Shattering the Glass Ceiling: 5 Pieces of Career Advice from Hillary Clinton

Advice from Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton may be running for President, but she’s traveled a difficult road to reach this point. As the former Secretary of State and US Senator (from New York), as well as one-time beleaguered First Lady (among many, many other roles she’s held since her graduation from Wellesley in 1969 and Yale Law School in 1973), her path serves as an inspiration to young working folks across the nation. Women, specifically, can gain valuable insights into their own career journeys by taking a close look at hers. Here are a few bits of advice we’ve gathered from her interviews and speaking sessions.

Control how you respond to events

“I think that if you live long enough,” Clinton explained to Marie Claire, “you realize that much of what happens in life is out of your control, but how you respond to it is in your control.” As we work to make our way in the world, we deal with unquestioned expectations that don’t materialize; we also experience sudden swerves that push us miles off our pre-set course, for better or worse. We can’t change this. But we all have the power to make the most of whatever happens.

Don’t worry about being perfect (most men don’t)

As Clinton explained in an interview with Glamour, women are held to a far higher standard when it comes to getting things right—perfectly right—the first time time. For some reason, segments of our culture have trouble watching ladies stumble when attempting a complex move. Women often face intense pressure to master new challenges immediately (not to mention, gracefully). This expectation can limit the range and scope of your learning process. While we’ve all seen men barely fumble through an attempt and then stride away with an air of self-congratulation, we rarely see women do this. And we should. Perfection is neither real, attainable, or interesting. So do what you want to do? If you miss the first time, try again. Then again. When you decide to stop, stop.

Ask for help and advice

There’s a strong chance that you can handle higher levels of responsibility than you imagine. If you push yourself past your comfort zone, you’ll be surprised by how far your experience, training, and instinct can take you. Reach out and ask for help. “Too many people,” Clinton says when asked about traits she respects most in her direct reports, “have this deep-seated fear that if they ask for help, they will be thought less of. In my view, they’ll be thought more of.”

Emulate a rhino

As she did in an interview with Time magazine, Clinton often cites her heroes and predecessors, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, who advised ambitious women to keep their hides durable. “Have a skin as thick as a rhinoceros,” she said. Let meaningless judgements roll off, but accept purposeful criticism with open arms. And don’t take either personally. Trolls don’t deserve a moment of your attention, but legitimate mentor feedback can shape your progress without knocking you down.

Embrace the turmoil of your 20s

In a conversation with Lena Dunham, Clinton spoke directly to an audience of women in their 20s. For most of us, this is a confusing chapter full of possibility, change, and self-doubt. Clinton’s advice: Accept this reality and embrace it. Our 20s are a wild ride, and this decade of life offers little certainty and few easy answers. Keep an open mind and be ready to pivot between goals and ideal visions of the life you’d like to lead. Meet others, learn from their experiences, try new things, and don’t expect your path to be set in stone. Go where it takes you. For more inspiration and insight as you build your life and shape your career, turn to the expert resources at MyPerfectResume.