All jobs have minor to major inconveniences that may cause you some frustration. Try not to give up, and begin to view these unexpected inconveniences as temporary as you continue to do your best at your job despite these inconveniences.
45 Pieces of Career Advice That Will Get You to the Top
And that’s why we’ve gathered our all-time best career advice. From starting out at the bottom of the totem pole to advancing to a more senior position to—who knows?—maybe even branching out to open your own business, we’ve collected 45 of the best tips for whatever stage you’re at in your career.
- The best career or job is the one in which you’re using the skills you enjoy. But, not every job needs to address all of your passions. Use every job as an opportunity to learn something new and keep an open mind; you may find that you really enjoy something you never imagined would appeal to you.—Miriam Salpeter, Founder of Keppie Careers
- Don’t take yourself (or your career) too seriously. Plenty of brilliant people started out in jobs they hated, or took paths that weren’t right at the beginning of their careers. Professional development is no longer linear, and trust that with hard work and a dedication to figuring out what you want to do with your life, you, too, will be OK!—Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse
- Every person you meet is a potential door to a new opportunity—personally or professionally. Build good bridges even in that just-for-now job, because you never know how they’ll weave into the larger picture of your life.—Kristina Leonardi, Career Coach
- My friend Andre said to me, “You know, Marissa, you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to pick the right choice, and I’ve gotta be honest: That’s not what I see here. I see a bunch of good choices, and there’s the one that you pick and make great.” I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten.”—Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!
- No matter how low on the totem poll you are or how jaded you’ve become by your to-do list, it’s still important to show up early, wear something sharp, and avoid Facebook like the plague. I discovered that when I acted like a professional, I suddenly felt like my work was a lot more valuable. “Looking the part” boosted my confidence, helped me begin to see myself as a highly capable contributor to the team—and ultimately led the rest of my team to see me in the same light.—Lisa Habersack, Writer
- Remember that a job, even a great job or a fantastic career, doesn’t give your life meaning, at least not by itself. Life is about what you learn, who you are or can become, who you love and are loved by.—Fran Dorf, Author and Psychotherapist
- If the career you have chosen has some unexpected inconvenience, console yourself by reflecting that no career is without them.—Jane Fonda
Tips 8-15 On Advancing Your Career
- Every year or two, spend some time really thinking about your career. Go out and warm up your network, check out new opportunities, and do some salary comparisons. You make smarter career decisions when you have real data. Also, if you are afraid or uncomfortable, you are probably onto something awesome! Fear means you are growing your comfort zone.—Christie Mims, Career Coach
- Don’t be afraid to speak up in a meeting or to schedule a sit down with a colleague or boss—whether to hash out details on a project or deal with a sensitive situation. When it comes to having your ideas heard, or to really connecting with co-workers, never underestimate the power of face time and the importance of in-person communication.—Catherine Straut, Assistant Editor of Elle
- Some people think the office is the place to be all power, all brilliance, all the time. And while you should strive to make a powerful and brilliant impression, an occasional question or clarification won’t discount your abilities—but it may help you squeeze through a tricky situation with your reputation intact.—Sara McCord, Staff Writer and Editor at The Muse
- Take criticism or “feedback” for what it is: a gift given to you to make you better at what you do. Don’t concern yourself with the person or the method of delivery. Instead, glean out the teachable nuggets and move on.—Michelle Bruno, President of Bruno Group Signature Events
- I know. You’ve heard it a thousand times: Dress for the job you want, not the one you’ve got. But I think this message goes far beyond the clothes you wear every day: It’s how you present yourself in meetings and at office events, how you interact with staff both above and below you, and how seriously you take your work.—Adrian Granzella Larssen, Editor-in-Chief at The Muse
- In chaos, there is opportunity. Most major career accelerations happen when someone steps into a mess and makes a difference.—Kristi Hedges, Leadership Coach
- Work harder than everyone under you or above you. Nothing commands respect more than a good work ethic. This means being the first one at the event in the morning and the last one to leave in the evening. No one said this gig was easy.—Keith Johnston, Event Consultant at Plannerwire
- Having a mentor within your company is particularly valuable—she can identify opportunities for advancement you might overlook, guide you through challenging projects, and help you build relationships with higher-ups. Most importantly, if she’s influential, she can earn you recommendations for special projects or teams that you might not have been considered for otherwise. And these are the factors that are going to pave the way for success at your company.—Jessica Taylor, Writer
- I first heard Zig Ziglar say it when people challenged him on his “positive attitude” manifesto: “You can do anything with a positive attitude better than you can do it with a negative one.”—Lea McLeod, Career Coach
- Work hard and be nice to people. It’s a very simple motto I try to live by daily.—Marie Burns, Recruiting Leader at Compete
- There’s never going to be a precisely right moment to speak, share an idea, or take a chance. Just take the moment—don’t let thoughts like “I don’t feel like I’m ready” get in the way. Look to see if you have the main things or the opportunity will pass you by. Don’t let perfect get in the way of really, really good.—Kathleen Tierney, Executive Vice President and COO of Chubb Insurance
- Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids.—Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google
- No matter what your dream job is, you’ll likely hear “no” many times before you achieve your goals. Just accept that as a fact. But by refusing to accept that “no,” you’ll separate yourself from the pack. Sometimes you just have to outlast the competition—and wear down your boss!—Shannon Bream, Supreme Court Correspondent at FOX
- Tenacity and persistence—nothing beats it. Even if your talent isn’t there yet, you can always develop it to what it will eventually be. But people who are persistent and tenacious and driven and have a really clear, defined goal of what they want, nothing compares to that. Not giving up is really huge.—Catt Sadler, Anchor at E!
- Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. No one got to where they are today without help along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask, and then remember to return the favor.—Elliott Bell, Director of Marketing of The Muse
- Even if you aren’t feeling totally sure of yourself and your abilities, it’s important you present yourself otherwise. That means shifting your body language to portray confidence. So, while you may be so nervous before your big interview or meeting that you want to curl into a ball, resist the temptation to cower or make yourself smaller, and walk in with your head held high.—Michele Hoos, Writer
- My advice for everyone in the industry is to find a mentor and to be a mentor. You’ll learn a great deal from both of these experiences, and make sure to leverage these roles for networking. Ask your mentor for introductions, and introduce the person that you’re mentoring to others—both will increase your visibility in the industry.—Mariela McIlwraith, President at Meeting Change
- I live by the 80/20 rule. 80% of the impact can be done with 20% of the work. It’s the last 20% that takes up the most time. Know when to stop, and when things are close enough.—Alex Cavoulacos, COO at The Muse
- Having a strong network adds to your value as an employee. In other words, the more people I can reach out to for help, the more valuable I am.—Hannah Morgan, Founder of Career Sherpa
- Do what you say you’re going to do.—Danielle LaPorte, Entrepreneur
- One of the most important things I’ve found is the importance of playing to your strengths. I think it’s common for us to learn while in school that if you get an A+ in writing and a C- in math, that you should focus your time and attention to getting better at math. In the working world I find it to be the opposite; by putting your focus on those things that you are strongest at, over time you will become an expert at it. By outsourcing your weaknesses to others who excel in those areas, you’ll be able cover those weaknesses better than you could have otherwise. Trying to be great at everything could be spreading yourself thin and keeping you from reaching your full potential in your strongest areas.—Ryan Kahn, Career Coach
Do what you say you’ll do
It is essential that you match your words with your actions. Employers appreciate employees they can trust and depend on. If you tell your leader you can finish a project by a certain date, then you should take the necessary steps to finish the project accordingly. Relationships are essential to any business, and without trust, a relationship cannot be cultivated. Once you become accountable, you will notice that you attract those who you can also count on.
Many successful professionals have become successful because they ask important questions. You should maintain a curious disposition and ask questions. Asking questions will build your knowledge and contribute to your learning process and development. You may also consider asking questions about things that are not directly related to your job title if you think it could help you gain a better understanding of your organization as a whole.
Don’t be afraid to speak up
Meetings are meant for employees to share their thoughts and ideas on important topics that affect the business. If you have an idea or if you have a reason to believe an idea shouldn’t be implemented, then you should mention it in a professional way with accurate data to back up your claims. You may also request a face-to-face meeting with a supervisor if you need to discuss a sensitive matter or ask for advice. When you participate and speak up, employers will notice that you care about your job and take it seriously.
Dressing for the job you want goes beyond the clothes you choose to wear. It includes the way you present yourself overall, such as your attitude, the way you address people at work and how you adorn yourself physically. These items will reflect how important your job is to you.
What he was referring to was my unwavering commitment to telling my clients they were wrong if they suggested anything that contradicted my research-backed insights. I didn’t care about building relationships. I only cared about reporting on the facts and making sure everyone else based their work on said facts.
Every week, sometimes every day, someone writes to me asking for advice about the career they should take. I can’t, unfortunately, respond to them all, so I thought I should try to formulate some general guidelines, which I hope people will be able to adapt to their own circumstances. This advice applies only to those who have a genuine choice of careers, which means, regrettably, that it does not apply to the majority of the world’s workforce. But if the people writing to me did not have choice, they wouldn’t be asking.
While this guidance may be applicable to some people working in other areas, the examples I will use all come from journalism, as most of those writing to me want to be journalists, and this is the field in which I have mostly worked. Before you take it, I should warn you not to rely on my word alone. I can’t guarantee that this approach will work for you. You should take advice from as many people as you can. Ultimately, you must make your own decisions: don’t allow me or anyone else to make them for you.
The first advice I would offer is this: be wary of following the careers advice your college gives you. In journalism school, for example, students are routinely instructed that, though they may wish to write about development issues in Latin America, in order to achieve the necessary qualifications and experience they must first spend at least three years working for a local newspaper, before seeking work for a national newspaper, before attempting to find a niche which brings them somewhere near the field they want to enter. You are told to travel, in other words, in the opposite direction to the one you want to take. You want to go to Latin America? Then first you must go to Nuneaton. You want to write about the Zapatistas? Then first you must learn how to turn corporate press releases into “news”. You want to be free? Then first you must learn to be captive.
The advisers say that a career path like this is essential if you don’t want to fall into the “trap” of specialisation: that is to say, if you want to be flexible enough to respond to the changing demands of the employment market. But the truth is that by following the path they suggest, you are becoming a specialist: a specialist in the moronic recycling of what the rich and powerful deem to be news. And after a few years of that, you are good for little else.
This career path, in other words, is counter-educational. It teaches you to do what you don’t want to do, to be what you don’t want to be. It is an exceptional person who emerges from this process with her aims and ideals intact. Indeed it is an exceptional person who emerges from this process at all. What the corporate or institutional world wants you to do is the opposite of what you want to do. It wants a reliable tool, someone who can think, but not for herself: who can think instead for the institution. You can do what you believe only if that belief happens to coincide with the aims of the corporation, not just once, but consistently, across the years (it is a source of wonder to me how many people’s beliefs just happen to match the demands of institutional power, however those demands may twist and turn, after they’ve been in the company for a year or two).
Even intelligent, purposeful people almost immediately lose their way in such worlds. They become so busy meeting the needs of their employers and surviving in the hostile world into which they have been thrust that they have no time or energy left to develop the career path they really wanted to follow. And you have to develop it: it will not happen by itself. The idea, so often voiced by new recruits who are uncomfortable with the choice they have made, that they can reform the institution they join from within, so that it reflects their own beliefs and moral codes, is simply laughable. For all the recent guff about corporate social responsibility, corporations respond to the market and to the demands of their shareholders, not to the consciences of their employees. Even the chief executive can make a difference only at the margins: the moment her conscience interferes with the non-negotiable purpose of her company – turning a profit and boosting the value of its shares – she’s out.
This is not to say that there are no opportunities to follow your beliefs within the institutional world. There are a few, though generally out of the mainstream: specialist programmes and magazines, some sections of particular newspapers, small production companies whose bosses have retained their standards. Jobs in places like this are rare, but if you find one, pursue it with energy and persistence. If, having secured it, you find that it is not what it seemed, or if you find you are being consistently pulled away from what you want to do, have no hesitation in bailing out.
Nor does this mean that you shouldn’t take work experience in the institutions whose worldview you do not accept if it’s available, and where there are essential skills you feel you can learn at their expense. But you must retain absolute clarity about the limits of this exercise, and you must leave the moment you’ve learnt what you need to learn (usually after just a few months) and the firm starts taking more from you than you are taking from it. How many times have I heard students about to start work for a corporation claim that they will spend just two or three years earning the money they need, then leave and pursue the career of their choice? How many times have I caught up with those people several years later, to discover that they have acquired a lifestyle, a car and a mortgage to match their salary, and that their initial ideals have faded to the haziest of memories, which they now dismiss as a post-adolescent fantasy? How many times have I watched free people give up their freedom?
Not all feedback is created equal.
Alison Watkins, group managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil, started her career as a self-described “insecure overachiever.” Due to her insecurities about her work skills, Watkins was someone who aimed to please, which made her very vulnerable to the judgments of others. However, she eventually realized that people who pass judgment may not actually have particularly good judgment.
Having spent many years in very senior roles, Watkins learned to adopt a different perspective when she realized that taking on everyone’s judgments wasn’t serving her. “I’ve become a lot better at accepting that not everybody is going to agree with the choices that I make or the things that I say or do,” Watkins told me. “I have learned to value the judgment from those who are well placed to be wise or considered, and their feedback is really important to me. And I try not to leave myself vulnerable to the judgments of less informed people.”
Pro tip: Instead of reacting to all feedback immediately, take a moment to reflect on the feedback giver. Ask yourself: Do they have your best interests in mind? Do they have experience or expertise in the subject they have given you feedback on? If the answer is no to either question, you might want to re-consider taking on the feedback to heart.
Flirt with your future self.
It’s normal to get urges to try out different roles or career paths. But instead of doing something dramatic like jumping ship or enrolling in a two- or three-year degree, Scott D. Anthony, a global innovation thought leader and senior partner at Innosight, is a fan of Herminia Ibarra’s suggestion to “flirt with your future self.”
“The idea is that you consciously experiment and ‘try on’ different roles, and indeed leadership styles, to see what fits the best,” Anthony said. “For example, I think that a natural next act for me someday would be to become a teacher. But will I actually like teaching? There are small experiments I can do in my current role that help me understand that better, which includes talking to people who have made similar transitions to see what surprised them.”
Pro tip: Try to get out of work mode and get into play mode more often. As Anthony suggests, treat it as a little experiment. Feeling inclined to make a new career move? Make a list of five people you can speak to who can provide insight into this career. For example, if you want to pivot into travel blogging, ask colleagues who they think the best travel bloggers are and reach out to them on LinkedIn or other social media channels for a chat. Turn up your curiosity and make a list of things you want to know and questions you might ask. For example: How do they make money? How did they get their start? How many hours do they work?