shared their advice for young women on career progression in a recent article for The Wall Street Journal. One of their most important tips? Pursue new skills, relentlessly. So find a mentor, take on new study, and if you have a knowledge gap, fill it. Promptly.


Maggie Wilderotter, CEO of Frontier Communications, said that she would regularly pick the brains of a range of senior executives.

“I had many mentors, and they didn’t know it,” she shared.

“Pursue new skills, relentlessly. So find a mentor, take on new study, and if you have a knowledge gap, fill it. Promptly.”

4. Don’t be afraid of networking.

Wilderotter also said it’s important not to wait to get noticed.

“For a lot of women, they think the myth is true, that if they just do a good job and work hard, they’ll get recognized. That’s not the case,” she said.

Simson agrees. She told Mamamia it’s always important to network.

“Get to know people in your industry but outside of your company, and make sure you know people inside your company but outside of your direct colleagues,” she said.

She said to take on as many different perspectives as you can, share ideas and learn from others about what’s really going on around you. Who knows – when a job comes up, maybe someone will think of you. But no one is going to recommend you if they’ve never met you.

5. Be ambitious.

Make a career plan. Where do you see yourself going in the company? What do you need to learn to get there? Set clear goals and talk to your boss.

If you want a promotion, say so. If you think you should be being paid more, say so. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

“I knew from an early age that I wanted to lead a company,” Denise Morrison, President and CEO of Campbell Soup, told The Wall Street Journal.

“I developed a strategic process for my career plan that set the final destination, developed the career track, identified skills to build, took line positions to gain experience, and sought leadership and management training on the job, through special assignments, coaching and networking.”

Want to impress the titans of Shark Tank? Make a career plan, set clear goals and don’t be afraid to negotiate.

6. Get creative.

Angela Braly, CEO of WellPoint, also pushed the importance of thinking outside of the box.

“The most important factor in determining whether you will succeed isn’t your gender, it’s you,” she argued. “Be open to opportunity and take risks. In fact, take the worst, the messiest, the most challenging assignment you can find, and then take control.”

A diverse workforce means diverse ideas. Bring everything you have and have faith that your ideas are just as good as the person sharing your cubicle.

So what have we learned? It all comes down to confidence and a willingness to stand up for yourself and put yourself forward.

It might sound cliché, but don’t undersell yourself. If I’ve learned anything since entering the workforce, it’s that you’re not going to know everything off the bat – so just work hard, ask questions and don’t be afraid to try new things.

As COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg once said, “we cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”

You’ve got this.

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