Lessons for Women's Careers from Hillary Clinton's Historic Career Achievement

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Whether you like Hillary Clinton and will vote for her or not, her career has culminated in breaking the biggest glass ceiling yet for women: becoming the first official female nominee for President of the United States of a major political party.

It's still harder for women to achieve career heights than it is for men. The obstacles are at times subtle, structural, financial, internal and cultural, and sometimes all of the above.

It's particularly hard for women in middle management. Middle managers (male and female) have to deliver on the promises their higher-ups make, often without the authority and/or budget, and yet with more demands on their time and fewer resources to juggle it all satisfactorily, especially women. Having a middle management job in any sector is the same game of influence management, strategic choices, and communication.

So, what can women learn from Hillary's (HRC) journey? Here are my thoughts:

1. Over-prepare: Do your homework and walk in more prepared that you think you need to be. It'll give you confidence as well as credibility, and you can address anything thrown in your path with aplomb.

2. Be over-qualified: Women have to be far more qualified than their male counterparts in order to ascend professionally, unfortunately. Like her or not, HRC's résumé shows she's eminently qualified to be President.

3. Reinvent yourself: As circumstances, players and your priorities change, be flexible and take on new projects, new jobs, new relationships and new perspectives in order to grow and succeed. Changing your mind on issues as you have new experiences and information means you're growing.

4. Stretch yourself: Take on and ask for assignments and jobs that will challenge you. Women tend to be promoted on performance (vs. men on potential, don't get me started on that), so women need to prove their ability to do "it." Think differently, ask for stretch projects and jobs, and develop new skills.

5. Consider the consequences: Actions, choices and decisions have consequences, some predictable and others not so. Even HRC has said in retrospect that having a private email server as Secretary of State was a dumb idea, but she should have known that before she made the decision; after all, she's not a political/ government novice and she had run for president by then. What's the worst case scenario of your decision? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

6. Admit mistakes: We all make them, and admitting them will put the fire out faster and make people feel you're authentic. It's disarming and human.

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7. Create and nurture relationships: Have advisors, engage people who disagree, network, and nurture people. Smart advisors make you smarter and more successful. I believe in multiple mentors, much like a political candidate or leader has experts in energy, foreign policy, education, healthcare, or the economy. Everyone has their own strengths and perspectives and having multiple ones helps you see various sides of an issue, especially what may derail it, and help you find your own internal GPS. Also, "make new friends and keep the old," as the Girls Scout song says, and support their goals, especially when you don't need their help. You won't agree with them 100 percent of the time, and that helps you both.

8. Engage male champions: Whether it's your COO, your VP, a male boss, professor or colleague, or your husband, women who excel have men who go to bat for them and support them. (Choose your mate especially carefully).

9. Be okay with "likeable enough"*: Being a strong, accomplished woman means some people won't like you. Get over it. You'll take stands and make decisions that will upset some people's agendas and they will, ahem, show their displeasure. Agree to disagree, stay the course you believe in, and accept that you won't please everyone. (Traditional cultural mores about women die hard.)

10. Stay focused: Your goals matter and you're the only one who makes them happen. Every goal takes steps and tasks that aren't always fun, so focus on the endgame and know those steps are leading there. Other people's agendas (reflected in your email inbox and social media!) will try to distract you, so notice when they do (and when that's okay. Notice how you spend your time. Writing that novel or business book on weekends will get it done too, for example.


11. Remain calm in the storm: Stuff happens, so find a way to keep your center. Exercise is my magic wand for stress management, so is quality sleep. In addition, keep an invisible field around you, like a moat, a space to evaluate "in-coming fire" before you respond. Responding is very different from reacting (if you're watching this presidential season, there are endless examples). It'll help you manage your time and focus too.

12. Develop your own style and systems: From communication, to clothing and hair, to how we manage our time and systems, these are all personal styles. You'll find those that work best for you, and they will likely evolve as you do and as your goals evolve. HRC's style: highly productive use of time, a communication style that's a little stiff for some people, and she made pantsuits classy.

13. Show your sense of humor and be authentic: A gentle wit disarms situations, cools rising tensions and helps most people feel more comfortable around you, want you to succeed, and support you more often (you'll never win over everyone). Smile!

What management or career lessons have you gleaned from the ascension of Hillary Clinton to presidential nominee? Share them below in the comments, or tweet them to me @joanmichelson.

If you read this far, check out my previous Huffington Post blog on why "Every Woman Deserves Applause" not just Hillary - it may surprise you.

* As then-Senator Obama put it in a 2008 debate.
All photos by Joan Michelson unless otherwise noted.