Relationships

“The Best Career Advice I’ve Ever Received”

What's the Best Career Advice You've Gotten?

Once upon a time, I was freaking out over an impending job change, when my former boss told me something that changed my life…

She said, “People hesitate so much before making career decisions, but the decision itself doesn’t matter. The important thing is what you do AFTER.” Her point was that sometimes, when you’re considering an offer or deciding whether to make a jump, it can feel like you’re staring down the rest of your life, when really you’re just taking a step. Later on, you can readjust, or change course, or make an entirely different decision. She helped me understand that no decision is final, so don’t be afraid to proceed.

Because sharing is caring, I asked 12 women to share the career advice that has helped them the most. Here is what they had to say:

Find Your Board of Directors
“My longtime mentor told me that everyone needs their own personal ‘board of directors.’ These are people you can call for advice in any given career scenario. Who do you call when negotiating a contract or salary? Or when dealing with a challenging colleague? Or when you need advice on a company’s culture? I have a range of people who sit on my personal ‘board’ — everyone from previous bosses to friends from different stages of life.” — Alexandra, corporate communications director

Be Curious
“One of my first bosses would yell down our magazine’s hallway, to no one in particular: ‘Is no one curious any more?!!!!!’ I didn’t understand it at the time (dismissed it, in fact, due to the delivery format) but ultimately that urgent focus on curiosity is something I now encourage others to do: always ask why, always dig into and explore an unfamiliar reference, don’t cling to the well-worn path as there’s rarely anything new or memorable there. I just don’t shout it from the rafters.” — Susan, marketing director

Be Mindful of Feedback
“My best advice came from my (annoyingly enlightened) little brother. He said, ‘Receiving feedback on your performance is important for development, but not all feedback should be internalized.’ He explained that you can choose which pieces of feedback to internalize and which to discard. It’s important to be open to criticism — even to seek it out — but don’t assume that just because it was given by a superior, it must be right.” — Stephanie, management consultant

Know Your Worth
“I keep a running document of all the things I’ve accomplished, because it’s easy to get caught in the daily routine and at the end of the day, week, month, year have a hard time seeing the bigger picture of your impact. This is helpful when asking for a raise or promotion, but also helps you understand your own worth.” — Arsie, human resources manager

Learn From Your Mistakes
“An early mentor told me, ‘A great engineer is measured not by never making mistakes, but how they handle themselves when they do.'” — Katie, engineer

Don’t Overthink It
“I remember agonizing over a decision and asking my boss for help. Should I go with this location or that one? I gave him the pros and cons of each, and he said, ‘Sometimes there isn’t a right one.’ This has helped me enormously in directing, where you have to be decisive in the moment. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter. Sometimes either would work. Move on!” — Lisa, TV commercial director

Your Path is Your Own
“I’ve been with the same company for ten years and sometimes question if that’s too long. But recently, a managing partner from another company came to speak to my office women’s group. She told us she’s been with her company for over 20 years, and advised us that as long as you keep expanding your knowledge and growing in your role, and are being treated well, there is no need to change jobs throughout your career. I was so relieved to hear this.” — Ilene, accountant

Be an Open Book
“A colleague once told me, ‘Perception is reality.’ At first I thought it was superficial advice, but then I realized it was TRUE. Nobody knows what’s inside your head — they only see what you present to the world. As a literary agent, I’m an open book with my colleagues. I share what I’m working on and whatever challenges I might be facing, and I’ve found that it disarms people, inspires real connection and allows me to control the way I’m understood, both as a person and a professional.” — Eve, literary agent

Include Everyone
“Some of the most innovative ideas I’ve seen take shape have been a result of the highest paid person in the room taking the time to gather information from everyone in a meeting, even the interns taking notes in a corner. Ask everyone’s opinions, and treat everyone you meet (no matter their level) with respect and open-mindedness.” — Taylor, social media editor

Embrace a Different Story
“Don’t be afraid to disappoint your past self who made a plan that doesn’t fit now. You have learned and changed along the way, and so those past efforts weren’t wasted; they were what you needed to get the perspective you have now. Trust the decisions you made in the past were right for that time, and make the decisions that are right for you now. — Abigail, ob-gyn

Put Yourself Aside
“My best career advice came from a frustrated art director. We were looking at book cover designs together and I kept saying, ‘I don’t like that font’ and ‘I don’t like that color’ and she finally said to me, ‘This isn’t about your personal tastes. It’s about what works on this book.’ And that is one of the most important lessons a collaborator can learn — to put yourself aside and focus on the needs of the thing you are helping to make.” — Susan, editorial director

Trust Your Instincts
“The best advice I’ve gotten was actually very simple: ‘You know much more than you think you do.'” — Avery, executive editor

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? Please tell us in the comments!

P.S. 10 things I’ve learned in my career, and 11 pressing questions for an ob-gyn. Plus, more great career advice.

  1. innie says...

    If I told you what career field I am in and then told you this advice, you would likely lose faith in my profession haha (so I won’t tell you what it is). Anyways, early in my career, a senior colleague said to me “fake it until you make it”. I had no idea what the hell I was doing, but I think that was her way of saying to just keeping show up until it suddenly clicks and makes sense. Keep persevering and don’t give up.

    • T says...

      I’m assuming you’re a surgeon.

    • Marie says...

      Nope, you’re an attorney! Am I right??

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i guess doctor, too!

  2. Stephanie says...

    “Take feedback seriously, but not personally.”
    I have to remind myself of this often–about both positive and negative feedback. Just because I did well doesn’t mean I can do no wrong. And similarly, just because I have a lot to improve doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i often say “i’m learning” and that helps me deal with negative feedback. then i’m like, okay! now i know! now i can learn!

  3. Stephanie says...

    I have returned to school after an extended break. I have worked as a certified pharmacy technician for several years, but still didn’t know what I wanted to be “when I grew up” (I’m 31, haha) until I had my daughter. She has given me motivation and direction like I have never felt before. I’m back in school now for nursing. Specifically, I want to work in postpartum care.

    It’s never too late to find your soul’s home.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Emily says...

      the women who cared for me after a tough delivery/post-partum experience were godsends. I cannot express how valuable I think that role is, and how I pondered for a long time how women could ever treat each other poorly after having a baby and having another, caring soul help you through the aftermath.

  4. Steph says...

    My mother taught me the value of hard work. She was a single mother with two daughters. We did not have a lot of extra things growing up, but we had the kindest mother in the world and the hardest worker I have ever known. She taught me to work hard and be kind. Now I’m teaching my daughter the same.

  5. joanie says...

    I returned to school to be come an RN at 45 after careers in teaching and social work. It was always my first dream. As I was working out the details with my advisor, I realized it might take 4-5 years to make up old sciences etc.. When I remarked my concern about this, my advisor said…”You will be 50 years old, no matter what.” It gave me perspective. I graduated on my 50th birthday (shared with Florence Nightingale) and worked in nursing for 17 happy and wonderful years. I have retired, but keeping my license. It has been my most happy productive work of my life. Never give up a dream.

    • Emma says...

      Congratulations. Thank you for sharing. I will remember this.
      Emma =)

    • Leigh says...

      So inspiring! Thank you!

    • Thank you and Thank you

  6. Savannah T says...

    I was unsure about changing jobs at one point in my life, because I had reached my maximum potential with the company I was at and I was told by one of the co-workers, “You can’t let others stand in the way of you succeeding in your career, sometimes you have to move on from a company to expand and grow yourself, and you can’t let someone stop you from doing that.”

  7. Viv says...

    Similar to “Perception is reality”, I sometimes say “Fake i till you make it” to myself before daunting events / meetings / whatever it is where you need to be confident. In my experience, as long as you seem like you know what you’re talking about, people believe you and perceive you this way. Of course I don’t want to recommend bullshitting. I just think this applies especially to women as we tend to be overcritical about our own competencies (“Should I present this in front of everyone? I am not reaaaally an expert on that!”). Yes, you definitely should! :)

  8. Kate says...

    I took a job leap a few years ago–it was a major pay cut but a good opportunity to get back into public health–and a few weeks in I wasn’t sure it was “the one,” either (mostly because it was more boring than I expected, although I’m very aligned with the mission). I told that to my very practical dad, who scoffed “Are you hoping for a dream job? Every job is going to just be a job at some point!” It resonated and it’s true! There’s a lot of “boring” data behind the most effective public health programs. I stuck it out and have been quickly promoted to a leadership role and now feel I can try to make the day-to-day a little less boring for my team.

  9. Leanne says...

    LOVE THIS POST! So true and it really resonated with me. ALL OF IT. Thank you for sharing these comments. My advice….go with your gut. It’s almost always right!

  10. Rachel says...

    I am currently moving on to a different story, but it took me a long time to get there. I originally planned to attend law school (I was waitlisted when I applied) but I ended up getting a job to support myself. After four years of trying to make law school work (and with so many other life changes in the middle), I just applied and got accepted to a totally different graduate program and I’m super excited to be going back to school in the fall. I have told myself that it’s okay to occasionally wonder about “the one that got away”, but that I need to not dwell there or second guess the path that I’m now pursuing. “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.” (Sophia Bush)

  11. Danielle says...

    My favorite professor and mentor (who I am still very close with to this day) told us, “do what you love and the money will follow” — which is also a book by Marsha Sinetar (check it out) that she gave each of her top students upon graduation. The point is, follow your heart and passion, not the money. When you truly enjoy what you do, it makes all the difference. 9 years later, and I still LOVE my job in PR, and remind myself that if I ever stop loving it, then it’s time to re-think.

  12. Tabby says...

    I hope one day, that the words of career wisdom will come as much from our mothers as our fathers. I love the comments here but I am a little sad that the vast majority quoting a parent are quoting Dad.

    • Katie says...

      Hmmm. I wonder if you were reading a different article? I went back and looked and didn’t see any advice from a dad. When you read the article, you’ll be glad to see that much of the advice came from female bosses/colleagues/mentors!

    • Katie says...

      Sorry, I just didn’t read your comment very well. You were talking about the comments, not the article. My bad!

  13. Erika says...

    This was wonderful. Somehow all advice I needed? (!)

    An amazing boss, mentor (and now best friend) of mine reminded me every day to HAVE FUN. I think a lot of us get into our routines at work and every aspect of our role becomes monotonous. We would have a 10 hour day ahead of us and make an active decision to make our day a joyous one.

    Also, recognition (when deserved and thoughtfully shared) is a life changer in the workplace and also in the home.

    x
    Erika

  14. HTM says...

    1) feedback is just feedback. It’s not the truth. It’s someone’s experience of you. You decide the importance of it — whether or not it means enough to you to act on. This realization has been so freeing.

    2) whatever you’re given, do it well and with integrity. From the littlest task to the big deal things.

    3) communicate. Never stop. And not always by email. Use the phone! Try face to face!

    And most importantly, with each step of the journey along your career path, always be on the lookout for the lessons. Pay attention and learn from wherever you are — even if it’s not where you want to be, and even if the lessons are hard. Because you’re there and it happens to be a step towards where you’re going! And when you get to where you want to be you can look back and see how it was all connected!

    • Anneli says...

      Love this !
      Thankyou ?
      Anneli

  15. Patty says...

    I would add to focus on your inner game. You might have all the skills and be the best person for a job on paper, but if you don’t have the right approach to the job then you’re not going to succeed. For example, you could be a brilliant art director with an amazing eye and produce the best work in the game. But if you’re a jerk who can’t work with a team and push your own ideas through and don’t take feedback well, then you’re less likely to succeed holistically. I’m a business workshop facilitator and spend all of my days teaching people how to be better people in order to be better career professionals. : )

  16. Rue says...

    There’s an Obama quote about putting yourself aside that I find enormously helpful.

    “I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped…. I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.” http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/110263143446/when-is-the-time-you-felt-most-broken-i-first

    I also have a longstanding joke with a friend who’s also an anxious person. We say to each other, “What if everything is actually going well right now?” It sounds simple but it’s so profound, and it usually makes me laugh. It helps me get outside my own head and think about how other people might perceive my path. What if I’m actually kicking ass and taking names? What if other people are thinking I’m doing a bang-up job, and I’m the only one sitting in the corner worrying away about all the “bad stuff”?

    • Kathy says...

      Love both! Thank you!!!

    • Meg says...

      What if everything is actually going well right now?

      thank you!

  17. I am loving all of this advice – especially the personal board of directors. I have one and never even realised that’s what they were until you put it like that! Brilliant!

  18. Amanda says...

    I was told once to compose the email message first, add your attachments, review, imagine yourself receiving that email, and THEN type in the recipient’s address. I know it’s a small thing, but it stops you from a)accidentally sending incomplete emails and b) sending sassy emails you wish you had thought more carefully about.

  19. Alice says...

    I had a great conversation with some work friends about career paths last week. Despite being the second youngest in my work friendship group, I’m the most senior (and am leaving soon for a new, even more senior role). The other women were telling me how they see me as such a career woman, and so driven at work. And I couldn’t stop laughing! For me, it’s that I actually get quite bored in positions after I’ve been somewhere for a year or two- things become mundane and routine and I’ve learned about where the barriers are etc, and I get frustrated. So then I start looking for other jobs and- this is the important bit- apply for stretch roles. I don’t see the point in waiting until you have all of the criteria on a person spec to apply- just go for it, and see what you can do! Chances are, it’s a lot more than you ever expected :)

  20. Shelita Baldwin says...

    Wow. This was great. The best advice that comes to mind is, “You go to work to work and get paid not to make friends”.

    • Inês says...

      Hi Shelita. Why can’t you have both? I spend more hours at work than I do at home. I even say I’m more familiar with the bathroom at work than with mine at home. So, I find it important to have good work environment. I know it really depends on what kind of work/ job we are talking about and if you are competing for a spot or a promotion but even so, is there the necessity to discard friendship?

    • Yazi says...

      Very true

  21. Genna says...

    Im currently a stay at home mom debating what I want to do in the next chapter of my life (and quite frankly freaking out about it every day) but a friend recently reminded me of 2 quotes that I should keep in my pocket: “in order to finish you have to first start” and the most terrifying and earth shaking one for me at least “be the kind of adult you want your kids to be” – Brene Brown
    Both lines help me stay focused on the big picture.

    • Jenny says...

      Just coming out of this myself and a quote that always helped me was from Madeleine Albright: “I do think women can have it all, but not all at the same time.” :)

    • Marie says...

      Right there with you on the mama-and-what-next precipice, Genna. Every word rang true, thank you for sharing. We’ll figure it out, day by day.

  22. Shelita Baldwin says...

    Wow. This was great. The best advice that comes to mind is,” You go to work to work and get paid not to make friends”.

  23. Katie says...

    My dad once told me “pretend you’re your own boss”. At the time, I was working for a tyrant of a supervisor and felt like he was controlling (and ruining) my life. That piece of advice helped me to understand that I wasn’t, in fact, powerless and allowed me to take charge of the situation. I politely but confidently stood up to him, quit my job, and never looked back! Since then, there have been countless times that piece of advice has come in handy – from dealing with difficult personalities to negotiating my salary to pursuing work assignments I’m excited about.

  24. cm says...

    I recall sitting on a plane many years ago, with a previous passenger’s copy of Forbes or Time magazine as the only reading material I could find. On the back page, there was an anonymous poll of all these top CEO’s which asked, “What’s your biggest fear?” The number one answer…? “Having someone figure out I don’t know as much as they think I do.” Well, that was kind of it for me…I realized if the guys (and women!) at the top could fake it til they made it, then that would be my strategy, too. It has helped me in every job I’ve ever had – when stuck, I pretend I know what I’m talking about and if said with enough conviction, that’s pretty much what everyone else believes, too!

    • Gabrielle says...

      THIS. I struggle with this fear every day. It’s fascinating and reassuring that CEOs do too. Thank you for sharing. (And don’t you love that life-changing moments lurk in unexpected places, just waiting for you to stumble upon them? I find that reassuring too.)

  25. The “Embrace a Different Story” advice is one of the most poignant pieces of career advice I’ve read in a long time because it really hits home for me lately, since becoming a mom last year. I’ve realized that it’s OK to have new dreams. Now that I’m a mom, my career goals are different than they used to be, and as I seek a new path that will likely include freelance or part-time, flexible work of some sort, I’m struggling with feeling like I’m somehow giving up a career trajectory I wanted for so long. But, this is just another step for this phase of life.

    • Abigail says...

      Yay for you! Embrace the joys of this stage and all the fulfilling work that being a mom can be. Good luck and congratulations on being brave.

    • Amber J says...

      With you.

  26. Stevie Huval says...

    A continuation of the Be Mindful of Feedback one:

    Almost all of us, upon first hearing negative feedback, will disagree with it. It is a given. But if you’re perceived as someone who always argues with feedback or isn’t open to trying something new, you will eventually wear people down so much that they won’t bother giving feedback at all.

    The single most impactful career advice (and life advice, really) that I ever got was to let people give you feedback. More specifically, when people are giving you feedback, don’t try explain why you did things the way you did. Don’t derail, resist, or add any obstacles to the conversation *even if you disagree with the feedback*

    You don’t have to action all or even most feedback. But be open to listening to it and chewing on it. If you give it time to sink in, you may just find a nugget of wisdom in there. Or at the very least, you will have made sure your boss/manager/mentor will continue to give feedback in the future.

    • Grace says...

      Yes! It’s human nature to resist criticism and become defensive. That’s certainly been my first instinct, but I have accepted some of my weaknesses after truly analyzing feedback from former managers. At the same time, some of their feedback was bullshit but when you take the time to step back and think about the motivation behind your behavior it can be truly enlightening.

  27. Tammy Sutherland says...

    I love that several of these pieces of advice mirror one of my favourite Sondheim lyrics:
    Stop worrying where you’re going.
    Move on.
    If you can know where you’re going, you’ve gone.
    Just keep moving on.
    I chose and my world was shaken.
    So what?
    The choice may have been mistaken.
    The choosing was not.
    Just keep moving on.

    This is good advice for so much in life.

    • JL says...

      That’s so beautiful.

  28. Karen T. says...

    From my dad: “Never quit a job because of a bad boss.” Bosses will come and go, they’ll promote, switch departments, even leave. I’ve stuck it out at many companies because I’ve loved some aspect of it (my colleagues, the company, the job, the commute, whatever) in spite of having a not so great to a terrible boss. In the end, I’ve always felt like I’ve learned, grown and been successful because I am able to navigate tricky relationships, whether it is with my boss or a colleague.

    • A Martin says...

      This really jumped out at me. There is that saying, “people leave bosses, not companies.” I recently left a job because of an awful boss but this made me think about what would have happened if I looked beyond my boss. Even then, there were aspects that just didn’t help facilitate my growth but for my next gig, I’ll keep your dad’s advice in mind. Thank you!

    • Yazi says...

      The question is whether you can outlast the bad boss, especially if he/she gets promoted and has eben more power. I don’t think it’s worth it, if only for one’s mental health.

  29. Amy says...

    This is inspiring. Thanks. And the Murphy Brown picture is gold. What a blast from the past!

  30. Sarah says...

    So true Caroline – that was some great advice.
    Similarly, the best advice I ever receieved when I was questioning my capacity to do a job early in my career was from an older friend with much more professional expeirence who said “everyone is just making it up as they go along”. I have found in my now 15 years of professional work experience nothing to be more true! No one has all the answers and there’s often a number of people to help you solve a problem. You do not need to have all the answers.

    • Sharon says...

      Yes, I second this! As women, we so often don’t want to put ourselves out there for the promotion, big project, spotlight moment, unless we feel 100% ready. But in reality, everyone else is sometimes winging it too! Once I realized my (much applauded) male boss was kind of clueless about many things, it gave me the confidence to stay in the game even when I felt not completely prepared. P.S. probably works better in Sales and Consulting than it does in Medicine and Research ;-)

  31. Dress for the job you want!

  32. Nicole says...

    This post along with the comments has came at a great time. However, if anyone sees this and has an answer or advice it would be greatly appreciated. What do you do when you interview for a position but once in it realize it wasnt the one. For myself this has happened twice in the last year and when I move on I get the dreaded question of why Im leaving so soon. Thanks!

    • Perhaps two things:
      1. Open up to your current boss, or someone of influence who you trust in your current company/organization and let them know what your goals are and what you’re hoping to do in your career. You may be able to do that where you are, even if it takes a bit of time. Or, if that’s not possible where you are, …
      2. Be honest in your next interview. Write down your goals and the activities you’d like to see yourself doing in your “ideal” career. Be open about that in interviews! As long as your current job is paying enough and not driving you too crazy, try to look at it as an opportunity to interview your next boss. That way you’re not just settling again, but making a strategic move. (And, speaking of strategy, be sure to learn as much as possible in your current position, however uninteresting it may seem).

      Good luck!

    • K says...

      I’m curious about what mean that “it wasn’t the one.” I feel like often we (myself included!) often get fixated on the perfect job, one that is constantly positively challenging us and allowing us to work exactly how we want and on what we would like to do. But this is far from ever reality, and measuring positions to unrealistic expectations isn’t realistic or fair to the company. Even things like a mismatched work environment or a frustrating boss, I feel like they should be worked through. All successful people I have met have worked through less than desirable jobs, and they leverage them to grow. Companies are often willing to help their employees transition into a better suited position once they have put in some time, and if the company is not willing to do this – that’s a easy thing to discuss when interviewing for new positions a few years later. So this isn’t to say stay in an unpleasant position for decades, but I feel like a year or two is what it takes to even start excelling in a position!

      That being said, if the job is seriously hurting your mental health or you are being harassed, etc, clearly those are reasons to run for the hills! This isn’t exactly the advice of “lean in” because certain things like sexism, racism, abuse… should never be tolerated.

    • Grace says...

      I’ve been there before. I quit a marketing manager position after 5 months when I received no support or guidance from my new boss. It was not what I signed up for. When interviewing for my next job I tried not to directly bash this former employer. Instead I framed it this way “I left that position because it wasn’t the transparent and collaborative environment that was promised to me. It ended up instead being a very rigid corporate culture that isn’t in line with my values.” Then focus on the positive and what you can bring to this current company. I truly believe that it’s best to be upfront about your preferred work culture and expectations. If you don’t do well with rigid procedures, hours and dress codes that’s great. There are opportunities for those of us that thrive with more freedom. It’s not always easy to find them, but it’s absolutely worth the extra effort to find an employer that “gets you.”

    • VVercsi says...

      Hi Nicole,

      I saw some really useful comments for your post so I try from a different perspective: maybe you haven’t asked enough about the position/company/tasks ..etc. Lack of communication maybe? I was wondering about this, as I believe in this: if there is a negative pattern in my life first thing I’d do is to ask myself what am I doing wrong. I think it applies to everything. Ending up with the “wrong guy” all the time, getting into similar negative/unlucky situations etc. Ok there is luck and unluck but I believe that the way we behave in certain situations usually leads us to similar experiences…so maybe changing our way of handling things can lead us to different things. If you want to change something, start with yourself .

  33. Rachel says...

    One of my favorite lines from a silly movie years ago (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton) is “your changes go up drastically when you file an application.” Working in HR for years, my biggest piece of advice to anyone (but especially women!) is that your chances of getting that promotion… that raise… that salary you really want… go up drastically if you just ask or apply! It sounds simple, but it really is something we need to talk about.

    You’ve probably heard the statistic that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. So ladies, apply to that promotion you’re 60% qualified for – your 60% qualified male colleagues are putting their hat in the ring and so should you too!

    … and once you get the job – negotiate your salary!

    I was always shocked at how few women even attempted to negotiate their salary offer when I was a recruiter. Males on the other hand almost always asked for more money – even if we had given them the salary they had requested initially! My biggest advice, especially to women, is to know your worth and ask for more! Again – your chances go up drastically when you ask!

    This is not meant to be disparaging to males in any way – everyone should fight for what they feel they are qualified for and capable of – but I think women sometimes don’t realize that their male colleagues are asking for and getting these things – so we should too!

    • I recently left a job, and when asked my hourly rate, I’d seen what they were going to offer (during the interview, I read upside down!). I asked for 37.5% more (based on calculations) and they said yes. Nary a negotiation! Oh and in a male dominated industry no less!

  34. Such a great article and I love the comments as well. I have been to several funerals for people who were over 90 years old. In one case, the only people who there were a few of the children, one grandchild, and me. These profound experiences taught me this: Know what you love (define it for yourself) and be true to that part of yourself. Know who loves you and be true to them. That means no matter how dreamy the offer, be loyal to those who will be there and struggle through your funeral, even when you are over 90.

  35. Stella says...

    Recognizing this is off topic – I worked in hospice for many years and what Abigail said is very true to the advice that I give when dealing with the illness or failing health of a loved one. Allow yourself the grace to make informed decisions and trust that you made the best one at the time. Often when grief sets in you doubt if you did the right thing, so I’ve always tried to say something fitting to set them on a path of confident decision making.

  36. Angele says...

    Something I refer to often when making any major life decision is this passage from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic book:

    “Dearest Fear:

    Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”

    GAME. CHANGER.

    • Roons says...

      Love! thanks for sharing

    • Mimi says...

      So good! Thank you!

    • JoLynn says...

      Love!!

  37. Advice I keep receiving (because I must really need to hear it) is “know and enforce your boundaries.” I work in a customer-client facing role and it’s very easy to get walked all over if I don’t remember that it’s not my job to make everyone my personal project. I should be kind, yes, but it’s more respectful to allow people to be themselves than to think I need to “fix” them or their problems.

  38. Mimi says...

    The director of a foundation I once worked for used to remind everyone she worked with of the “good enough” principle. Whatever we were working on she just wanted it to be good enough. She’s rather each project be completed and our focus and energy to be used on the next thing. Trying to perfect a project was just time wasted in her eyes. “Is it good enough? Then move on.” Best advice I ever received, being the perfectionist I am. My agony is over.

  39. Mimi says...

    The director of a foundation I once worked for used to remind everyone she worked with of the “good enough” principle. Whatever we were working on she just wanted it to be good enough. She’s rather each project be completed and for our energy to be used on the next thing…not going back over things over and over again to make it perfect. That was just time wasted in her eyes. “Is it good enough? Then move on.” Best advice I ever received, being the perfectionist I am. My agony was over.

  40. Fiona says...

    The best advice I ever received was from my current boss. We were in a meeting in which I was the youngest person by kind of a long shot and I felt intimidated and pretty out of my depth.

    When we left, he turned to me and said, “Did you understand what they were talking about?” And I admitted that I hadn’t. And then he said, “Why didn’t you ask?” And I told him it was because I didn’t want to appear stupid and waste people’s time by making someone take time out of the meeting to explain what I assumed was a basic concept to me.

    At that point, he told me that he had not understood what they were discussing either. He told me to stop assuming that it was my fault for not knowing or understanding things. He said, “You’re smart. If you don’t understand what’s going on, chances are it’s someone else’s fault for not explaining it correctly, or that there is at least one other person who has the same questions you have.” It’s taken a lot of practice, but I’ve finally learned to question things that are going on around me and not to be afraid to look “stupid” by asking questions.

    • edie says...

      appreciated you taking the time to write this – very helpful!

    • Astrid says...

      Thank you.

    • Nancey says...

      Wow, that was great and even better that he noticed that and spoke to you about it, now THAT’S a good boss someone who pays attention and cares. And he was right.

  41. Erin W says...

    I think I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about whether I am good enough for someone to choose me to work for them, whether I fit the mold, etc., but what is equally important is whether or not they are a good fit for you. I think I probably learned that lesson most of all when interviewing to be a nanny just after college. One of the families that I interviewed with said something along the lines of, “if we are a good fit for you…” and it really stuck with me. No matter the situation/company/etc. you have to be a good fit for each other. That was also a good lesson in knowing your worth.

  42. Debra Hannah says...

    Susan’s advice about being curious made me think of this quote by Benjamin Franklin:
    “All highly competent people continually search for ways to keep learning, growing and imporving. the do that by asking, ‘why.’ After all, the person who knows ‘how’ will always have a job, but the person who knows “why” will always be the boss.”

    Debra :-)

    • Angele says...

      ooooooh this I like! Thanks for sharing

  43. Katie says...

    When I was first looking for a job as a young college grad, my Dad said: it’s okay to ask for the job. He said there’s no shame in letting them know in no uncertain terms that you want the position; he said, “do not be coy about your intentions where work is concerned. You let them know you’re there for a j-o-b, period.” I still close every interview by saying something like, “Thanks for your time today. I am eager to do this job and look forward to hearing from you soon. Thanks!”

  44. “Don’t take anything personally.” Which I read in the Don Miguel Ruiz book, The Four Agreements. (It’s the second agreement.)

    This is outstanding advice for your entire life, but it was easiest (for me) to apply it at work. They sent you a one line email, it doesn’t mean they hate you. They missed the meeting, it doesn’t mean they disrespect you.

    Truly it made me enjoy work so much more and I’m working on living out this agreement in other areas of my life as well.

  45. Mara says...

    Thank you – this advice comes at the perfect time. I am mid-30’s and have spent my whole life in DC. My family/friends/life is here, yet I’ve been restlessly daydreaming about other cities, especially after a visit to LA as far back as 2009! The thought of moving to CA [I have my eye on the LA and SF Bay areas] is SO scary, but at the same time I know that later in life I’ll regret not having lived anywhere else. It’s a daily mental battle I have, to stay in DC or wing it and apply to jobs in CA. This advice is a good reminder to not waste so much time overthinking, and that DC will always be here if/when I want to move back.

    • Amber J says...

      Wing it! Apply! We’re rooting for you!

    • Angele says...

      This sounds a lot like me a year ago, and guess what, I made the move and have never been happier! You’re so right, you can always go back if it’s not for you!

    • Meg says...

      I definitely feel this. I lived in Kenya for a while and had a great life there (personally, professionally, and financially). I was constantly obsessing about going home to the U.S. to be closer to friends and family but I was also scared of losing all the good things I had in Kenya. I was talking to a friend about my decision and she said “Kenya isn’t going anywhere. If you move home and want to come back, it will still be here.”

    • Mary says...

      Mara, I grew up in and around DC and moved to Baltimore in my late 20’s. 20 miles up the road and a different, much better world. Even if you don’t go as far away as California, there are wonderful cities and places and people out there. Go.

    • Christina Gray says...

      So true! It’s a tough decision but enjoy your life.I find that in general people are hospitable and kind wherever you go!Have a positive mindset and yes be assured you can go back.I totally understand!

    • Mara says...

      How sweet – thank you, everyone!! This was an unexpectedly heartfelt load of support, and I’m so touched! All signs point to me giving this a go and at least applying from my comforts in DC and seeing what happens :-)

    • Claire says...

      Hey Mara,

      I moved to London at 34, ostensibly for a year- having lived in my hometown in Ireland for most of my life, I was so ready for a change. Well, it turned out to be the best 5 years of my life- now I have been offered an amazing job in Ireland, and am agonising over moving back again…! Go for it, you will never regret it!

  46. Kim says...

    I’m always a bit hesitant with the advice about being mindful of feedback. I’ve worked with so many people who disregarded feedback and assumed it wasn’t really applicable. Instead I think it’s always beneficial when receiving feedback to ask “Why is this a perception someone has?”. I don’t think it always has to result in a change of behavior, but I do think it warrants at least some brief self reflection. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this as well as I’m new to a manager role and have to be one to deliver feedback, both positive and constructive, to employees.

    • Meg says...

      I think this is a great point, as I have definitely encountered people who seem to be immune to feedback or fail to recognize their own areas for growth. (In some ways, I envy their self-created world in which they can do no wrong!) As a manager, I’ve tried to handle this by providing all feedback with specific examples, as it is easy to brush off general assessments, but harder to do that with “when you did X, Y happened, and Z was the resulting impression.”

    • Jenna says...

      Yes! I agree! Your line of thinking also goes along with the “keep asking ‘why?'” quote/concept!

  47. Cooper says...

    When I was contemplating putting off trying for a baby so as to lessen the risk of overlapping with a co-worker’s parenting leave, my husband told me, “You work to live, you don’t live to work.” I realized I shouldn’t put my life on hold for the convenience of my company. Of course, now 3/5 of the team are due to be out at the same time, but we’ll all figure it out!

    • colleen says...

      Congratulations on your upcoming arrival!

  48. Jessica says...

    My dad told me that during the course of your life, “Sometimes a job becomes a career and sometimes a career becomes just a job.” That helped me feel better about “leaning out” after my daughter was born.

  49. Lora says...

    One of the more helpful career comments I’ve had came after working with an erratic and borderline abusive boss. I had done all I could but nothing I did seemed to satisfy her, so I decided to resign. When hearing about this decision, my manager tried to soften the transition for me and said, “I have known lots of people that struggle in one role and then kick a** in the next role. That can be you.” I was feeling devastated and so small, like an absolute failure, so didn’t really believe her. BUT fast forward months later, to my next position and a challenging phone call with a demanding client. I was prepared and responsive throughout the call, calming the client and buying more time for our team. After the call, my (new) manager emailed me a simple line: “You’re kicking a**.” I of course immediately thought of the conversation with my previous manager and felt a weight lift. Suddenly it seemed clear that it really was just about my fit with the previous boss rather than something specific to me. I’ve thought of that a lot since that time, whenever things feel off in a role or with a colleague: sometimes you just need to do your best and move on. It’s brought me peace and confidence.

  50. Emily says...

    A company doesn’t love you back.

    I learned this the hard way when I was let go from a job of a decade-a place I started at age 29, where I worked when I had my son, where I spent work trips pumping on airplanes and in hotel rooms, a place I gave so much of my spirit to. Sadly, after a decade and a massive regime change, I was pushed out. Normally, I wouldn’t have stuck to the above advice but a year after I was pushed out, the founder–a man whose face was synonymous with the brand–was also pushed out.

    The job I went to next, while I enjoy it, doesn’t get the same “all in” from me that my prior job did. What does get my all in? My family, my friends, my personal interests and time outside of work. My job is important to me but not like it was in my 30s.

  51. Jill says...

    My best advice comes from myself – which is to trust yourself, always! I taught preschool for about 15 years and was feeling burnt out by my school and the parents (not the kids). I decided I wanted to take a break and volunteered for Baby 2 Baby, a charity that helps families in need in Los Angeles. I loved it so much I went back to school to study fundraising, which everyone thought was crazy bc I recently got my MA in child dev and early childhood ed. I loved my courses but realized that I would die in an office doing fundraising, no matter how much I loved the organization!!!! This made me passionate about teaching again and made me decide to go back, this time I am at an early intervention school teaching toddlers with special needs. Quitting teaching made me see just how much Ioved it and can more easily accept the bad (diapers, crazy parents) with the good (teaching children though play)!

  52. Jenny says...

    I wish I could have read this list at 18. I love how you’ve put names to some of the things I already do, specifically the “board of directors”. YES!

  53. Kathleen says...

    My mom always says “make sure the job is working for you, not the other way around.”
    It might be working for you because of the pay or the experience or the hours or the benefits, but once it’s not working for you, it’s time for a change.

  54. Babs says...

    My dad (seems to be a theme) told me this: “Remember, a job doesn’t owe you anything. The beauty in that is that you, in turn, don’t owe a job anything either.” For context, my father believed one should always act as in a professional and courteous manner and do their best work. However, he taught us that loyalty to a corporation whose main purpose is, after all, profit is misplaced and will ultimately result in disappointment. This advice has guided me throughout my career. I’ve never felt guilty about leaving a position in order to accept a better position.

    • Amber J says...

      Writing this one down!

  55. Claire says...

    I am really enjoying these comments.
    I sometimes think of it like this: If your job was a person- a real life friend or a boyfriend/girlfriend/ marriage- would you stay? I left a job that was like a bad friend- demanding, unappreciative, exhausting. My needs and expectations were dismissed, my contributions were not acknowledged or valued. If it had been a person with that personality I would not have been friends with it. If I met it at a party I would have walked away as quickly as possible. It was like a needy demanding friend who always did all the talking and called all the shots, and ignored me when I spoke up. I wouldn’t have hung on to a friendship like that in real life, but for some reason because it was work I made all kinds of excuses why I should be ok being treated like that. Never again.

  56. Frieda says...

    “An early mentor told me, ‘A great engineer is measured not by never making mistakes, but how they handle themselves when they do.’” So true!!!

  57. Stephanie says...

    My previous workplace–which I absolutely loved–had a no gossip policy. We were encouraged to direct problems up the chain and praise down and around. This completely changed my attitude about issues that would otherwise get under my skin (at work, at home, with family and friends).

    I had to think, “Is this big enough to approach my boss about?” Almost every time the answer was no. So I shrugged it off and moved on. Only once did I talk with my boss about a worthy problem. He took me seriously and addressed the issue immediately. On most days, I found the office environment to be both challenging and encouraging in all the best ways.

    I do my best to remember this rule in my work as a freelancer now. I’m motivated to handle problems on my own and find that simply doing the work (even if I’m frustrated) gets me through.

    • ritamaria says...

      This reminds me of a general rule about relationships that I think I learned about on this blog: address it or forget it, secret grudge keeping is both disloyal and bad for you. I live by it now and am better for it!

  58. Lisa says...

    I heard this advice from the former chief rabbi Lord Sacks. It was at a dinner where he was speaking, and someone asked how he dealt with all the criticism. His response was – only seek the respect of people you respect. This has helped me SO much in my career, most recently when we had a completely toxic team member (who I managed indirectly). She was very sociable, organised basically the whole floor’s social outings, so she was well known and liked BUT she was incredibly nasty behind people’s backs, so it took a while to realise what she was really like. After she resigned (thank goodness!) we started finding out all the crap that she was telling everyone. When I returned from maternity leave (when you feel pretty vulnerable and it’s a big adjustment), she was incredibly resentful – she had covered some (but not all) of my role and felt that she hadn’t been given enough recognition. Despite working incredibly hard (at least enough for my own manager to put me forward for promotion) I found out that she’d been telling everyone that I hadn’t done any work. She had also been telling people that another colleague (happily married with two kids) was having an affair with two of the men who worked on our floor. I found it hard to deal with, but just had to keep on reminding myself that 1. The truth would come out and 2. I didn’t actually care what she thought of me. I had no respect for her, and therefore shouldn’t feel obligated to seek her respect.

  59. Aly says...

    Such gems of wisdom! Thank you!

  60. Andrea says...

    “The company does not love you back.”

    I came up with this quote myself when at the memorial service of a 25 year old coworker. She had given up everything for her job (decided not to have kids so as to excel managing her 20+ customer service rep team), worked crushing hours and had a cardiac issue that may have been triggered by stress. She died unexpectedly one morning when waking up suddenly and went into cardiac arrest.

    Our GM didn’t even stay for the service. Everyone I worked with at that company will invoke her name as a reminder how not to get too involved or attached to any job. That was 20 years ago.

    • Claire says...

      Dang. There’s a very sad story with a life lesson if I ever heard one.
      Thanks for sharing it.
      Words of wisdom.

    • Laura says...

      Very important to remember. Do your job, and do it well, but that’s it. No need to be a savior. You aren’t doing anyone any favors.

  61. Absolutely agree it’s what you do afterwards that counts.

    I used to panic like crazy when it came to deciding whether or not to take a job, then finally decided, “Take it then figure out if I want it”. That meant my shortest job was 4 hours (I left at lunchtime and never went back as I KNEW I didn’t want to work in that office). The longest was a job teaching in Thailand that I never thought I would stay at longer than a month, and I lasted 3 years and loved every second of it.

    Take it, then figure out what to do with it :) Love your site btw!

  62. Annie says...

    I used to work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and during one of our annual meetings Warren Buffett (a trustee of the foundation) said the following: “To sleepwalk through life because you only want to deal with easy issues is a terrible mistake.” I wrote it down and have repeated it to myself frequently since that day. For the past year I’ve been taking measured steps to switch careers and industries completely, and the protracted uncertainty of it all makes my heart race! So I remind myself that although it would be far easier to stay in my current situation, I owe it to myself to try and do more than just sleepwalk in a career which doesn’t suit me at all.

  63. Wendy says...

    My piece of advice to Women in the workplace is: Know your rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark US Labor law that makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on sex, race, color, religion, or national origin. So many of us remain quiet in the workplace when we see or experience discrimination because we are not equipped with the knowledge or power of knowing that the law is on our side, nor do many of us have proper access to the tools to enforce this. Everyone has the right to stand up for themselves, to empower themselves, and to feel safe and protected at work. The more work we do to enforce our rights and speak up, the more equal the workplace can become for everyone in the future.

  64. Some great advice that I have received is: “Leave your crap at the door”. This is not to say that you cannot share personal hardships with a colleague, but rather, give yourself the space at work to separate yourself from personal crap that is going on with you. It will allow you to have a good day at work and not let things consume you.

  65. selby says...

    i second the “perception is reality” advice. at my first company i worked with all men. one of them was younger (closer to my age) and used to come and talk to me before and after his shift. i was new to the town and welcomed the friendship. one day a manager talked to me about my dynamic with this guy. we were just friends, and he knew that, but said that the perception of the rest of the employees was that we were more. i was frustrated because it wasn’t anything more than friends but he said that, “it doesn’t matter what is true. perception is reality. if they think you’re more, in their head that is their reality”. i repeat the phrase now years later and see it in different situations, like people will think those who stay in the office longer are harder workers.

  66. Anna says...

    Caroline, I once read this on your blog and have been going back to it over and over again as my mantra: “People get so hung up on making choices. But it’s not so much about the choice itself. It’s about what you do after you make it.” I’ve used those words to calm the doubts and fear of deciding to move out on my own, of having stayed in a wrong relationship too long, and any day-to-day choices that I maybe wish I hadn’t made. But what’s done is done, and the best and only thing you can do is say, “Okay, what now?” and go forward. The past decision matters less than your current and future decisions, so there’s no need to lament and regret. I can’t stress how comforting that is, so thank you for sharing your former boss’s words.

  67. TJP says...

    The notion that ‘They don’t have to LIKE you, but they need to RESPECT you’ was a game changer for me. After processing that, I stopped caring (as much) about if my difficult colleagues liked me as a person, and started focusing on trying being bullet-proof through my work and professionalism.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      YES!!!!!!!!!!

    • Katie says...

      YES! Think about how this works in pro sports – not every player on a team is beloved. A coach/fan base is looking for a group of individuals performing at the height of their game and winning as a result. No more, no less. Thinking of work in this way has helped me let go of the desire to be liked (not all the way, but I think I’m like 95% there ;)).

    • Carrie says...

      I really like that, and can definitely apply it to my work position! Thanks for sharing

  68. Adrienne says...

    I’m in the midst of making a leap from a well-established non profit to a startup. I was panicking about the potential lack of security, so I called my dad for advice. “What do you have to lose, except everything?” he asked me. “But you’ve already been there. What’s so scary about doing it again?”
    Traditionally it may not seem like the greatest advice, but being reminded that I’ve already rebuilt my life multiple times helped put the decision into perspective.

  69. This was really timely for me – I was just reflecting yesterday on some advice my dad gave me 15 years ago -— and this post really resonates. And the interesting part is, I think these pieces of career advice have a broad application in the way we live. Not overthinking? Being an open book? All fundamental to parenting; career; living. Thank you for the perfect pick me up at the end of a long week! Hx

  70. Allison says...

    The best career advice I’ve gotten—and among the best life advice, too—is that you can almost always undo decisions. You can quit a job that isn’t working out, you can move to a new place (or move back), etc.

    A friend passed that on from her own mentor when I was contemplating an out-of-state move to be with my now-husband—which she had just done—and it was an incredibly freeing thought that alleviated a lot of the concerns I had about the transition.

    There’s obviously a decent amount of socio-economic privilege to that mindset (and it also does not apply to having kids!), but man, it’s been a really empowering fallback as I’ve made big decisions and changes over the years.

  71. Hannah says...

    “Never feel embarrassed or awkward talking about money with your boss. No-one is going to ask for you”
    In my mid twenties I had a big increase in workload and started to manage my own assistant. When it came to my review I was super nervous about asking for a raise because I was already well paid and had been given the assistant. I started my sentence by saying “I feel awkward talking about this but…”. My boss said to never feel embarrassed and it has really stuck with me. I got that raise and a few more since then simply by confidently asking and demonstrating why I deserve one.

    Ps – I’m British and stereotypically HATE talking about money.

    • Nicola says...

      Love this! It’s similar to “You are your own best advocate.” You are the one with your best interests at heart, so fight for what you want and need.

  72. sasha says...

    Has anyone listened to the recent This American Life episode, LaDonna? It’s about an amazing woman who worked tirelessly to change the absolutely appalling workplace culture at the company she worked for, Allied Security. Her motto, which sounds a little silly out of context, but within her story, is absolutely brilliant is AT WORK. Like, you are paid to do a job, people are relying on you, you have a freaking DUTY to just do your job the best you can while you are AT WORK. And there are things that you are never never allowed to do, because you are AT WORK (@ Allied, this involved supervisors watching porn, abusing minorities and women, and in general, not doing their jobs at all). It seems so simple but when my husband and I listened then discussed, we realized that this whole idea has really been lost. Too few workers feel a responsibility to do their best, day in and day out. And many workplaces have an appalling culture that tolerates sexism, harassment, abuse and racism. (Btw, Allied is a company that receives BILLIONS in government contacts, and when confronted with these issues refuses to do anything to change).

    I would love to see LaDonna interviewed for COJ, her perseverance and work ethic are phenomenal.

    • Alexandra says...

      LOVED that episode (loved that it was so well done and that LaDonna is a BOSS…obviously did not love the madness she had to battle) and think a profile of LaDonna on CoJ would be amazing. Other CoJ readers, if you haven’t heard this episode, seek it out!

    • Anna says...

      Sasha, I listened to that episode and was blown away by how strong and resilient and yet human LaDonna was.

    • Andrea says...

      I actually came away thinking that she was really tone deaf in terms of her approach to the work. You know how toxic and bad the situation is, but then you get into training and your approach is to try and get other people to follow you in sticking it to the company?

      I agree that Allied is not a good place to work and what they did was egregious. However, training is not about training people into what you want them to do, but in training them about what the company wants them to do. It’s a position where you have to follow the company line and get other people onboard. She went totally rogue.

      I’ve worked in similar situations–in a factory, at a corporation, in government. I’m glad she brought a lawsuit, but that lawsuit should have been undertaken when she worked there and not later when she tried to steer the ship of Allied in her own direction via training.

    • Mina says...

      I was so taken by this episode as well Sasha! I just wanted to find a way to get in touch with LaDonna just to tell her that she is amazing! I love the way she read all the books and applied everything she learned and tried. so. hard. to do the right thing. I too would love to see a post about her on CoJ!

    • Christy says...

      Great episode! Although also seriously depressing. I hope Allied gets hit big time with a verdict or settlement.

    • Everyone should stop what they’re doing right now and listen to that episode. It was one of my favorite This American Life podcasts ever. LaDonna is amazing, and the whole thing felt incredibly validating to me as someone who works in a male-dominated profession, and also a little crushing because it really showed how brutal the fight for equality really is. If COJ interviewed LaDonna I might actually die.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Agreed x 1,000,000 with all of this. Seriously, obsessed with LaDonna, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about that episode! Blown away.

    • Cherie says...

      Yes!

    • Wendy says...

      I also loved that episode! But I’m confused by the commenter who said LaDonna went rogue and tried to steer Allied in her own direction via training? My memory of the story is that she taught the company line to the letter, which was that company policy was that (theoretically anyway) everybody had rights and nobody had the right to treat you disrespectfully. How could you be more on the ‘company line’ than teaching that AT WORK you do your work because you’re AT WORK?
      I would also love to hear more about her, I really related to her stories about being the only woman in a workplace of men. She is awesome!

    • sasha says...

      Re Wendy: yep! She trained straight out of the anti discrimination points in the company handbook. It’s the company that went rogue on its own policies. Btw, those policies are in compliance with Federal and state employment laws and civil rights laws too. They are breaking more laws than we can count, despite all those contract dollars. Disgusting.

      I’m team LaDonna 1000%.

    • Erin says...

      Read this yesterday, just listened to the episode and I can’t even describe the way it made me feel. I’m upset and infuriated that this kind of thing can (and does) happen every day, with little to no change or even acknowledgement in many companies/organizations. I’m happy though that we’re seeing more lawsuits and public scrutiny of companies with these issues (like Uber). I know how scary it can be to stand up for yourself, especially when your job is on the line, but I really hope this encourages people to realize that they don’t have to tolerate this type of working environment, and can stand up for themselves, and maybe more importantly, those in positions of power can and should stand up for others. Maybe even just checking in on others, “is everything going okay? is there anything that is not going okay?” in the workplace, so they don’t have to take the sometimes difficult step of bringing it up themselves. We’re stronger together.

    • Audrey says...

      love this!

    • Claire says...

      good one! thanks for sharing it.

  73. Leah A Klein says...

    On “Including Everyone”…

    I went to a talk given by Mark Kelly, the astronaut, (and Gabby Giffords was there as well). He was saying some of the worst space disasters happened because only one person’s (the highest ranking) voice was heard. They re-designed their board room so that everyone was sitting on the same level, and each person had a microphone, to make sure everyone was heard.

    When his wife, Gabby Giffords, was shot, she had many surgeries, one of which was on her eye. The day before the surgery, the doctors changed their plans. Mark found this concerning, so he called the doctor, nurses, and medical residents and interns into a room to hear what each and every person thought. They all said their piece, and ultimately, the surgery was successful.

  74. C says...

    Abigail’s quote really resonates and reminds me of some advice I gave a friend when she was struggling with wanting to leave her job to stay home with her baby, and feeling ashamed about what it would say about her to essentially give up the career she’d spent over a decade building: You don’t have to want the same things at 35 that you did at 25. Your past self can inform your current decision-making, but you can’t let her dictate it. She doesn’t have all of the information that you have now.

    Basically, it’s ok to change your mind and it’s okay to become someone different than who you thought you would be. Only current you knows what current you needs.

    • Mina says...

      LOVE this. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lizzie says...

      “Only current you knows what current you needs.” As a midlife career changer still paying off the student loans on 2 irrelevant college degrees, I find this incredibly refreshing. Thank you!

  75. I have three:
    From my friend when we were just out of College:
    Apologize Twice. Apologize once, right away and then do it again in email or in person. But then let it go and move on. This really helped me along the way because it makes you take responsibility but not hold on too long or feel too much guilt about your mistakes.
    From the principal at my first school with challenging students:
    A mental health day counts as a sick day. In my years of teaching I have always remembered this and it has encouraged me to remember to take care of myself and keep perspective.
    And from what I tell my students now:
    Have a growth mindset. Mistakes are good. It’s how you learn, no one is perfect, and there is usually not one right answer.

  76. Sarah says...

    Elevate each other in the workplace! Everyone has so many hard days, mean clients, rushed deadlines. It takes nothing to notice your colleague’s initiative, creativity, bravery, or eloquence and TELL THEM specifically how they are doing a great job. Whether you’re the boss or the intern, tell people! It makes everyone happier.

    • Julie says...

      Yes! And if there is a way to do it via a written note, even better. Complimentary written evidence is soul-saving. :)

  77. Maia says...

    Two things. First, from a very senior female leader – ‘It is perfectly okay to not be political, but as a woman in a largely male workplace, it is important to be aware of and navigate the political landscape of your organisation, correctly’. I didn’t immediately understand it but as I rise up the ranks, I realise how important it is for us, especially as women, to be clued-in and aware of what is going on in the organisation.
    Second, from my very first boss. When I was fresh out of B-School and handed a fairly critical role, she told me that I am permitted to make all the mistakes as long as I only commit each mistake once. She always had my back and having her as a boss for the first 5 years of my career, laid such a solid foundation in how I perceive myself in the workplace and in giving me a quiet confidence in who I am and what I bring to the table.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i LOVE the line about being able to make every mistake but only once. that’s a wonderful way to think about learning and growing and coaching.

    • Lisa says...

      Maia, what does “it is important to be aware of and navigate the political landscape of your organization correctly” mean to you?

    • Katherine says...

      Yes!!! Re: you’re allowed to make all the mistakes, but only once. This is what I told my students all the time: Make all the mistakes you want (because mistakes are proof that you are trying!), but if you make that same mistake again, then it’s no longer a mistake, it’s a choice. You’re meant to learn from and given grace for your mistakes, but mistakes aren’t classified as such the second time around.

    • Maia says...

      Hi Lisa, glad you asked :). For me (and the industry I work in) it means being aware. Being connected. Being clued-in to the goings-on in the organisation. I am, by nature, not a very extroverted person and so networking doesn’t come easy to me. I’ve learnt over the years though to make my presence known to the leadership, to create an impression. All organisations have little groups and coteries that operate informally but influence a lot of the larger decisions; and often, this is a mens- only club. So to me, navigating the landscape means being aware of what these details are and being sharp and timely about how I use this information, without having to actually break any of my rules of integrity. I hope that made some sense (sorry, i know it sounds very confusing).

    • Lisa says...

      Hi Maia, thanks for your response. I think the tricky part for me is knowing how the men’s club operates without being an insider. Sure you can try to make an impression, or try to stay clued in, but it all seems like guesswork and maybe some luck.

  78. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

    I learned this early on from my father who, at the time, was just starting his own retail store. Really this can be applied to all aspects of your life though. I like to think it means be a proactive, go-getter (and obviously, don’t be lazy)! As the owner of a small but growing business, I now find it helps me push myself at the end of the day to work just a little harder and just a little longer when all I really want to do at 7pm is sit on the sofa with a glass of wine…

  79. Sarah says...

    My mom (who has run her own graphic design business for 35 years), has said: “As soon as you get a job, start looking for the next one.” I bristled at this at first– can’t I just sit back and enjoy?!– but it’s stuck with me, and I think now I see what she means: always be curious, don’t be complacent, and keep looking to your future.

  80. Cindy says...

    While learning to do my current job, my then boss told me “Don’t measure your success by the mistakes you make”. I think about that in all aspects of my life.

  81. Caitlin says...

    Abigail’s quote (and insight!) makes me cry. I recently did a big career change and am heading back to grad school for a completely different career. I constantly have to tell myself that just because I am not on the path I “thought” I would be on, doesn’t mean it’s not the right path. Thank you for those beautiful words Abigail. I am pasting them on the wall right in front of my computer as a daily reminder!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! that sounds wonderful, caitlin. xoxo

    • Abigail says...

      Good for you! Congratulations on your bravery and good luck.

  82. Jessica says...

    Best advice from a former boss:
    Work hard and do a good job for the company/firm and the people you work for now, but always remember that your “loyalty” is to yourself and to your family and what is best for you/them, and that is what you must take into consideration to the exclusion of other noise when contemplating a change of jobs or career.

    • Kathryn says...

      These are such helpful words to hear right now as I get ready to tell my boss I’m not returning after maternity leave. Feelings of guilt keep washing over me because I feel like I’m leaving my team in such a lurch but it’s what’s best for me and my growing family, and that’s what’s most important. Thank you!

  83. Abby says...

    My father was a brilliantly talented art director and taught me so much when I followed in his career footsteps. He used to tell me, “Don’t be afraid to fail.” This gave me the confidence to try things without being so attached to controlling the outcome. Great advice for life outside work, too.

  84. Lauren E. says...

    He didn’t have a single great mantra, but my dad (the most honest, hardworking, loyal man I have ever known) always taught me to look out for myself. Employers pay you to do a job and everyone is replaceable, so if you’re not looking out for your own best interest, no one will do it for you.