This past July I was thrilled to launch the WE Interviews series. Since then, twice a month, this blog has featured an interview with a C-Suite woman, sharing her own struggles, triumphs, and, most importantly, her advice on how to build a successful career in the world of financial services.

It has been an honor for me to spend time talking with some of the most inspiring, accomplished, and amazing women working in financial services today, and to be able to share their wisdom with you.

As 2012 winds down and our thoughts turn to the New Year, I thought I’d compile some of the best pieces of advice that these women have shared during their interviews.

Put Yourself Out There

Asking for what you want is very powerful, and, in order to move forward in your career, it is essential that you clearly communicate your willingness to take on more responsibility at work.

Gabriela Parcella Franco, CEO of Mellon Capital Management, says, “Don’t think your track record will do the work for you. Be exceptional at your job, build a network of supporters and, when you are ready, communicate that you want more responsibility. Make a convincing case about why you are the right person for the job.”

But just asking isn’t enough. Maliz Beams, CEO of ING Retirement, advises, “You have to ask in the ‘right way’, in a sophisticated way, in a fact based way, that continues to build trust in the relationship. You have to be non-confrontational, but firm.”

Be Passionate About What You Do

All the women I’ve interviewed share a common passion about their work. Anne Finucane, Bank of America’s Global Strategy and Marketing Chief, never thought she’d be a businesswoman, but she was immediately enthralled by the working world.

Finucane says, “By arriving early and staying late, reading everything and being curious, I realized I could advance. I loved that it was a true meritocracy.”

Jane Buchan, CEO and Co-Founder of Pacific Alternative Asset Management Company, says, “I do my work because I like it. It is just who I am. I don’t do this work because I have to do it.”

Keep Learning

The world of financial services is continually changing. Keeping on top of industry trends, new products, and emerging markets is crucial for career advancement.

Kathleen Powers Dunlap, the Managing Director and Head of the Institutional Investor Team at Barclays Capital, says, “The most successful people I know have embraced change and work constantly to keep their skills and outlook fresh.”

Jane Buchan says, “The best piece of advice I ever received was from a grad school professor. He said, ‘Learn as much as you can in your 20s. Work really, really hard in your 30s. And reap the rewards in your 40s.’”

Linda Gibson, Executive Vice President and Head of Global Distribution at Old Mutual Asset Management, says, “I love learning from people and I will continue to absorb what I can from the roles I hold and the people with whom I interact. I’m a huge advocate of change and opportunity.”

No One (Not Even Men) Can Have it All

A vast majority of the women I’ve interviewed juggle their incredibly demanding careers with raising a family. Though this is difficult for anyone, doing it in the extremely demanding world of financial services can be even more challenging.

Most of the women agree that the key to keeping all the balls up in the air can be summarized in two words: ruthless prioritization.

Lisa Jones, Managing Director and Global Head of Sales and Distribution for Morgan Stanley Investment Management, says, “I was able to prioritize more effectively when I accepted that there really is no such thing as balance. The crucial thing is to focus on what is most important at that very moment.”

Bridget Macaskill, President and CEO of First Eagle Investment Management, says, “Family comes first, the job comes second, and everything else comes third. If that meant that I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted to do personally, that was my choice. I think you have to figure out what you are prepared to give up. None of us can have it all. It’s not just women. Men have to make these choices too.”

Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management, says, “Often men try to work all hours, and stay out of the hair of the family life. I make sure I’m there. I do try to get home each evening. It certainly works very well for the children. I know that they’re happy. They benefit.”

The Way to The Top Isn’t Always in a Straight Line

Though success is often thought of as climbing a ladder straight to the top, it is often more complicated than that. Many women I spoke with discussed how family obligations made certain positions difficult or unobtainable at the time, but they never forgot the big picture.

Lisa Jones: “There were times when I couldn’t pursue positions I wanted because it would have been too disruptive to my home life. But I always tried to expand my career so that when those opportunities came up again, I would be able to take advantage of them.”

Anne Finucane: “A career path doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter. While I was able to move my career forward, there were days, weeks, months and probably years when other people stepped ahead of me because I couldn’t always make myself available to all the opportunities. I wanted a good marriage. I wanted to have children. I wanted to be a good mother. And sometimes that meant I couldn’t get on the plane and go to the meeting that would advance my career. However, I would always be thinking, I am in this for more than a year, and I am going to move forward anyway.”

Leave the Negative Thinking Behind

Even though financial services is still very male-dominated, all of the women I interviewed were focused on the exciting opportunities available for women working in the industry. They advised women to embrace what they brought to the table instead of dwelling on the negative.

Marie Chandoha, President and Chief Executive Officer at Charles Schwab Investment Management, told me, “Focus on what makes you good at what you do, and take inspiration from the many role models that are out there. That’s how women in today’s business landscape can get ahead.”

Bridget Macaskill: “Your own success lies more with you than with your surroundings. Don’t waste your energy blaming somebody else. If there is real discrimination at your company that is preventing you from progressing, then you need to leave. If not, you need to be so good that your value cannot be denied.”

Ann-Marie Campbell, regional president for Home Depot, advises, “Be bold. Be you. It is a simple message, but there is a lot of power in that simplicity.”

Give Back

Above all, I was inspired by how generous these C-Suite women are, with their time, their wisdom, and their resources. All are mentors and sponsors, many are philanthropists, some, such as Helena Morrissey with her phenomenal 30% Club, are taking to the world stage as advocates for better gender balance.

Jane Buchan and her husband donate 30% of their gross income to charity. Marie Chandoha does incredible work with the Nature Conservancy of CaliforniaAnn-Marie Campbell shares her passion for the power of diversity by serving on the board of Catalyst, which is an invaluable organization.

I have learned so much from each of them, as I hope you have too. Let’s bring their wisdom with us into the New Year and use their sage advice to make 2013 transformational.

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