Networking your way up (Photo: iStock)

A quick Google search on ‘famous career women’ yields results such as Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis, Hillary Clinton and Vera Wang.

These are women who have prospered in various fields, and they are specialists in the careers they have undertaken.

Oprah is a media mogul, Viola is an Oscar-winning actress, Hillary is a renowned politician and Vera is a guru in fashion design.

One thing they have in common is that they have been fearless and relentless in the pursuit of their ambitions.

What lessons can we learn from such phenomenal career women? Here are tips on how to scale up the career ladder, with insights from women who have triumphed in their professions:



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Doing something that you love will drive you. There will be a sense of fulfilment and less of that whole ‘working’ feeling.

“Aligning with your purpose is a surefire way to make sure you are always growing. Your purpose is not necessarily the goal of your specific role. It is something deeper that ignites a sense of intrinsic value, or the sense that the work you’re doing has inherent worth,” The Muse, a career website reports.

Oprah Winfrey said in an exclusive interview produced for the #WatchingOprah exhibition, that purpose is “being used for something greater than myself.”

“When you get money, and you don’t have to worry about the day-to-day, you get to settle into who you’re meant to be in the world- without struggling and striving,” Oprah said.

“Now, how do I use this? That is my prayer, constantly. And has been even before I had the money.”


Forbes Magazine reports that one of the ways women can advance in their careers is by being fearless and tenacious.

“Do not take no for an answer. If they say it cannot be done, ask why. And if you can’t get a seat at the table, create your table,” the business magazine reports.

The celebrated actress Viola Davis overcame the odds and went on to be successful, as detailed by the Harvard Business Review.

“Born on a former plantation in South Carolina and raised in Rhode Island, Viola Davis grew up amid extreme poverty, bullying, racism, and abuse. She found her way out through acting and graduated from Juilliard,” the report notes.

“Her breakthrough film role came in 2008, in Doubt, for which she earned the first of her four Oscar nominations. She has since starred in The Help, Fences, How to Get Away with Murder (on TV), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and The Woman King.”

The actress said in a recent interview: “My new favourite saying is ‘I want to be brave.’ And I do not want to stumble into my grave saying I wasn’t brave enough. Listen, all I have is my life. I can’t trade it in for another life. It is all I have.”


You should think of your network as your net worth, like the popular saying.

“Professional networks offer an environment to grow professionally. Think of your network connections as your key professional support,” career website Indeed reports.

The report adds: “Networking also involves staying connected with people you already know, such as former coworkers and managers who might alert you to potential opportunities within their companies or fields. Depending on your relationship, they may also put in a good word on your behalf.”

In an interview with CNBC, celebrated fashion designer Vera Wang said that she was struggling to find her perfect wedding dress when she created her own company.

Dipping her foot into the world of fashion took reaching out to connections who would steer her in the right direction.

“I always sort of dreamed of being a fashion designer, and I thought, well if I don’t try it now, I am never going to be able to do it,” Vera said.

She added: “So I went to Ralph Lauren through my connections to Vogue and became a design director for all of women’s (clothing) there. When I saw what it takes to build that kind of empire, if I had been sane, I probably would have stopped there.”

Later, she left Ralph Lauren with the encouragement of her father, who saw her struggling to find the dress and told her: “I think there’s probably a serious business opportunity here.”

Forbes Magazine encourages women to start their businesses to level up in their careers.

Christine Rose, founder of CEOAccel, a virtual community for CEOs of businesses, told the magazine: “You will learn so much and add huge value. Create your own game and start at the top.”


“Leverage your accomplishments and experience, talk about them matter-of-factly, demonstrate how your set of skills will benefit the company, and ask for what you want assertively,” Sonia Maslovskaya, the founder of SoniaMPower, says women in an interview with Forbes.

She says that many women feel uncomfortable negotiating a salary, discussing a promotion or asking for a raise, while the majority of our male counterparts have no problem doing so.

Career website Indeed reports that you should learn how to negotiate at every stage of your career.

“There are many situations in which you may negotiate throughout your career. From agreeing upon a starting salary to signing off on your retirement package, negotiation is often an integral part of every step of your professional life. Knowing the different scenarios that may require negotiation can help you better prepare for when these situations arise,” the report notes.

The site lists instances when you may have to negotiate, including when receiving job offers and seeking raises and promotions.