The Best Reader Comments on Career

When it comes to life advice, the conversations that happen in the comments section are always overflowing with wisdom. So, we’re happy to start regularly sharing our favorite reader quotes in various categories — from parenting to beauty to overcoming grief. To kick off the series, 12 readers share their smart career tips (including how to get that raise)…

On working hard:

“I had a teacher who always used to say, ‘No job too big, and no job too small.’ He meant that we should rise to the occasion when challenged to take on something that might seem beyond us, and that we should not feel too important to do basic tasks that keep things running. That way, you make yourself indispensable to your workplace. I swear I held onto my job in publishing through endless rounds of layoffs during the recession not just because I’m a good editor, but because I was the only person in the office who knew how to un-jam the copier.” — Ramona

On connecting with others:

“Everyone you work with is a human being behind their title, and when I finally applied this to client meetings and networking events, it made small talk much easier — people love to find common ground in pop culture, relationships and humor. Don’t be afraid to share what makes you an individual in a conversation because it will stand out in a sea of corporate speak.” — Brooke

On asking for more money:

“An HR professional once told me that when she presented job offers to candidates, she was frustrated to observe a pattern. Almost as a rule, male candidates asked for more money while women simply accepted the proposed salary. And the clincher is that the company often would have paid them more — if asked! To advocate for oneself isn’t being pushy or ungrateful, and no one should think less of you for asking. More likely, they just consider it part of the process.” — Sophie

“Listing accomplishments is something I see as a year-round project. Any successes, praise, side projects or unexpected turns I handle throughout the year, I write down immediately. A Google document, email draft, note on your phone or anywhere you can track these will be helpful. I’m always amazed how much I forget over the course of the year.” — Eva

“I recently asked for a raise and was concerned about seeming entitled or greedy. I got some great advice beforehand that was crucial to my success: 1) Don’t say TOO much. Prepare a speech that states the value you’ve added and stick to the script. I heard from several managers that employees ramble on when they’re requesting a raise and take too long to get the main point – more money! Plus, having something rehearsed in my head kept me from being so nervous. 2) If you aren’t making a lot of money to begin with, the standard 3-5% is just not going to make a major impact on your life. If you want to ask for more, just state the number. My mentor gave me a great line to use at the end: ‘Given these contributions, I respectfully ask that [insert company] raise my salary to [insert number].’ I was asking for a $10K raise, which I felt was fair given my contributions and similar roles at other companies. By stating my end goal instead of the percentage, it didn’t seem like an excessive ask. Ask directly and don’t use any language that qualifies the request, such as ‘I hope’ or ‘I know it’s a lot to ask, but…’ After I was done with my prepared speech, my manager actually told me it was the most eloquent request for a raise she had ever received. And I ended up getting what I asked for!” — Julie

On not sweating the small stuff:

“I had a boss who would give himself 10 seconds to freak out (scrunched up face, deep gasp, hands covering his eyes – he was a real character!) about bad news (team missed a deadline, etc), sigh, then say ‘OK, it is what it is. We need to make a plan for what to do next.’ Such good work AND life advice! It’s helpful to give yourself time to experience shock, disappointment, anger, grief, sadness and feel it intensely and passionately if need be — then move on and build from it.” — Mirella

On owning a mistake:

“Take ownership when you make a mistake. Clearly say it was your error and what you will do to fix it. Everyone is also trying to shirk blame but you can get respect by owning it and making it right.” — Hillary

On tackling tough meetings:

“Think of what’s going to happen AFTER the meeting (or any situation that makes me nervous) — could be next week, could be next year. Picture how I will feel when I say to myself, ‘Hey, remember when you asked for that raise? Why was I so nervous?’ This helps me get things into perspective. After all, that meeting is going to take up 15, 30, 60 minutes of your WHOLE life. So insignificant!” — Paula

On communicating clearly:

“Reframe your instinct to apologize into an opportunity to express gratitude. So, instead of saying, ‘Sorry that meeting went so long,’ you could say, ‘Thank you so much for staying engaged for a full hour.’ Instead of saying, ‘Sorry for making so many requests,’ say, ‘Thank you so much for taking the time to share this information with me.'” — Amelia

On managing your finances:

“If your company has a 401K, sign up. If they match or contribute, all the better, and even if they don’t, STILL SIGN UP.” — Lan

On changing careers:

“My grandma graduated college at 72 (oldest in her graduating class!) and retired the next year. I always think of her when I worry that I’m older than other people changing careers. Always reminds me of the quote, ‘Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.'” — Steph

“I come from a family of worriers and perfectionists (unfortunate combination). So for a long time, pretty much age 13 to just last year (I’m 32), I felt immobilized by this fear of who I am and what I’m doing with my life. I got this advice from my brother a couple years ago and I’m only now taking it to heart: QUIT AND QUIT OFTEN. Try anything and everything that interests you and if it isn’t working, quit it and move on. Contrary to popular opinion, failure can come from not trying.” — Emmanuella

What career advice would you add?

P.S. How to ask for a raise, and best reader comments of all time.

(Photo from Mary Tyler Moore.)