Inspiring Advice From Real Mentors

Meet a highly successful person and chances are she has a mentor—or two or four! We asked professional women around the country for the most useful piece of advice a mentor has given them. Each answer is conveniently short and easy to remember—like a mantra. Repeat these proven words of wisdom to yourself and to others!

by The Texas Conference for Women
jen smith
Jen Smith
Photograph: Larissa Rogers

‘Start before you're ready.’ I happen to be a perfectionist and sometimes I perfect myself to death! I try to get everything just right before I launch a product, a new website, etc.  Sometimes you just have to DO IT and fix mistakes along the way!” —Jen Smith, social media and marketing strategy consultant at

‘Speak your truth.’ When I got a publishing deal for my book, Maxed Out, I was thrilled...and simultaneously terrified it would ruin my career. The book is a deeply personal story about a taboo subject: job burnout. I thought that once people read the book, I might never get hired again. I had a mentor at the time who encouraged me to speak my truth. He said that we are at our most powerful when we learn to maintain our authentic self in all aspects of our lives, including work.”—Katrina Alcorn, author and consultant at

‘Take time to build a relationship—and show your value—before you make an ask.’ Not that I always do it!”—Joan Williams, author and director of the Center for Worklife Law at the University of California (Hastings)

‘Don’t ever change.’ While this may sound indulgent, I took it to mean that I should be myself. It was given to me in the context that I was different. Clearly all of us have development opportunities but this feedback gave me wings and the confidence to leverage my strengths. Whenever I feel uneasy, I always remind myself of this conversation and it centers me. It also reminds me of what I bring to the table.”—Carla Piñeyro Sublett, Dell’s executive director of marketing for Latin America

“‘Slow down.’ I tend to want to get everything done quickly. For example, I’m growing a garden for the first time, and I got impatient as I wondered if carrots were growing, so I started pulling them up and checking on them. (They were tiny.) At work, my impatience can be good and bad. I’ve been able to accomplish a lot but it’s also taken me time to learn about the culture of a college workplace. The pace can be slower.  Sometimes you need to introduce an idea and let it sit, not pushing people to offer feedback or make decisions right away.”—Jessica Bacal, author and director of the Wurtele Center for Work & Life at Smith College

This story was originally published by the Texas Conference for Women. This year's Texas Conference for Women will be held on Thursday, November 13, 2014, at the Austin Convention Center.

Next: Jane Pauley's Advice on Finding Your Inner Voice

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