Michele Buck, the first female CEO on Hershey's 123-year history, has this advice for women who want to advance to the executive suite: accept challenges that are outside your "wheelhouse" and make a difference in everything that you do.
Those comments came in an interview with Fortune after she was named one of the 50 most powerful women in business for the first time by the national business magazine.
During her 12 years at Hershey and 17 years at Kraft, Buck says she always accepted challenging assignments even though she didn't feel prepared for them.
“The times I learned the most and developed the most are when I took those opportunities that were outside my wheelhouse,” she revealed. “I grew so much as an individual and learned that I had something in me that I didn’t realize before.” She is credited with leading Hershey to make several strategic acquisitions outside its traditional confectionary product, including the purchase of Krave beef jerky.
“Make an impact in every single assignment that you are given," she advised. "Look at it as how can I take this to the next level. And be confident in yourself. I think women just don’t have as much inherent confidence in themselves. They tend to be harsher critics of themselves than they need to be. So go for it.”
During the interview, Buck attributed hard work to her success. She was named CEO of Hershey last March.
“I grew up in a very humble family,” Buck said. “My mother lived on a farm with no indoor plumbing. My father was the first in his family to graduate from high school and I learned very early, the values and virtues of hard work. I think there is no substitute for hard work.”
For more from her interview, please watch the video here.
And in the video at the top of this story, she talks about her first job -- running a paper route. "Look for unexpected opportunities," she advised. "You might be surprised what you find."