Career advice from Most Powerful Women

May 31, 2011, 8:09 PM UTC

FORTUNE — Last week’s Fortune Most Powerful Women dinner in Manhattan convened established stars, like Martha Stewart and Barbara Walters, with rising stars, like Chelsea Clinton and Barbara Bush. Two daughters of political dynasties converging in the same orbit.

And then there were 26 rising-star women from across the developing world–each a participant in the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring program. These young women were in the U.S. shadowing American women leaders–and hearing, at the dinner, how to succeed.

Google VP Marissa Mayer, No. 42 on the Fortune MPW list, advised taking career risks–as she did in 1999 when, fresh out of Stanford University, she chose Google, then a brand new startup, over a slew of big-name companies. Google was barely ready for its first female engineer, who was Mayer, and she was barely ready for Google. But, she explained, “I wanted to work for smart people, and I wanted to do things I wasnt’t ready to do.”

[slideshow] Photo credits: Asa Mathat

While Diane Sawyer bowed out of the MPW dinner last minute to fly to Joplin, Mo., to cover the tornado disaster, Walmart EVP Susan Chambers paid homage to Missouri’s heroes. At a Walmart in Joplin that got flattened by the twister, Chambers told us, a store manager had taken it upon himself to figure out which wall inside the store was the sturdiest. One wall of the Walmart stood through the storm; by gathering 200 people behind it, he may have saved 200 lives.

Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, whom I interviewed on stage, dished out essential career advice: “Do what you love.” With her daughter Melissa Bean, a student at NYU, in the audience, Burns talked about a key career moment,  over a decade ago, when she lost faith in Xerox and took a job at Dell –and then she reversed her decision. Burns stayed at Xerox. And over her career there, she rose from summer intern to CEO, the first Black female CEO in the Fortune 500.

More power to Burns and all those she inspires. Here’s the Xerox chief with me on stage at the MPW dinner, telling her story.