Twelve years ago, Rhoda Israelov started a scholarship program to encourage women in the Butler College of Business to enter the financial services field.   Today the program has been expanded to provide value to women in all areas of the College of Business.  One of the programs for these women is an annual Career Tea.  The event introduces the students to a number of professional women who share their stories, advice and perspective.  In addition to the panel discussion, this is a first introduction for many of these students.

This year, Rhoda invited me to be a part of the program, sharing the panel with an awesome group of women from all walks of life.   I have to admit, I was writing as furiously as some of the women in the audience as my peers shared their thoughts.  While directed at young women, many of the comments may resonate with men and women of all ages.

So what advice did we have?  Many of the women on the panel shared advice on courage and life balance, planning and anticipating change, and the need to stay current. We suggested these women recognize that their first marketing challenge is building a  product called “Brand You”.  Here are just a few of my favorite comments:

Elaine Bedel, President, Bedel Financial Consulting:

On money:  Learn to handle money early.   Live within your means and avoid lifestyle debt. Learn the difference between good debt and bad debt, and start saving now.  The more you save earlier in your career, the more choices you will have later in your career. 

Barbara Branic, President for Regions Bank, retired

The only real obstacle facing women entering the workforce today is lack of confidence.   Everything else can be overcome if you have that. 

Barbara Milton, Vice President Community Relations, Buchanan Group

The most important skill is intense curiosity.  To be successful, you have to have a willingness to learn.  Don’t be afraid to ask when you don’t know, and continually learn new things. 

So what did I suggest?   More then anything I think you have to continuously fuel your creative muscle.

Spend time with all sorts of people.  Create a circle across ages, races and personal style.  Include people in  your circle who don’ process information the way you do or value the things you value, then ask their opinion.

Taste everything.  Mom told you to try the broccoli before  deciding you didn’t like it.  That is good advice in many areas of life.  Go to concerts or art exhibits you don’t think you will like, for the experience.  Try new software, or hardware even if you don’t immediately see the relevance to your life or business.  Look for opportunities to expand your experiences, you never know where your inspiration will come from

Embrace failure.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  It will happen.  Learn from them!  Do it better the next time, and Never make the same mistake twice.

I was really impressed when I spoke with with these   women after the panel discussion.  I am confident many of them will go on to do extraordinary things.  What advice would you share with them to help them on their way?