Condoleezza Rice shares 5 great ways to get ahead in your career

Dan Schawbel, Contributor
Bryan Bedder / Stringer | Getty Images

Condoleezza Rice, best known for serving as the 66th United States Secretary of State under George W. Bush, the first African-American woman ever to hold that position, spent years making difficult decisions under pressure. She has documented her experiences in several books, including her latest, "Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity," which examines how political action can affect businesses and explains how to navigate the inevitable disruptions that occur.

Currently, Rice is a professor of Political Economy in the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a professor of Political Science at Stanford University. In addition, she is the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, and she's on the board of directors of both DropBox and Makena Capital Management, LLC.

Here's what she has to say about getting the job you want, finding good mentors, embracing diversity, making better decisions and using technology properly.

Be willing to stretch to get the job you want

Instead of waiting around to get your dream job, or a promotion, Rice says that you need to be willing to stretch to make it happen. She notes that this is particularly important for women. "Women in particular sometimes are not aware of how they can translate certain skills into other skills and they tend to say, 'Well, I'm not ready for that.'"

Be confident and willing to use your skills to reach for better jobs in order to advance in your career.

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Find and nurture good mentors

Rice says that mentorship can't be forced and must be organic. "Mentorship comes when a mentor and mentee realize that they have something in common," she says. Good mentors advocate for their mentees and mentees need to work hard to support their mentors in return.

Long-term successful mentoring relationships need to be mutually beneficially for both parties involved. When selecting a mentor, Rice suggests you find people who you admire and who have achieved what you're aiming to achieve.

Surround yourself with a diverse group of people

"One thing that diversity does is it gives you people who have come from different backgrounds and different experiences," she says. That can help you prevent the group-think that can occur in many homogeneous organizations.

Aside from being able to solve problems more quickly, Rice says that an "inclusive environment is one that is healthier" because you're "dealing with people who are different than you are and it makes you a better person as a result."

Condoleezza Rice receives the Billie Jean King leadership award during The Women's Sports Foundation's 38th Annual Salute To Women in Sports Awards Gala.

Gather information before making critical decisions

In order to make the best decisions possible, especially under intense pressure, Rice suggests gathering as much information as you can. In order to do that, you need to ask a lot of questions, especially if you're not an expert on the subject matter.

After you gather that information, she suggests you ask yourself, "What is it we're trying to achieve here and how can I best achieve that given the limitations that are in our face?" By asking the right questions, you uncover enough data to make more informed decisions that lead to better outcomes.

Learn how to communicate using technology

While technology can help you communicate effectively, Rice says it's key to pay attention to what message you are actually trying to send when you use it. "Technology has a lot of benefits, but it's not a panacea. You have to still craft messages, know when you're using technology, when you're not, and use it in an appropriate way."

Technology is not a solution in and of itself but a tool, one that must be used wisely.

Dan Schawbel is a partner and research director at Future Workplace and author of "Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation." Follow him on Twitter @DanSchawbel.

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