Congrats! You made it across that stage, diploma in hand and you're ready to tackle the world. Or are you? Graduating from college is not only the end of an era, but your first experience diving into an adult world that's unfamiliar and full of unchartered territory.
The good news is that everyone you know and admire has been in your shoes before - and they've had to navigate their career path and make tough decisions, just like you're facing now. To help you celebrate the next chapter of your life, successful entrepreneurs share their smart, gutsy advice for recent graduates. Let these badass female businesswomen inspire you to not only go for the gold, but to reach it as well.
Blogging is the new resume.
Catherine Tan, founder and chief strategy officer for Notey.com, a platform that curates the world's top blogs by topics and locations, says the difference between getting an email back and hearing silence might be your writing. “In today's age, where you can apply for a job with a swift tap on the screen or click of a button, a LinkedIn profile and an internship or two are not going to make your application stand out. One way to add depth and round out your profile is to blog! Not only is a blog a validation of your online prowess, it's a place where you can share your perspectives and passions, show your creativity and style, and give potential employers a window into the way you work, how you process information and solve problems. Blogging is the new resume," she says.
Don't worry if you don't have your s*** together yet.
You've got your diploma - but do you know what you're doing? If not, don't sweat it, says Erin Motz, the co-founder of Bad Yogi, a counter-culture lifestyle and yoga brand. “Forget academia for a moment and follow your curiosity. What piques your interest? Where does your mind wander when you sit in silence? What have you always wanted to try? The path toward ultimate fulfillment and satisfaction with your work starts with following an inkling or a whisper," she says. “For anyone who doesn't feel like they were born to do one specific thing, finding your 'passion' can be daunting because we feel broken if we haven't discovered it yet. The saying goes: 'the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,' so consider following curiosity to be the first step. Then relax and have fun in the process."
Remember the dream job doesn't exist.
We'd all love to sail around the world, sipping on our favorite cocktail and spending copious amounts of money. But even if that was our job, we'd still find something we didn't like about it. That's why Kate Szirmay, the CEO of Jaymark Jewelers and the founder of Kate Szirmay, The Diamond Concierge says to let go of the notion that a 'dream job' exists. “If you pick an industry you love and pay your dues, you will be able to take everything you love and leave most of what you don't behind to create your dream job in the future. It takes time and hard work but it is totally worth it when you get to be your own boss and you love what you do," she says.
Do what you like - and be persistent.
Seems simple enough, right? But too many people are lured into careers they don't enjoy because they worry about making ends meet, paying student loans or having unrealistic goals for their career. But for Anna Shi, CEO and founder of Ever-Pretty, an online destination for affordable, high-quality dresses, doing what she loved and working hard to make it her reality were the keys to success and happiness. “I knew nothing about the fashion industry when I started my company but I loved clothing and I was determined to work with them. And be persistent! Life is hard, work will be hard and frustrating and make you angry at times. You need to persist through the tough times and not give up on your passion. Take your strength from within and think about what you can do to change the situation," she shares.
Do what's right for you - not everyone else.
Everyone has outside pressure - from friends, family members, you name it - but CEO of Elm Tree Medical, Inc. Eva Martin says to try your best to tune them out and do what's best for you. “Don't be afraid to choose the 'wrong' option. I don't mean, 'Don't be afraid of making a mistake.' But, rather, don't be afraid of choosing the option that your advisors, family, or friends think is 'wrong' or too risky or not prestigious enough. If you follow your passion and work like crazy, the 'wrong' option may turn out to be the best one," she explains.
Give it everything you've got with everything you are.
The only way to get what you want? According to co-founder and chief product officer of ARIIX, Deanna Latson, working incredibly hard, no matter the obstacles, is what will set you apart from others. "You have to be true to who you are and go for the gold," she says. “Katherine Hepburn said, 'If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.' I love that! She's known for playing strong-willed women when it wasn't popular. She was unconventional, nonconforming and did a lot for women that up to then had been totally taboo. I admire women who have extraordinary obstacles facing them, but push through and succeed anyway," she says.
Don't settle in love.
While you might think your work life and love life are separate, founder of The Relationship Institute of San Francisco and licensed marriage and family therapist Erica Boissiere says who you pick as your mate has a major impact on your overall life. “If you're not happy, don't feel the spark or feel in your heart that you can 'do better' then don't be afraid to leave your romantic relationship. Breathe into your self-esteem; it can be hard to let go. And while there might be a pull to stay, remember, spending time with the 'wrong' one will prevent you from meeting the 'right one.' If you do end up settling, you will feel this thorn in your side, and if anything, it will just get bigger and more painful. Pull the thorn out now, when less damage will be done. There is someone else; you just might need to go looking," she says.
Realize not everything that's worth it is Instagram-worthy.
For Erin Steed, the founder of Princess Packers, a moving company that protects your valuables during a transition, it's not what a company appears to be via social media that makes them worthy to work at. In fact, sometimes the 'sleek silver MacBooks and vases of pale pink peonies' can attract a new graduate to accept a job, but could be misleading, she says. “Take a chance on a company that may not be so Instagram-worthy. As a female executive in the transportation industry, my office view is a truck yard and acres of mini-storage. On my desk sits a bulky, black dual screen Dell computer and my most helpful contact at the Public Utilities Commission. Our trucks might be unusually eye-catching, but no one's gonna be hashtagging #TruckersLog or #TieDowns. A discussion about adjusting prices to reflect rising diesel costs probably won't make it to SnapChat. What I have found though, is an industry ripe for disruption, and I'm helping to do just that alongside my family and team. The transportation industry is largely male, and mired in the old way of doing things. It's been so rewarding and impactful over the past decade to feel that my perspective stands out, and has been helpful as we change our industry. I encourage you to seek out a space where you may not fit the mold, because that tells me that you, and your unique and fresh perspectives as a young woman, are just what that company needs to continue to grow and innovate. With those unique perspectives, the right company will welcome you with open arms," she says.
Never apologize for who you are.
Sisters Katie & Kelly McMenamin started their business, PixieDidIt!, to give advice to folks on how to be more organized, based on their personality type. That's probably why it's no surprise their best advice is to be exactly who you are, no excuses needed. “Be loud and proud. There's no best way to live - there's only the best way for you. So you write important 'to do's' on your hand in a pinch. Who cares? Don't apologize, defend it and tell any scolds where they can go. If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Don't compare yourself.
So your bestie is leaving college without debt and with a six-figure, entry-level job, while you have an internship. It might be tough to not compare yourself, but founder and CEO of the wine membership, Pour This, Ashley Ragovin says to resist the one-upping temptation. “Comparison is a trap that leads to frustration, interferes with your vision, wastes time, and cripples creativity. Shift your focus to connection: connecting with customers through meaningful work will attract and build a true community and a base that's loyal as heck. You can't fake it, you have to believe in the work you're doing, and it has to come from a genuine place of empathy, but the dividends paid will far exceed financial success. There's plenty of business to be had, so rather than chasing something ambiguous, build something worthwhile," she says.
Always seek out to meet new people.
Kristina Libby, CEO of SoCu, a company that automates influencer marketing, says that after college, you might find yourself spending more time alone. This is normal - since you don't live on a college campus anymore - but it should also be a challenge to yourself to seek out variety, in people and in experiences. “You career path is limited by the people that you know and their stories. Find new stories. Find new people. Ask other people how they got their jobs, from where, and what do they do. Be curious about people and you find the world opening up new doors and new possibilities," she says.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.