Career Advice for Millennials From Women Who've Already Conquered the Workforce

Updated 03/07/18
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Millennials tend to get a bad rap for being lazy, avocado toast–obsessed, and overly dependent on technology, but there is so much more to this buzzworthy generation than stereotypes alone. It's a generation of ingenuity and bold, new ideas. Millennials have already taken the workforce by storm, and many are just now seeking their first real "adult" jobs, hoping to begin promising, new careers.

Searching for a job that you're passionate about or deciding on a career path can be a major challenge. However, young people looking to enter the workforce and embark upon new careers can heed the advice from those who have come before them and learn from their diverse experiences. That's why we tapped six women who have already forged inspiring career paths for themselves. They're rocket scientists, CEOs, and innovators who've started nonprofits, created original products, and built e-commerce sites (some of them are even millennials themselves).

Ahead they'll spill their best career advice for millennials. Take note.

Chelsea Nassib, Founder of Tappan

Courtesy of Chelsea Nassib DESIGN: Original Graphic by Viviana Duron

Chelsea Nassib is the founder of Tappan, an e-commerce website that connects consumers with gorgeous artwork and provides a network for emerging artists. A millennial herself, Nassib just landed on the latest Forbes 30 Under 30: Art & Style list.

MY DOMAINE: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? Who was it from?
CHELSEA NASSIB: My father makes the same New Year's resolution every year—be positive! Every day, I try to find the positivity within circumstances, people, and things, and it completely changes your outlook.

MD: What career advice would you give to your younger self?
CN: Trust yourself. Trust that your intuition is leading you in the right direction and that by taking this leap of faith, you'll wind up doing something you are really proud of.

MD: What was the first job you ever had?
CN: The first job I had after college was for an interior designer. I started as a junior "anything and everything" person, slowly gaining more and more responsibilities. By the time I left, I was designing, project managing, and overseeing most of the company's operations, and it was my experience there that made me realize I was capable of running my own company.

Trust that your intuition is leading you in the right direction and that by taking this leap of faith, you'll wind up doing something you are really proud of.

MD: What's the biggest mistake you made starting out and how have you learned from it?
CN: Everything I did while starting out was a mistake. We make mistakes all the time and continue to do so. I think what's important is to recognize the mistake, fix it, and keep going. The hardest part is not being discouraged by your mistakes and to find it in yourself to keep going because you know your purpose is something great.

MD: Who was a person you looked up to when you were just beginning your career? Why did they inspire you?
CN: My dad is and has always been my greatest inspiration in my professional life. His contagious positivity and belief in me have always made me feel that I could achieve anything. To this day, he is still the person I go to for advice and one of my biggest role models.

MD: What's one thing you wish all millennials knew about starting a career?
CN: Having an idea is only the beginning. That spark is definitely essential, don't get me wrong, but the fuel that drives a business forward is hard work, persistence, and collaboration. Without those elements, an idea remains an unrealized dream.

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Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise, Co-Founders of Sakara Life

Courtesy of Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise DESIGN: Original Graphic by Viviana Duron

Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise founded Sakara Life, a plant-based home delivery food service company, back in 2012 after seeking a better balance between food and nutrition. They've since expanded their team and deliver to 48 states across the country.

MD: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? Who was it from?
WHITNEY TINGLE: The best piece of advice I ever received was to always be in service to others. If you make your business about you, when you give up or fail, you only disappoint yourself, but if you do it for others, there is no giving up. We founded Sakara on the mission to help as many people feel amazing in their bodies through the power of food as medicine. It is that mission and the hundreds of testimonials we receive from clients every day that keep us motivated when times get tough.

And having a real impact on people's lives and the future of the world is also the most rewarding thing about being an entrepreneur.
DANIELLE DUBOISE: A Kabbalah teacher once told me to always get better, not bitter. Be proactive, not reactive.

MD: What career advice would you give to your younger self?
WT: Starting a business is like having a baby—you'll never feel prepared enough and there's never a good time, but you just have to do it. It will be the hardest thing you ever do, but when you are in service to others, it's also the most rewarding.


DD: Know your superpower. Make sure you have a skill that you know you're the best at, and it will become invaluable as you grow your career. Also, being an entrepreneur isn't the only way to success—working for a brand you believe in is just as rewarding.

MD: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? Who was it from?
WHITNEY TINGLE: The best piece of advice I ever received was to always be in service to others. If you make your business about you, when you give up or fail, you only disappoint yourself, but if you do it for others, there is no giving up. We founded Sakara on the mission to help as many people feel amazing in their bodies through the power of food as medicine. It is that mission and the hundreds of testimonials we receive from clients every day that keep us motivated when times get tough.

And having a real impact on people's lives and the future of the world is also the most rewarding thing about being an entrepreneur.
DANIELLE DUBOISE: A Kabbalah teacher once told me to always get better, not bitter. Be proactive, not reactive.

Starting a business is like having a baby—you'll never feel prepared enough and there's never a good time, but you just have to do it. 

MD: What's the biggest mistake you made starting out and how have you learned from it?
WT: One of my biggest mistakes was underestimating the power of Gwyneth Paltrow. We had no idea that when our first feature landed on Goop that we would receive such an overflow of orders. And when I showed up in the kitchen to get to making all the orders, only one of my chefs and a new woman we had hired for bagging was standing there, [and] when I walked into our walk-in refrigerator and found that the cauliflower had molded, I called my husband crying from inside the fridge. [He and a friend] dropped what they were doing and came out to help—cauliflower in hand—it was a difficult day, but it taught me so many things. 1) Hiring good people is the most important thing you can do, 2) it's okay to ask for help—you can't do everything on your own, and 3) the power of love and friendship.
DD: When I was younger, I took everything to heart and was emotional about every piece of criticism or piece of feedback. I learned quickly that nothing is personal, and in order to succeed, I had to learn to let people have their own stories without it impacting me in a negative way. Now, I seek out people who will tell me the truth and give it to me straight. I crave feedback and honesty, and it's such a better emotional place to be in, as it supports growth rather than shame or sadness.

MD: Who was a person you looked up to when you were just beginning your career? Why did they inspire you?
WT: When I first started my career, I thought I wanted to be a financial advisor like Suze Orman. I had grown up watching her on TV before bed and loved her no-BS attitude. She was just as strong and respected as any man in that role. She was logical and confident and offered great advice—all qualities that still inspire me to this day.
DD: Oprah. Doesn't everyone say this?! She taught me that what you think, you create and that I am in control of my destiny. She also taught me that I must always be in service to others. Last year we got to meet her, as she made us a part of her Super Soul 100—the next generation of leaders. She was just as fabulous in person!

MD: What's the biggest mistake you made starting out and how have you learned from it?
WT: One of my biggest mistakes was underestimating the power of Gwyneth Paltrow. We had no idea that when our first feature landed on Goop that we would receive such an overflow of orders. And when I showed up in the kitchen to get to making all the orders, only one of my chefs and a new woman we had hired for bagging was standing there, [and] when I walked into our walk-in refrigerator and found that the cauliflower had molded, I called my husband crying from inside the fridge.

[He and a friend] dropped what they were doing and came out to help—cauliflower in hand—it was a difficult day, but it taught me so many things. 1) Hiring good people is the most important thing you can do, 2) it's okay to ask for help—you can't do everything on your own, and 3) the power of love and friendship.
DD: When I was younger, I took everything to heart and was emotional about every piece of criticism or piece of feedback. I learned quickly that nothing is personal, and in order to succeed, I had to learn to let people have their own stories without it impacting me in a negative way.

Now, I seek out people who will tell me the truth and give it to me straight. I crave feedback and honesty, and it's such a better emotional place to be in, as it supports growth rather than shame or sadness.

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Nithya Ramanathan, CEO and Co-Founder of Nexleaf Analytics

Courtesy of Nithya Ramanathan DESIGN: Original Graphic by Viviana Duron

Nithya Ramanathan is the CEO and co-founder of Nexleaf Analytics, a nonprofit technology company that focuses on public health and climate change interventions in low- and middle-income countries.

MD: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? Who was it from?
NITHYA RAMANATHAN: I think you have to be willing to be an imperfect person and also to be open to new possibilities and say 'yes, and' to others' ideas. My advisor in grad school, Deborah Estrin, embodied the idea of not being afraid of failure and being open to new ideas. She completely demonstrated this in everything she did when I worked with her, and it became second nature to me. You cannot be afraid of failing or feel bad because of it, otherwise, you won't learn from it.

You also have to be willing to grow from failures and work with ideas that don't necessarily fit with your initial plan. Going in with a 'yes, and' attitude opens up opportunities and enables you to learn from failure.

MD: What career advice would you give to your younger self?
NR: Something I've noticed in young people now is that social media, movies, and other cultural influences have created a really false expectation of perfection for your personal image or experiences, and these expectations of perfection extend to your career as well.

My daughter's piano teacher recently asked me 'how do you do it all?' and I said 'honestly, I don't! I screw up constantly!' Experiences are not always glamorous and easy, especially when you start something new, and you have to accept these imperfections as part of the process. They don't mean you aren't succeeding.

MD: What was the first job you ever had?
NR: My first job was serving frozen yogurt in college. I got fired for just being a terrible employee.

Things are never as glamorous as they seem, but that doesn't mean that they're wrong.

MD: What's the biggest mistake you made starting out and how have you learned from it?
NR: In grad school, I did a research project on sensor networks to measure arsenic in groundwater in Bangladesh. At the end of the project, I realized the local people thought they were going to get a solution to the problem, but it was just a research project. I eventually raised money to build a deep well in the village to enable them to access water that was not tainted with arsenic, but I never asked questions like, "who is going to maintain it after I'm gone? How are they going to pay for upkeep?" I still worry about that. These mistakes have influenced everything about how Nexleaf is built.

MD: Who was a person you looked up to when you were just beginning your career? Why did they inspire you?
NR: When Nexleaf was first starting out I was and still really am inspired by Kevin Starr, who is the managing director at the Mulago Foundation. His approach is unique, and he makes the impossible seem possible. It's really inspiring.

MD: What's one thing you wish all millennials knew about starting a career?
NR: Even when you choose the correct path, it still includes times that are difficult or bumpy. Things are never as glamorous as they seem, but that doesn't mean that they’re wrong. The most important thing at any stage in a career is finding your tribe: people who believe in the same things and can really work together. Particularly with nonprofits, lots of people want to start their own, but many times you can find people who are already doing what you believe in. When you find your tribe, anything becomes possible.

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Olympia LePoint, Award-Winning Rocket Scientist

Courtesy of Olympia LePoint DESIGN: Original Graphic by Viviana Duron

Olympia LePoint overcame many obstacles to become an award-winning rocket scientist. She's helped launched 28 NASA space shuttle missions and recently wrote her own book Answers Unleashed.

MD: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? Who was it from?
OLYMPIA LEPOINT: The best piece of advice I received was from my mother. She said, "honey, major in math or English. Either one will still be needed 100 years from now." She was right. And I built my careers on both.

MD: What career advice would you give to your younger self?
OL: 1) You will change your career at least five times because a job title does not define you. 2) Save for your retirement in your own investment accounts as if you are your own CEO.

3) Don't get bogged down with your future's details. Just pick a destination and have faith it will come into reality with hard work.

MD: What was the first job you ever had?
OL: The first job I ever had was a math tutor at California State University Northridge. I was hired by the late Jane Pinkerton. The math tutoring job was the only job that would hire me since I was only 16 years old as a freshman. Her faith in my skills gave me courage. And in turn, I mastered mathematics, graduated top of the class, and eventually launched rockets.

You will change your career at least five times because a job title does not define you.

MD: What's the biggest mistake you made starting out and how have you learned from it?
OL: The biggest mistake I made starting out was thinking that everyone had the same work ethic and humanitarian care as I processed. I quickly learned that I cannot expect everyone to have my work ethic, drive, or caring conscience. I have excelled in life mainly from a strong work ethic and from choosing to own up to the work involved in transforming my life into success. When you do the work to accomplish a goal, it changes you from the inside out.

MD: What's the biggest mistake you made starting out and how have you learned from it?
OL: The biggest mistake I made starting out was thinking that everyone had the same work ethic and humanitarian care as I processed. I quickly learned that I cannot expect everyone to have my work ethic, drive, or caring conscience. I have excelled in life mainly from a strong work ethic and from choosing to own up to the work involved in transforming my life into success. When you do the work to accomplish a goal, it changes you from the inside out.

MD: Who was a person you looked up to when you were just beginning your career? Why did they inspire you?
OL: Two men come to mind. Albert Einstein and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both men changed the course of history. When I was 27, I spoke to a crowd of 1000 people. The words came through my being as they did through Dr. Martin Luther King. At that moment, time stood still for me personally, as I knew my calling was to speak to millions of people. Like both Dr. Martin Luther King and Albert Einstein, I envision my work receiving [a] Nobel Peace Prize.

I combine ignition, integrity, brainpower, and science, so people can harness the energy to change their worlds.

MD: What's one thing you wish all millennials knew about starting a career?
OL: In my Answers Unleashed LIVE talks, I explain how to use your brainpower to transform an idea into a reality. Your job is to invent—that is to take an idea and birth it into reality. The only way that you can do this is to find mentors willing to you how to do things. You must learn the history of how things were done, and you must execute ideas continually to become an expert.

And you must find people who are willing to show you the steps of how to execute tasks. You can find a parent, a teacher, a friend, a co-worker, a friend of a friend, professional coach. There are tons of people who are looking for you to share their knowledge.

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Abigail Stone, Founder of Otherland

Courtesy of Abigail Stone DESIGN: Original Graphic by Viviana Duron

Abigail Stone used her background in art acquisition and venture capitalism to launch her own endeavor. After earning an MBA, Stone created a game-changing candle company called Otherland as a way to merge art, design, and fragrance.

MD: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? Who was it from?
ABIGAIL STONE: Best piece of business advice was "Don't take the deal." A few times in the early days of Otherland, investors approached me with a "special deal" to get in early at a drastically lower price or for extra "advisory shares" that effectively did the same thing. I've heard this is especially common for female-founded companies. Though I felt at those times like I had few to no other funding options, having the patience and conviction in my company to wait it out for the right investor-partner was the right move.

Don't be afraid to say no.

MD: What career advice would you give to your younger self?
AS: It's okay for your first job (or your second or third) to not be the right role. Accept this and move on quickly!

MD: What was the first job you ever had?
AS: "Biscuits Incorporated"—I loved dogs and wasn't allowed to have one, so I started a business walking and exercising my neighbors' dogs. I'd make little obstacle courses on our lawn and run around with them—I loved it!

When you're first starting out, if you get the feeling this isn't right for you, know that's okay. Having the courage to walk away means you will find a job you love.

MD: What's the biggest mistake you made starting out and how have you learned from it?
AS: My first job out of college was what I thought at that time to be my dream job at my dream company. It turned out to be far from what I had expected and frankly didn't play well to my strengths, but it took a long time for me to admit that I was miserable and it wasn't the right role for me. I also felt I was lucky to have a job and the prospect of getting off the career ladder on my current path and having to restart everything was too daunting. When you're first starting out, if you get the feeling this isn't right for you, know that's okay. Having the courage to walk away means you will find a job you love, and there's nothing wrong with you if the first one (or second or third) didn't work out.

MD: Who was a person you looked up to when you were just beginning your career? Why did they inspire you?
AS: My mom! She used to say that part of how she judged her career success was how many former employees were now in her management role at other institutions. Mentorship was major for her. On my first day of work after college she gave me a notebook she had written called, "Thoughts on Starting a Career", with tips like how to respond when someone proposes an idea you don't necessarily agree with ("ah, that's interesting! let me give it some thought!") or to always bring a notepad and pen when your boss calls you into their office.

MD: What's one thing you wish all millennials knew about starting a career?
AS: Consider working at a startup over a large corporation! You'll have an opportunity to do more and advance far faster than you would otherwise.

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Calling all millennials—what's the best career advice you've received? Share your wisdom in the comments below.

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