Navigating your way to the top is tricky, whether you’re climbing Everest or trying to reach the peak of your profession, and we can all do with advice from the top on how to advance your career, or tips on how to navigate the career “jungle gym,”  as Sheryl Sandberg calls it in her book Lean In.

Here’s how to advance your career according to 5 inspiring CEOs we love.

Get enough sleep and take care or yourself

When it comes to career advancement or progression, sleep might not be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, it’s often the last, after all, you want to be more productive, with all the things on your to-do list.

However, in her book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington stresses the importance of getting a good nights sleep and how lack of sleep can be seriously detrimental to your career and your life. She writes-

“Rob yourself of sleep and you’ll find you do not function at your personal best. This is true of work decisions, relationship challenges, or any life situation that requires judgement, emotional equilibrium, problem solving and creativity”

And it’s no surprise that the Founder and CEO of Thrive Global is on a mission to get us to all to bed earlier since her passion for quality sleep has come as a direct result of her own personal experience.

After surviving on a mere 3 – 4 hours sleep alongside a hectic and high powered career, Huffington woke up in a pool of her own blood to find she had collapsed and broken her cheekbone, the lack of sleep had finally caught up with her. 

In her book The Sleep Revolution, she goes on to discuss how sleep deprivation is a culprit for a whole host of issues from weight gain to Alzheimer’s.

And if you prefer the carrot to the stick-  it might be worth considering that there might be something to the old phrase “beauty sleep” after all, since Arianna Huffington says her youthful glowing skin is mostly down to getting more sleep.

Focus on your own game 

When we’re working towards our goals, it’s easy to get hung up on what other people are doing and what they’re achieving, especially if you’re very competitive, but this is not the path to success according to Youtube CEO, Susan Wojcicki. 

In an interview with Kara Swisher at Recode’s Code Media conference, the Youtube CEO explained her stance when it comes to competitors saying- 

“You always have to take your competitors seriously but you don’t win by looking backwards and looking around, you win by looking forwards…”

Take risks and grab opportunities when they come up

Wojcicki also attributes much of her success to taking risks and making the most of opportunities whenever they came up.

“Opportunities come when you least expect them, or when you’re not ready for them. Rarely are opportunities presented to you in the perfect way, in a nice little box with a yellow bow on top. … Opportunities, the good ones, they’re messy and confusing and hard to recognize. They’re risky.”

So next time a seemingly “not so great” opportunity comes your way- before you pass it up- really consider it, because it might just be the opportunity or challenge you need in order to progress your career.

Ask for feedback

Feedback can be hard to take, especially if it’s not what you were expecting or wanting to hear. But it plays an important role when you’re thinking of how to advance your career. For Marissa Mayer asking for feedback has been one of the keys to her success and the CEO of Yahoo has used feedback to strategically plan her career development and progression. 

“Career progression and promotions don’t just happen, you have to be prepared to be proactive.” Of the promotions she’s received throughout her career Meyer notes- 

“I got every single one of those by asking and getting feedback and planning for it,” she says. “If I want to be a director of product management, what would that look like? What would it take? If I want to be a VP of product management, what would that look like? What would it take?”

Focus on a few things and let the rest go. Let go of perfection. 

For most of us, there’s a mile long list of goals we want to achieve. But having too many priorities can be detrimental to your career and success because it reduces focus. It may be better to pick one or a few things and really hone in on them, leaving the rest. 

In an interview with Fortune Magazine, Ursula Burns talked about the unnecessary pressure that many women put themselves under, to do everything and be great at everything.

The Former CEO of Xerox, now Uber board member, and the first Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company advised- 

“Pick the places that you want to be great and that you really want to focus your energies on, and then do that. Understand that you’re not going to be great at everything and then relax. It’s amazing how much stress we put on ourselves.”

Burns re-affirmed this stance in an interview with ASME where she advised high achieving women to slow down – 

I think we have to slow down, particularly women who have been taught to overachieve in every single endeavour that they enter. Achieving women believe they have to be outstanding every single day at being a parent, spouse, and contributor in your work environment. If you are trying to do that, you are going to crash and burn and very likely not be outstanding at any of it.

Surround yourself with supportive people and be prepared to make sacrifices.  

When it comes to reaching the top as a woman there is often the debate around sacrifice, and the question of whether it’s even possibe to have it all ( whatever all means to you).

Indra Nooyi has achieved great things. As the former CEO of PepsiCo the second largest food and beverage business in the world, and having been ranked as one of the most powerful women in the world on more than one occasion, Nooyi definitely seems to have it all. 

But what does it take to have it all and what can the rest of us do to achieve this level of success? 

Speaking on Bloomberg, the highly inspirational leader gave her advice on this topic saying:

On a relative basis, yes I’ve had it all. On a relative basis I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful husband, two great kids, a very tight-knit family and an awesome job with a great team but to get here and to stay here there’s been lots of trade off’s, lots of sacrifices and under the water a lot  of collateral  damage but I think somehow I’ve had the strength to power through all of that. Can you have it all? That’s the big question, In the definition,  I think if you have the right support system, you have an understanding spouse – if you want to be married. If you are willing to make all the trade-offs that you need to make, you can have it all. 

So, if you really want to advance your career, take it from these inspirational women who have done it.

To summarise: How Can You Advance Your Career? …  

  1. Get enough sleep and take care of yourself
  2. Focus on what you’re doing and don’t worry about what other people are doing 
  3. Take risks 
  4. Be open to opportunities and be ready to grab them when they come up, however messy they might seem 
  5. Ask for feedback and learn from it. Use it to plan your career development and next steps 
  6. Focus on a few things and do them well. Don’t try and do too many things and speed yourself too thin
  7. Surround yourself with people who will support you. 


It’s time for a career health check. Are there any of these areas that could do with improvement or change?