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.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."