Senior Execs Help You Get Ahead
Lesson: Study Your Business
Fashion designer Tracy Reese says the secret to success is showing up ready.
"My first job as a fashion assistant required me to visit the warehouse monthly to help with shipping. It wasn't glamorous, but later, when I launched my own business -- for the second time -- I knew how to assemble a box, lay the clothes properly in it, prepare the bill of lading and ship it. Nothing should be beneath you when you're learning. Don't be in such a hurry to arrive."
"Attitude is everything. My dad used to whistle while he did housework because he was proud to own a house. If you think the work is a drag, then it will be. Keep learning and it will be fun."
"Stop struggling alone. Relaunching a business was painful for me. I found support at the Small Business Administration, the American Women's Economic Development Corporation and a women's group at my church. Having a community of like-minded people will help you hang in there."
Lesson: Ask for What You Want
Morgan Stanley Managing Director Carla A. Harris learned bad experiences can be a blessing.
"One year I didn't get a promotion and it was a big disappointment. When I had a conversation with my boss he impressed upon me the importance of making sure the organization understands your expectations in addition to having great performance. You must express your goals, aspirations and priorities and not just assume that your managers will subscribe to the same priorities as you."
"Stop making emotional career decisions. When something happens that makes you feel like quitting, ask yourself if you've gotten the skills and experience you wanted from the job. If the answer is no, and you are in the right house, then stay -- just change your seat. Find a sponsor inside the organization or a mentor. Build a network of support around yourself."
Lesson: Give Yourself Some Credit
When she stepped into her role as Estée Lauder Companies' senior vice-president of local and cultural relevancy, corporate marketing/corporate R&D, Susan Akkad had to start following her heart.
"I left my entry-level public relations job at Estée Lauder, fetching coffee and making lunch reservations, and spent a decade promoting my husband's design company globally, including in the U.S., France and Japan. Amy Astley, who at the time was the beauty editor at Vogue, suggested that since I had done a lot of work in France, I'd be valuable to a French company. Until then I hadn't considered that knowledge an asset."
"After a decade away from corporate PR I had no idea how to get rehired into the field, especially without executive-level business experience and with no contacts in the beauty press. I could've been overwhelmed. Instead I applied for a PR job at Lancôme, where the president told me I was completely unqualified. Then he offered me a job in marketing because he thought I was smart."
"Prioritize your investments so that they feed you spiritually. As a southerner, I have an obsessive relationship to land. But my husband and I dragged out our house hunt for years, because prices seemed too high. When my father passed away in 2004, I knew I needed a sanctuary. We found and put an offer on our house in one weekend. Now I ride horses at a nearby ranch and spend a lot of time with my 'pet children.' It's important to recharge and to reset your values."