The Best Career Advice I Ever Received
Do you ever wish you could get a collection of the best career advice from top experts? Well, now you can. The Cheat Sheet chatted with leading career experts to get their pearls of wisdom when it comes to making all the right moves at work. Here are their tips for how to race to the top of your career ladder.
Choose your career wisely
We start with some advice on career choice from Barry Maher, stress management and leadership expert and author of Filling the Glass: The Skeptic’s Guide to Positive Thinking in Business.
The best career advice I ever got was from my father. It did take me a while to absorb it. But eventually, while standing in a pool of sewage, holding a sewer rooter with a badly frayed chord [sic], I realized the value of my father’s advice that “you’ve got to have a profession, one where you can make a comfortable living comfortably.” And I understood just exactly why he’d worked so hard to put me and my brothers and sisters through college.
Focus on personal growth
Jordan Wan, founder and CEO of CloserIQ, says your personal experiences will help shape your career.
Focus on personal growth. Compensation, title, responsibility and company/product all should take a back seat. Maximize your future potential by choosing a role in which you will learn the skills and acquire the experiences that you’ll need later on in your career. If you have the aspiration to start your own company one day, then take a job at a small company so you see the challenges and learn firsthand.
Take advantage of opportunities
Ruth Nemzoff, Ed.D., an author and a scholar at the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center, doesn’t want you to miss any career opportunities.
Grab every opportunity, even if you don’t have a clue how to do the job. Figure it out!
Focus on your own path
Be clear about your hopes. What are your hopes? Why are they important to you? These questions sound simple, but they are profoundly powerful. Too often, people focus on the hottest jobs, how to get ahead, and what others are doing to succeed. In short, they play off of other people’s scripts for success rather than write their own talent story. This advice shifted my attention from what others are doing to what I want to do and what gives me fulfillment. It took delving deeper into why my hopes are important to get to bedrock. Once I hit that bedrock, however, it made other decisions easier. I was clearer about where I wanted to go. It helped me ask others about ways to help me realize my hopes rather chase what others are doing. It gave me the strength of uniqueness to pursue my path rather than feel that I’m in competition with others. I enjoy feeling called to do my work.
Cultivate your network
John J. Brady, M.B.A., M.Ed., and executive director and principal at Protem Partners, LLC, says a strong network is important for success.
Care for and cultivate your network of colleagues and friends, especially when you don’t need them. Make sure every person you ever had a good working relationship with is someone you initiate contact with for the rest of your career, even if it’s just a 15-minute phone call once a year. In the 20 years before I launched my own business, I never held a job that had been advertised, and I was never unemployed for more than a few weeks. It allowed me to leave jobs I didn’t want to stay in without worrying about what would happen next. When I started my firm, it was profitable in the very first year because people I had stayed in contact with and helped in small ways over time, and gave me referrals and business.
Look for a job while you’re still employed
Despite what most career coaches advise, it is always better to look for a job when you have one. Don’t make an impulsive decision you may regret. If there is some way — any way — to neutralize [a bad job] situation, by all means, try to do so. If not, don’t quit unless you have no other option and the situation is utterly unbearable. Better to be fired and receive unemployment benefits and worry about explaining why the separation occurred later. That is a bridge you cross at the right time.
Use job boards as a reference
Job boards should be used as reference points: They can help us understand the kinds of jobs that are out there and the expertise needed to land them. For example, if employers list “minimum qualifications,” they’re usually serious you need them. Instead of wasting time applying to a job you’re not qualified for, spend your time developing the skills they want.
Try to be polite when co-workers are nosy
Aaron Schmookler, co-founder and trainer of The Yes Works, says co-workers’ intent is usually positive.
Respond to these questions politely. More importantly, assume that your co-workers have positive intent in asking in the first place. You’ll usually be right about that positive intent, and even when you’re not, assuming positive intent will lead you to constructive responses.
Sometimes it’s OK to take a promotion without a raise
Michele Mavi, director of internal recruiting and content development at Atrium Staffing, says promotions have more benefits than just extra money.
There are specific instances when taking a promotion without a raise could benefit an employee. For an employee who might not have quite all the experience to match his or her ambition, being willing to work for a time without the increase in salary might be the perfect way to show an employer that they are ready for more responsibility.