The best advice I ever got

The right advice, at the right time, can make all the difference in a career. Our Women to Watch have much of their own advice to offer, but here they share the best piece of wisdom that was passed down to them, propelling their careers forward or that helped to frame their values.

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“Do what you love and something good will come of it. It seemed so simple, and also impossible, and yet, I keep coming back to it. I often step back and make sure I am doing what I really want to do.”
Paula Shoyer, WTW 2015
The Kosher Baker
Chevy Chase, MD

“The best piece of advice I ever received was to stand up to men (and occasionally, a woman) holding positions of authority and using that authority to bully, demean, and disrespect me. It was positively life-changing the first time I responded to a man who had once made me cry by standing up, slowly drawing myself up to my full height, and telling him he could no longer speak to me like that.  He didn’t apologize, but it never happened again—because I didn’t let it.”
Rosalyn E. Jonas, WTW 2005
Abortion Rights Activist
Washington, DC

“Actually, my dad gave me some incredible advice when I was only 7 years old: He took me to his office and introduced me to his secretary, and then asked her if she would like him to get her a cup of coffee. I quietly whispered to my dad after we left her desk, ‘Shouldn't she be asking you if you wanted some coffee?’ My dad told me that the people who support you make your life so much easier, and that you should do everything possible to make them feel appreciated and respected. Over 40 years later when I opened my own company, I kept that advice close to my heart, and tried to run my ad agency the same way.

Another piece of advice was from my first boss in advertising, a woman by the name of Ruth Downing Karp. After I totally messed up writing an ad, one I had stayed up all night to write, I told her, ‘I'm so sorry, but no problem, I'll rewrite the ad until I get it right.’ She smiled and said, ‘You know, Linda, one day I think you will end up owning your own agency.’ I asked why - assuming she had seen some talent in that first ad I had written. ‘Not at all,’ she remarked, ‘but the fact that you didn't cry or get upset means you have true resilience, and that's the most important thing you will need in this business.’ Years later, I wrote Grit to Great with my co-author, Robin Koval, and I had Ruth's prophecy in my head. She was right - resilience, perseverance and passion are what, ultimately helped me become successful, and it's something I tell everyone who is just starting to embark on their career. If you are lucky enough to be born with brilliance and virtuoso talents, they will only get you so far… The rest is all about grit!”
Linda Kaplan Thaler, WTW 2004
Chairman, Publicis Kaplan Thaler
New York, NY

“Find a cause that speaks to you. Make it personal and carry it deep in your heart. Do whatever you can to take action, to speak out, to make a difference. Your actions can change lives.”
Marla Garchik, WTW 2017
Co-founder and CEO of Peace Love Solve
Boca Raton, FL

“As a young ob-gyn opening a practice in 1979, I didn’t receive much positive professional advice. Few people thought that two young female doctors, a midwife and a pediatrician opening a private practice in the inner city that also worked in neighborhood health centers could possibly succeed! We had to use our own definition of success, which did not include making lots of money. Mostly we had a tremendous amount of support and enthusiasm from our very diverse patients and the communities we served who urged us to be ourselves, feminist clinicians committed to listening to our patients and providing conscientious care. When I started writing a book decades later, my publisher told me: ‘You have a story that needs to be heard’, and that was incredibly useful.”
Alice Rothchild, WTW 1998
Physician, Author, Activist
Seattle, WA

“Dean Anne Lukingbeal at my law school gave me advice that I haven continued to follow: identify the values or characteristics that are most important to you in order to guide your career decisions. For me, those things are 1) be passionate about what you do and feel like you are making a difference in the world; 2) love the people with whom you work; and 3) be challenged intellectually every day. Those guideposts have served and continue to serve me well.”
Nicky Goren, WTW 2016
President and CEO of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation
Washington, DC

“Follow your passion!”
Esther B. Newman, WTW 2011
Founder & Executive Director, Leadership Montgomery
Rockville, MD

“I was told to take advantage of attending important meetings. It isn’t enough to just get a seat at the table. Make sure you have a voice at the table too. Of course, we all need to use that voice wisely, but I use this guidance as an internal push during meetings when I know I have something meaningful to add to the discussion.”
Anna Isaacson, WTW 2017
Senior Vice President, Social Responsibility, National Football League
New York, NY

“‘Don't let any one tell you that you can't, because you can!’ As a young woman professional with no female role models, I relied on many of my male colleagues, teachers, as well as my incredible husband and friends for encouragement.  It was heartening to have those voices who told me to ‘Go for it!’ when the going got tough or the dream appeared too big. There are those who want to keep you down or in your place when you are a young woman. I am thankful that I had other voices encouraging me to think big and stand tall. And at 4 feet 11 inches, I smile now as I think back, because I have been thinking tall my entire life!”
Rabbi Amy R. Perlin, WTW 2012
Senior and Founding Rabbi of Temple B’nai Shalom
Fairfax Station, VA

Some quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.