09/08/2011 05:27 pm ET Updated Nov 08, 2011

Barnard Panel Offers Women In Their Twenties Secrets Of Success

NEW YORK -- While many 20-something women embarked on their dreams of a college education when a decent-paying job was virtually guaranteed, the rules have suddenly changed, with a new generation coming of age during an era of significantly reduced options.

Last night, on the second day of classes at Barnard College in New York, Glamour magazine hosted a sold-out event geared toward distilling the secrets of success for 20-something young women. The panel was part of the magazine's annual Top Ten college women competition, which honors 10 high-achieving undergraduates each year.

Hosted by Cindi Leive, editor-in-chief of Glamour, the panel included actress Taraji P. Henson, political blogger Meghan McCain, author Danielle Evans, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor and racecar driver Danica Patrick.

Leive solicited the panelists' advice for college students facing a difficult job market. “What does it take to be successful in your twenties?” she asked. “What will it take to make your mark and really live your dream?”

Here was some of their advice for women who are just starting out:

  • ”You really have a huge advantage on your side. More than any other time in your future life, you don’t have to worry that much about making money yet,” said Kantor, who made $18,000 a year in her first job after graduating from Barnard more than a decade ago. “Compared to the obligations you’ll have 10 and 20 years from now, you’re so free.” Given that freedom, Kantor said, young women should go after the best experience they can get, even if that means bartending a few nights a week in order to be able to make ends meet while working at a dream internship during the day.
  • McCain cautioned young women to be careful about what they’re putting on the Internet, be it on Facebook, Twitter, or their personal blogs. “You can inhibit yourself from getting a job because people will be looking at what you’re saying and what you’ve been posting,” she said. “And no drunk Tweeting.”
  • In the current unstable economic environment, when even the safest of career paths are no longer sure bets, Evans encouraged students to still pursue their passions. “My advice is to build the life you want around the things that you love," she said. “There is no net and the sooner you understand that, it will liberate you to pursue what it is you really want to do.”
  • Henson also encouraged young women to resist fear, despite the weak economy. “You can’t be scared because fear can debilitate you,” she said. “You have to stay optimistic. You have to take a risk. You can’t let fear take over.”
  • Finally, when it came to seemingly doing it all, Patrick stressed the importance of learning how to set limits and say no. Kantor also encouraged young women to think ahead in their personal lives, underscoring the critical importance of eventually selecting the right mate: “Marry someone who will split the child rearing with you.”