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77 Best Pieces of Career Advice
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AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis
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The best career advice I'd ever received is, "Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life." That's how I found myself in journalism, writing about topics about which I'm passionate, like issues pertaining to women. Barring countless emails, my work seldom feels like work.

But the reality is that finding a job you love — one that challenges you, offers you flexibility and that also pays the bills — isn't necessarily easy. Even if you do find a job you love, it's inevitable that, at times, it will feel like work. If it doesn't, you're probably not being challenged or challenging yourself enough.

To be fair, not everyone chooses to mix their personal passions with work for a myriad of reasons — fear of burnout or resentment, time constraints, finances, etc. Many women are just working for the weekend, and that's okay, too.

Whether you're in love with your work or your work feels very much like work, there are steps you can take to make it that much better or a little bit more bearable. Here are 77 pieces of career advice on everything from climbing the ladder to negotiating your worth to set you up for success.

On Reviving Your Resume

1. “Keywords bring up your ‘relevancy score’ in most HR/recruiting software programs,” Christy Childers, Global Employer Brand Manager for Dropbox told Fairygodboss. 

2. “Instead of listing ‘excellent negotiation skills,’ try adding some context to prove it such as ‘demonstrated excellent negotiation skills which resulted in an 80 percent close rate and #1 Account Executive in the Western US Region,’" Childers also told Fairygodboss. "Or for those who aren't in obvious data-driven environments, use the results of a project to demonstrate your skills: in lieu of ‘attention to detail,’ you could instead include an example such as ‘demonstrated attention to detail in launching the first-ever global leadership development program from start to finish improving internal promotions by 35 percent across three continents.’"

3.  “You should absolutely adapt your resume for each job you’re applying to,” Jenna Mucha, Talent Community Manager for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told Fairygodboss. “Review the job description and incorporate keywords directly from it.”

4. "Every job seeker should use personal development to cushion the discussion of any unemployment gaps in their career," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Amanda Riojas. "Analyze any time spent between jobs or after receiving your degree. While you may not have held a formal, full-time position, your hobbies or a particularly hard skill or soft skill may have improved your time management and multitasking skills or developed your ability to prioritize. Perhaps you spent time in the youth community, volunteering at the public pool or in local youth organizations. Communicate to any prospective employer or hiring manager that you’ve spent the unemployment period developing yourself or your skills in a meaningful way."

5. "If you’ve got a general theme or thread running through your experiences, such as customer service, then one resume is fine," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Chelsea Fonden.  "But if you’re actively looking for jobs in totally different fields, make one resume per field. Don’t leave off the jobs you worked in other fields, but tailor your work history as much as possible to the active field for that resume, and give more space to the most relevant stuff."

6. "Ditch the objective," Fonden writes. "Today’s resume should summarize what you can bring to the potential employer, not what you want from them. Leave your objective for the cover letter and interview."

7. "Don’t include your interests, unless they demonstrate some relevant skills," Fonden writes. "I love poetry. But from a recruiter’s standpoint, who cares? But what if, due to my love of poetry, I created, manage, and host a reading series where people can come together to discuss community concerns, network, and be heard? Now a ton of skills are coming out, coordination and facilitation and community-building, and now this interest is worthy of putting on my resume!"

8. “I’d say the one thing that I can’t stress enough is for job seekers to double-check the links they send in their resumes and samples," Kristen Gill, founder and owner of Kristen Gill Media told Fairygodboss. "I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve clicked on old, out of date or non-existing content.”

9. "Follow your tailored resume with an optimized cover letter," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Natalie Severt. "Recruiters will scan it with essential keyword skills in mind. When discussing your experience and expertise, stick to the same keywords you defined for your resume. Expand upon points you kept brief in your resume and optimize your cover letter with consistent keyword usage. Show how your skills and competencies will help employers solve specific problems. That's how you gain an advantage over other candidates."

10. "To find out whether you tailored your resume to the job description, just drop it into a cloud generator," Severt writes. "You'll see keywords and phrases that are most prominent in your resume. If these aren't related to the skill-related keywords you listed at the beginning, have a second look at your resume and rewrite some of the sections to include relevant keywords throughout the document."

For more tips on building your resume, check out these resources:

On Interviewing for a New Job

11. "Whether you have a phone interview, informational interview or in-person job interview, take the time to research a company, the job for which you're applying, and those interviewing you," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Alyson Garrido. "Learning about company history, company mission and company culture will go a long way; if you're well-informed about the potential employer's company mission and reputation, you'll come off as a knowledgeable, enthusiastic candidate, and you'll be better prepared to ask a thought-provoking question as the interview comes to a close."

12. "On the day of your interview, be sure that you have all necessary items easily accessible to you," Garrido writes. "Interviewers may print out your resume themselves, but to be safe, pack at least four copies of your resume, a list of references, two pens and a notebook. Consider buying a portfolio to keep these items neat and organized. Having to look for a pen, or worse, not having one, can make you appear disorganized and cause you to feel rattled before the interview even begins."

13. "Come up with 10 to 20 questions you think you will get asked," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Jessica Kay. "When preparing your questions, type or write down your answers, and review them again and again. I call this my interview study sheet. I typically will bring this study sheet with me wherever I go. I will take it out and study it when I have downtime. This forces myself to constantly think about these talking points so that when I actually have to mention them in interviews, it’s second nature to me."

14. "Do a mock interview with someone who’s an authority figure," Kay says. "If you have a mentor, ask him or her to do a mock interview with you. Supply them ahead of time with the job description, the company and industry, and ask them to interview you like they would interview their own job candidate. If you don’t have a mentor, search for career coaches on LinkedIn. You’d be surprised how many are actually going to be willing to do a 30-minute mock interview session with you for free."

15. "When you finally meet your interviewer or greeter, make eye contact, shake people’s hands like you mean it (I'm talking a firm handshake), and smile," Kay says. "When you are asked a question, be concise and to the point with your answers. Let your interviewer finish their sentence and don’t interrupt. The point here is — use common sense and be a good conversationalist."

16. "As part of your effort to acknowledge that the hiring process isn’t just about you as a candidate but also involves your interviewer, potential team members, and needs for the position and company, you’ll need to ask thoughtful plenty of thoughtful questions," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Laura Berlinsky-Schine. "Yes, the interviewer will mostly be asking you the questions, but as any experienced interviewee knows, you’ll also be asking questions of your own."

17. "Make your excitement about the opportunity obvious," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Michele Mavi. "Companies want to hire people who are eager to work for them, so express enthusiasm while you’re answering interview questions. Oddly enough, candidates don’t always realize that they aren’t fully expressing their interest. More often than we want to admit, recruiters get the following feedback from clients, 'I like this candidate but s/he didn’t really seem excited about the position.'"

18. "Unfortunately, no amount of preparation can remove the need for candidates to improvise in an interview; however, knowing a few common interview questions is always good, and knowing which responses to avoid can be even better," writes Fairygodboss contributor Kaitlin Westbrook.

19. "When being asked about 'yourself,' it’s important to remember that hiring manager is asking about your professional career, rather than about your personal life," Westbrook writes. "Most of us know this, but it can be tempting to add that little bit of spice in order to make an impression on a potential employer."

20. "Have a specific anecdote ready from each of your prior, significant work and volunteer experiences," writes Fairygodboss contributor Carol Fishman Cohen. "You need to have these in your back pocket so you can reference them as needed in the interview."

For more tips on interviewing for a new job, check out these resources:

On Changing Careers

21. "Think through what got you started where you are now and what would need to change in order for you to continue on that path," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Kelly Poulson. "Perhaps it’s not the work itself, but the organization that you’re a part of. Look at your current path from a variety of different perspectives with an open mind."

22. "Test the waters," Poulson writes. "After you’ve explored a bit and are feeling certain this might be the move for you, try before you buy. Can you attend an intro workshop in the realm? Offer to do some work in the space for free to get a feel for what it might be like. If you have contacts working in the industry already, ask if they’d allow you to shadow them a day or two. The closer you can get to doing the work yourself, the more understanding you’ll have if it’s the best next move for you."

23. "Know your strengths," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Alyson Garrido. "Knowing what you are good at is so important in your job search and beyond. Those who understand their strengths can more easily identify opportunities that play to those strengths and talk about themselves confidently in interviews.

24. "Focus on what you really want to do," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Natalia Marulanda. "I have always been someone who has a thousand interests. One day I wanted to work in child services, another day I wanted to be a food writer, the next day I wanted to open my own clothing boutique. With so many ideas running through my mind, it was hard to really focus my efforts on any one thing, making me feel like nothing was possible. That's when I realized that while I can be interested in lots of things, not everything I like is a potential career."

25. "You can get a job in a new industry with zero experience, but you have to be realistic here, too," Marulanda writes. "It's unlikely that it won't affect your pay grade or seniority negatively. This is particularly the case if you're engaging in a mid-life career change."

For more tips on changing careers, check out these resources:

On Career Advancement

26. "If you’re aiming to be perfect, failure is inevitable," writes Berlinsky-Schine. "Rather than forcing yourself to conform to a specific mold or ideal of how you or others think your life or career should be, consider what you really want — in life in addition to work. Take some time to reflect on what your strengths and weaknesses are. Doing so can also help steer a direction for the path your career should take."

27. "A successful career doesn’t happen without putting in thought and effort," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Ellie Nieves. "You really need to be planning, tending, and frequenting review in order to grow in the workplace."

28. "A good manager is efficient," Yunfei Xu, Global Head of Engineering for Portfolio Analytics and Index products told Fairygodboss. "I found that can be applied to many different roles: an efficient manager learns to delegate and empower his or her people; an efficient engineer finds creative ways to optimize and streamline the process, etc."

29. “If you’re willing to put in the work and really hustle, you can do it," Bianca Monica, founder of Limone Creative, told Fairygodboss. "If you’re going into it half-assed, don’t even bother… Be real and be nice because everything comes full circle… Don’t sweat the small stuff!”

30. "Everyone has their own path and there’s no need to rush," Monica told Fairygodboss. "Everything that doesn’t come easy is the most rewarding.”

For more tips on career advancement, check out these resources:

On Negotiating Your Worth

31. "Here's the thing: By not asking, you’re missing out on money and you're putting your long-term opportunities and earning potential at stake," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Melissa Hereford. "Let these numbers motivate you: Not negotiating is likely contributing to your pay gap. Men are not as afraid to negotiate."

32. "It's important to know that the bulk of any negotiation is done before the actual conversation," writes Hereford. "Planning and practicing are the keys to success."

33. "Certainly, you need to do your homework and research similar companies in your industry and geography to understand comparable salary ranges, but the most powerful tool in any negotiation whether it’s for a salary increase promotion, or new position, is your value proposition," writes Fairygodboss contributor Bonnie Marcus. "It has been my experience, coaching hundreds of professional women since 2007, that by far, the biggest blunder we make when negotiating for a raise is not understanding our value."

34. "Know when it's the right time to ask for a raise," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Jill L. Ferguson. "For most employers, the rule of thumb is to wait for one year before asking your manager for a raise. However, if your company conducts salary reviews on a regular basis, you may be able to ask for one sooner. Pay attention to when your company typically grants promotions and raises. If it happens more frequently than once per year, follow suit."

35. "When butterflies are flitting in our stomachs, we sometimes talk too much," Ferguson writes. "The last thing you want to do during a raise request is ramble or accidentally say anything that can be considered a threat (i.e. 'If I don’t get this raise I may need to leave')."

36. “When you ask for a raise at your performance review, think of it as an opportunity to give your boss the information needed to convince their boss or HR that you deserve a raise," Laura Browne, corporate trainer and co-author of Raise Rules for Women: How to Make More Money at Work, told Fairygodboss. "Typically managers can't make the decisions by themselves. Give them examples of business results you've accomplished and comments from others about your effectiveness."

38. "Be clear what you are requesting, then focus on how this will help your boss, department, or company," writes Marcus. "You need to answer this question in preparation for your negotiation. Increased productivity, more focus, less distractions from colleagues, could be considered. Keep the conversation focused on how you will be better able to perform better and get the job done."

39. "Your company may not be ready to give you everything you ask for so be prepared to negotiate," writes Marcus. "You might suggest a trial period after which time you can revisit how this is working for both parties."

40. "Although it may not feel like it in the moment, getting a raise that’s lower than you expected can have a profoundly positive impact," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Elana Konstant. "This experience will compel you to do your research and consider your value, ultimately leading to a compensation increase in your current role or a new one."

    For more tips on negotiating your worth, check out these resources:

    On Work-life Balance

    41. "Have two support systems in place," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Liz McGrory. "A support system is a group of people who care about you and your success. Create two of them — one for your personal life and one your professional life. It’s hard to “do it all,” but when you have support it makes it easier to sway between work and life."

    42. "The journey to making different choices around how you work and how spend your time outside of work is a process, not a quick fix," writes Fairygodboss contributor Elaine McGhee. "Advocating for well-being is often met with resistance from management or peer pressure."

    43. "Check in with how you feel when you take time for yourself — do feelings of guilt, resentment, or work anxiety come up?" writes McGhee. "It’s normal, but remember this: You are worth having a life outside of work!"

    44. "As a society, we need to do more to change perceptions about working women without children," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Wanda Sealy. "More companies need to set expectations and time-off policies that treat all employees equally — regardless of their parenthood status."

    45. "Undoing some of that habitual thinking about work (or lack thereof) and challenging some cultural norms around work is bold," writes McGhee. "But the rewards of a balanced life are vast."

    For more tips on work-life balance, check out these resources:

    On Workplace Relationships

    46. "Many companies have established rules or guidelines for employees on handling workplace relationships," writes Berlinsky-Schine. "Read the dating policy thoroughly before you take any next steps—even asking your coworker out for a drink that's anything aside from a work happy hour or catch-up conversation with a colleague."

    47. "It's best to avoid one-night stands and hookups within the company," writes Berlinsky-Schine. "Even if you're both on board with a brief, no-strings-attached affair, this type of relationship can get messy quickly—and messier still when you're working together."

    48. "As soon as you feel a work friendship blossoming, gently make it clear what you're looking for," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Melody Wilding. "If you're totally invested in getting a promotion, you may have to make it very clear that you're focusing on your career at the moment. You may find that it’s easier to limit social contact with work friends to professional settings. For example, follow a rule of thumb that you’ll go out for drinks after a big client presentation or hard day at the office, but inviting them out to a dinner on a weekend with your college friends is off-limits."

    49. "[Workplace romances] can cause tension in the workplace for you, but also for your coworkers,” Mirande Valbrune, an employee relations and compliance professional with an employment law background told Fairygodboss. “Additionally, you have no guarantee that the other person might not complain to HR in retaliation after the relationship has soured. If you are in a position of management or leadership, you should take even more pause before blurring the lines of work and personal. There are plenty of fish in the sea, and I’d suggest another pond outside of the one that pays your bills.”

    50. "Point blank: You don't need toxic people or the negativity in your life. And a good friend wouldn't be in a toxic relationship or any kind of unhealthy friendship with you," writes Fairygodboss contributor Karen Schneider. "You don't need to feel bad about breaking off an unhealthy friendship, because self-absorbed people like that so-called friend won't care either; you do need to find yourself people who care and want to spend time with you, support you and lift you up."

    For more tips on workplace relationships, check out these resources:

    On Dealing With Difficult Coworkers or Bosses

    51. "By stepping back and reconsidering how to deal with [different personality types], their behavior, and the (sometimes thorny) conflicts that arise, it’s possible to have a better working relationship with office rivals for mutual success," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Gia Ilole.

    52. "Have you ever had the feeling a colleague just didn’t like you?" writes Ilole. "You rack your brain, but can’t imagine why. More than likely you barely know her. Consider this. Maybe she doesn’t. Has she said so? Have you heard through the grapevine she had it out for you? Does she really attack you outright? Or is it just a feeling that you get from her expression?"

    53. "We often let difficult people get under our skin and before we know it, we start taking everything about their behavior and remarks personally," writes Marcus. "Even the mention of his/her name raises our blood pressure as we contemplate how to deal with them and run different scenarios through our mind. The longer we allow their disruptive behavior to continue, the more emotional we get. Efficient leaders know better than to let their emotions take charge." 

    54. "Whatever you do, don’t gossip," writes Fairygodboss cofounder, Georgene Huang. "Everyone needs support when they’re in a tough situation, but it’s a bad idea to drag coworkers and management into your issues. You never know where loyalties lie and who may be talking behind your back. Moreover, complaining and gossiping in the workplace can reflect poorly on your character and leadership skills. Hold your head up high by knowing you are confident enough to be discreet, and find your emotional outlet through friends or family, outside of work."

    55. "Co-workers who have a victim mentality act like being busy is a badge of honor," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Melody Wilding. "Workaholism isn't healthy, so be careful not to reward or enable their behavior. Keep your own work-life balance in check so you don't enable an office culture obsessed with productivity."

    56. "Figure out why this person provokes such resentment," Wilding writes. "Start by getting specific about your feelings toward this person. Rather than making overblown, blanket statements like 'She's the most annoying person on earth,' identify the emotions provoked. Irritation? Insignificance? Disappointment? This list can help you find the right words to describe your feelings. Simply labeling the emotions has a soothing cognitive effect that allows you to embrace a solution-focused mindset."

    57. "Maintain self-awareness," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Rochelle Sonnenberg. "It’s essential for us to be aware of environmental triggers that can cause us to have extreme reactions to a situation."

    58. "Always remember to be kind to yourself," Sonnenberg writes. "Sometimes it may take several conversations to get your point across. I’ve seen as long as I’ve maintained an attitude of curiosity and patience, I was well on my way to successfully handling a difficult conversation."

    59. "Self-awareness leads to an emotional detachment which leads to effectively handling the issue," Marcus writes.

    60. "Whenever possible, try to first assume positive intent," Wilding writes. "Everyone at the office, including you, is an imperfect human being. Remembering that we all have strengths and weaknesses can be a good first step towards developing the type of empathy and emotional immunity needed to survive in a less than perfect workplace."

    For more tips on dealing with difficult coworkers or bosses, check out these resources:

    On Workplace Harassment or Discrimination

    61. "If you’re being given different shifts, different work or being passed over for opportunities and promotions for being a female, this would be considered sexual harassment," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Sarah Landrum.

    62. "If you’ve experienced sexual harassment, you may feel compelled to leave the company behind," Landrum writes. "However, if you’re no longer an employee of the company, you won’t be able to file a sexual harassment claim on their policy. Without the claim, you may not have a lawsuit. If you still want to quit, do so after you’ve filed the claim and complied with the investigation."

    63. "Unfortunately, a one-time event probably isn’t enough to build an entire case around," Landrum writes. "But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t report the harassment through your company policy. While it may be an isolated incident this time, it could turn into a repeat offense down the road. Having the documentation to address each instance of harassment can be important to a case."

    64. " If you've experienced or are experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, you should contact a superior or HR immediately," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Kristina Udice. "Follow your company's sexual harassment complaint process and file a complaint with your local law enforcement. This may lead to a court hearing. If convicted, most sexual harassment charges are misdemeanors which could lead to fines, or a few years in prison depending on the state and local government laws."

    65. "Women, and all sexual harassment victims, must take a stand and let their voices be heard so the next person who walks into that office, studio, or boardroom doesn’t suffer the same fate," Udice writes.

    66. "Many times, when an employee tells me they’ve been harassed at work, the conduct they describe does not fit the conduct prohibited by law," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Candace Alnaji. "Of course, there are things your boss should never do. But bullying, angry outbursts and nasty attitudes aren’t illegal on their own. For an employer’s actions to be considered illegal, they must be based on a protected class."

    67. "Many anti-discrimination laws exist to protect you and your employment," writes Berlinsky-Schine. "They also guarantee that your employer must make reasonable accommodations on your behalf."

    68. "It is important to remember that employment discrimination matters are highly fact-specific, and that federal anti-discrimination laws apply only to employers with 15 employees or more — except for the ADEA, which requires a minimum of 20 employees," writes Alnaji.

    69. "If you feel ageism is directed at you, the simplest and most effective response is for you to document every action, email or encounter that you believe slights you for your age," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Michele Weldon. "Report these well-documented instances to your supervisor or HR representative."

    70. "We all have the right to be proud of who we are as individuals, and our sexuality or gender identity should never change that, especially in the workplace," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Lis Brown.

    For more tips on workplace harassment or discrimination, check out these resources:

    On Taking Maternity Leave

    71. "Great parental leave policies work only when senior management works by example," writes Fairygodboss cofounder, Romy Newman. "Managers should take leave, and should show strong support of others who do as well."

    72. "It’s a great idea to emphasize that you’re looking forward to your return to work, even if that seems a long way off," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Karen Rubin. "When you speak with your manager or other potential sponsors, you can even re-state your future career aspirations so they know your career is a priority."

    73. "Be proactive in discussing what your manager can do to keep you on others’ radar and make sure you’re in the mix when they’re discussing upcoming projects starting around the time of your return," Rubin writes.

    74. "Breathe; count your blessings," writes Fairygodboss contributor, Jacqueline Hernandez Lewis. "You have a beautiful new baby and a job to return to. Being employed makes you fortunate."

    75. "Give yourself grace," Lewis writes. "It will probably take some time to settle back into your role at work. That’s normal after months away from your job. Once you’re back into your groove, you might even be a better employee than you were prior to leave. Also, chances are your co-workers are happy you’ve returned — and a part of you likely is, too."

    76. "Your HR representative is likely to have been a key contact already, so it’s a good idea to initiate a final meeting with them to discuss your plans and make sure all of your paperwork is in place," Rubin writes. Be sure you understand your parental leave benefits, your payment while on leave, paid time off, etc."

    77. "Many times, people worry about lost productivity while employees are out on leave, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is much easier to miss the contributions of a talented employee for several months than it is to lose her or him altogether," Newman writes.

    For more tips on taking maternity leave, check out these resources:

    Be sure to check out our community pages to get and give more career advice. Did you find this career advice helpful? What tips would you add to this list? Comment your suggestions!

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    AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.

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