50 Essential Pieces of Career Advice That Most People Learn Too Late

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
June 25, 2024 at 8:55PM UTC
You've probably heard a lot of advice throughout your career, whether it came from your friends and family, your colleagues, higher-ups in your company or communities. 
At Fairygodboss, we've certainly shared a whole wealth of empowering tips for a fair and fulfilling career. But since there's so much advice out there, we wanted to round up some of the absolute most important pieces of career advice that most people learn too late. Here's career advice from business professionals and the greatest minds of history alike.

50 Essential Pieces of Career Advice

Here are 50 pieces of career advice you're better off learning sooner rather than later!

1. Find a job that fits you.

"The advice I wish I had heard earlier in my career was to not try to make myself fit a position or job but to find the position or job that fits me (my passion, goals, etc.)," says Carolyn O’Connor, a DOJ-accredited Immigration Legal Specialist with Esperanza Legal Assistance Center. "While all the positions I’ve held have been useful for what I do now, I spent way too long in positions that I knew where not using me fully or required me to be someone different than I was — all in the name of having a job or money (or whatever it was I was told I needed to be pursuing)."
When she took the time to really search for a job that allowed her to use all of her abilities and skills, she said that she found herself more willing and able to push harder to achieve company goals.
"It was a matter of being intentional about what I was seeking to do and be in my career," she says. "Being intentional about what you seek in a position can make all the difference in how you view your work and life. You spend way too much time working to be miserable or only use part of yourself."

2. Be respectful.

"Manners matter," says Kelsey Trotta of Trotta Translations. "Always remember manners with clients, and if they don't have manners with you, that's a giant red flag."

3. You don't have to stick to the same title.

"It's about the role, not the title," says Tiffany Pittman, content specialist and event manager for Smile Back Girl Productions. "It's okay to switch paths in your career. Sometimes it's necessary. I learned this the hard way.  I stayed stuck for a long time as a TV producer. I had a stuck mindset."
She thought because she went to school for television production and that is what she'd always planned to do, that is what she had to do. "TV producer" was the title she had to have.
"That trapped mindset left me with little opportunities and money, too," she says. "It wasn't until I said yes to other opportunities like being an event producer that I realized I didn't have to stay trapped in a 'title' and could transfer my skills to new roles. I found out I really enjoyed the new roles and had a lot to offer, too."

4. Professional development is key.

"One thing job seekers often learn too late is professional development," says Jacquelyn Lloyd, HR consultant. "It's tempting to take a break from what feels like more work when we settle into a position. However, that's a mistake that can cause you to miss out on an opportunity."
She explains that being able to speak intelligently on best practices or innovation can open doors to new projects and promotions.
"This not only makes those dreaded networking events easier but allows you to gain perspective and be able to see connections where others may not," she says. "Take advantage of free resources and your companies education reimbursement programs. "Start a mentorship program or even read and analyze business newspapers online. You will be surprised at how far smart 'small' talk can get you."

5. Lean into your expertise.

"Every win and every fail you have experienced got you to where you are in the present moment," says Randi Levin, Transitional Life Strategist. "Instead of focusing on the skillsets you don’t have or dismissing opportunities because you think you may not be considered for them, build out your own value add."
She says that the question to ask is, "Where do I bring value to this role, this organization, or to these clients?"
"Think in terms of all the things that make you unique and infuse your value organically and conversationally into your interactions," she explains. "Don’t be afraid to be a resource for others and to believe that you can excel, even within unknown arenas."

6. Always do as you say.

"Do what you say you're going to do," Ngoc Nguyen, career coach at Ama La Vida, said, according to Business Insider. "Simple as that. Being reliable and dependable is foundational to building trust with others. Business is all about relationships, and without trust, the relationship doesn't exist. If you model this behavior, you'll find that you will attract people you can count on."

7. Don't wait to be inspired.

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King

8. Celebrate your successes.

"Every day you experience a variety of different small wins," says Randi Levin, Transitional Life Strategist. "You may not have landed the client or the promotion, or even achieved your goals, but you did have successes along the way. Highlighting those wins on a weekly basis and really celebrating the small stuff, inspires you to keep going."
Success breeds success, she explains. So mindfully acknowledging these little moments can support you in building out bigger and bolder successes.
"Even more importantly, it hallmarks your personal and professional growth," she adds."

9. Say "yes" more.

"Another career coach once told me to say 'yes' to things you don't think you can do," Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs, said, according to Business Insider.  "Whether it's applying for a higher-level job, taking on a new task at work, or learning a difficult new skill, one of the best ways to rapidly level-up or advance your career is to say 'yes' to the scary stuff. This might mean accepting an offer when it's given to you or proactively suggesting something you'd like to take on. It's not that you shouldn't be scared to do these things — be scared and do them anyway."

10. Network, network, network.

"I wish that I had learned earlier how important it was to network!" says Meghan Titzer, a director of product development at Homesite Insurance. "My recent job searches have been so much less stressful that way because I had a regular network in place and all I had to do was tell them I was looking. A couple weeks later, I had a role I wanted in hand."
Networking doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming, she says.
"I just reach out to one person every Monday I haven't spoken with in a while and offer a phone call or virtual coffee," she explains. "If they respond, great! If not, that's ok, I did my 'job'  for the week and can move on to someone else next Monday. It is less overwhelming and more of a habit that way, and definitely effective."

11. Leave if you don't love your work.

"As cliché as it sounds, don't stay in a job you don't love," says Abigail Church, an organizational development consultant. "We spend the majority of our waking hours as adults doing our jobs. If we don't love what we do, our mental and emotional health suffer."

12. Maintain connections.

"There's a lot of value in networking and building and maintaining meaningful connections within a person’s company, industry, and field," says Maryam Tse of EngineerGirl.

13. Don't overcomplicate things.

"Keep it simple; don’t overcomplicate issues," says Susan Graye of Executive Recruiters.

14. Be confident.

"The number one piece of career advice that people tend to learn late in life is to be confident in your abilities and don't let people tell you that you can't do something," says Katrina McNair, a site director. "This is something that I wish someone had encouraged me to do when I was in my 20s.  This piece of advice would've allowed me to empower myself to continue to work harder and try my best at any job I had.  I would've been more productive and efficient in completing tasks in a timely manner.  Then I wouldn't have been so apprehensive and afraid to work well with other people."

15. Ask questions.

"Always ask great questions and proactively listen," says Susan Graye of Executive Recruiters. "You know what you know. The best way to learn is to listen and to ask questions to understand not to have another reason to talk."
You should always be learning, after all. 
"The world is changing fast.," she says. "Take that class and find ways to apply your knowledge."
Then take the time to summarize what you learn and "ask for confirmation that you captured the key points," she adds.

16. Love the work you do.

"The best career or job is the one in which you’re using the skills you enjoy," Miriam Salpeter, Founder of Keppie Careers, said, according to The Muse. "But, not every job needs to address all of your passions. Use every job as an opportunity to learn something new and keep an open mind; you may find that you really enjoy something you never imagined would appeal to you."

17. Don't take things so seriously.

"Don’t take yourself (or your career) too seriously," Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse, said on The Muse. "Plenty of brilliant people started out in jobs they hated, or took paths that weren’t right at the beginning of their careers. Professional development is no longer linear, and trust that with hard work and a dedication to figuring out what you want to do with your life, you, too, will be OK!"

18. Stay strong.

"Don’t be afraid to fall on your face," says Susan Graye of Executive Recruiters. "But then pick yourself up.  Dust yourself off.  Figure out what you did wrong, and keep moving in the right direction.  Learn from your mistakes.  Sometimes they are the best teacher."
This involves being courageous, she says. You can't be afraid to provide honest feedback and ask for honest feedback. 
"The only way to improve is to understand not only what you’re doing right but what you’re doing wrong," she adds. "Don’t take negative feedback personally but look at it as a gift as it is the best way to improve."

19. Dress for the job you want.

"I know. You’ve heard it a thousand times: Dress for the job you want, not the one you’ve got. But I think this message goes far beyond the clothes you wear every day: It’s how you present yourself in meetings and at office events, how you interact with staff both above and below you, and how seriously you take your work," Adrian Granzella Larssen, editor-in-chief at The Muse said on the site.

20. Stop waiting for the right time.

"There’s never going to be a precisely right moment to speak, share an idea, or take a chance," Kathleen Tierney, executive vice president and COO of Chubb Insurance told The Muse. "Just take the moment — don’t let thoughts like, 'I don’t feel like I’m ready,' get in the way. Look to see if you have the main things or the opportunity will pass you by. Don’t let perfect get in the way of really, really good."

21. Set boundaries.

"I live by the 80/20 rule," Alex Cavoulacos, COO at The Muse told the site. "80 percent of the impact can be done with 20 percent of the work. It’s the last 20 percent that takes up the most time. Know when to stop, and when things are close enough."

22. Be a team player.

"Teamwork makes the dream work," says Susan Graye of Executive Recruiters.  "Find ways to collaborate and ensure your team is inclusive (everyone has a voice) and that you have a diversity of ideas and opinions. [Give] recognition to each other for contributions."

23. Nothing has to be permanent.

"Don’t sweat it," Steve Errey, a career coach told The Muse. "Don’t beat yourself up about it. It’ll probably be scary or uncomfortable, but you always get to make a new choice if this one doesn’t work out."

24. Set lofty goals.

"Dream big," says Susan Graye of Executive Recruiters. "But the only way for dreams to come true is to take action."

25. Nothing is impossible.

“Nothing is impossible; the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” — Audrey Hepburn

26. Don't settle.

"There is no passion to be found in playing small — in settling for a life that is less than you are capable of living.” — Nelson Mandela

27. Move your body.

"Stretch," says Susan Graye of Executive Recruiters. "Whether working out or working, stretch your muscles, walk, and search for those stretch assignments. Make your weaknesses your strengths.

28. Change your perspective.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” — Henry Ford

29. Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” — Albert Einstein

30. Find ways to be better.

"Make it better," says Susan Graye of Executive Recruiters. "Focus on ways to continually improve.  The best innovations come from individuals who are inspired to make the world a better place."

31. Just keep going. 

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” — Confucius

32. Know yourself well.

“You'll be forging your career in a world that's not safe, stable, nor secure — there's no such thing,”  Rosie McCarthy, founder of Badass Careers, told Pulse. “ So first thing's first — know yourself. Understand who you are, what energizes you, what you want out of life, and what makes you YOU.”

33. You have to put in the work.

“Nothing will work unless you do.” — Maya Angelou

34. Fear is a good thing.

“When searching for the right type of role, remember, if it doesn’t scare you it’s not for you,” Broadus Palmer, who is the founder of Level Up In Tech, told Pulse.

35. Be your own cheerleader.

“The best career advice I received was to take control of my career so that I could be my own biggest advocate,”  Tristan Layfield, owner and head career coach at Layfield Resume Consulting, told Pulse. “That means knowing how I make a difference or create an impact in the work I do and how that affects the organizations I’ve worked for. Having a clear understanding of this will help you convey the value you bring to any organization.”

36. Believe in yourself.

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” — Theodore Roosevelt

37. Don't allow your job to hurt your mental health.

Tejal Wagadia, a corporate recruiter, told Pulse: “No job is worth your mental health.”

38. Don't be afraid of the critics.

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” — Aristotle

39. Be clear.

“Clarity is everything,”  Kamara Toffolo, resume writer and job search strategist, told Pulse. “Before starting a job search, we need to be clear on what job we’re targeting. This will help us write a clear and focused resume. Before we answer questions in an interview, we need to be clear on what question is being asked so that our answers resonate, and reinforce the value we can offer our future employer and the pain points we can alleviate for them.”

40. Leverage your strengths.

Sho Dewan, the founder of Workhap, told Pulse: "My dad used to tell me this way before we all heard it from Gary Vee’s [Gary Vaynerchuk’s] now-famous line: Go all-in on your strengths. It’s the same advice I tell my clients. You will naturally gravitate towards tasks that you enjoy and are skilled at, so find a career that compliments them as much as possible.”

41. Stop talking and start doing.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

42. You don't need to be perfect.

“You're not supposed to do this perfectly. You don't do life perfectly. No one does.” – Michelle Obama

43. Ask for what you want.

"You are the brand of you, step into that at each leg of your career journey,"  says Randi Levin, Transitional Life Strategist.  "Challenge yourself to lead, beginning with making bold decisions to go after the promotions, clients, pitches, and jobs that light you up. Know from the start that you will not get everything you ask for, but not being afraid to go after what you want will support you in clarifying your goals and in understanding your value proposition. If you don’t ask, you won’t know."

44. Decide who you want to be.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

45. Finding something you enjoy is worth the effort.

"Someone said to me early on, 'Find something you enjoy doing,'" Tom Murry, former CEO of Calvin Klein, said, according to Business Insider. "When you enjoy what you do, you're more effective. It's that simple. When you enjoy the people you work with and what you're doing, time just passes effortlessly — it doesn't feel like work and you're willing to go the extra mile. Sometimes it takes time to find a great fit, but it's always worth it."

46. Find your power.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” — Alice Walker

47. Never stop absorbing.

"No matter what career stage you are in, whether you are looking for your first post-grad job or have years of experience on your resume, it's important to never stop learning; be curious and ask questions, Sarah Stoddard, senior public relations specialist at Glassdoor, said, according to Business Insider. "Many people find themselves paralyzed by the fear of not seeming smart or qualified enough for the job, but even the most successful professionals are constantly asking questions to help inform how they do their jobs, build their confidence, and propel them forward."

48. Remember that it's about the journey, not the destination.

"Navigating your career is a journey," says Nicole Dove, director of Information Security at WarnerMedia and host of Urban Girl Corporate World Podcast. "Far too often we focus on the destination instead of realizing that the true value and experiences are found within that journey!"
There is immense value in being present, she adds.
"For many years, I was so focused on my goals for tomorrow that I rarely stopped to acknowledge the accomplishments of today," she says. "The practice of taking inventory of the wins I've achieved reminds me to pace myself and trust the process, and it's evidence that I have everything I need to be successful. What is more powerful, impactful, or motivating than that?"

49. Step outside your comfort zone.

"Don't be afraid to try new things," Michelle Armer, director of HR operations at CareerBuilder, said, according to Business Insider. "Getting out of your comfort zone is key to getting ready for your next role. Remember, sometimes the ride is bumpy, and you don't get it perfect the first time, but that's the process to go through to learn and grow."

50. Start from where you are.

"Don’t wait for everything to be perfectly aligned to take action on your goals," says Randi Levin, Transitional Life Strategist. "The act of starting separates those who set goals from those who get their goals. Hiding behind all that waiting is a bit of fear, so to circumvent your fear press GO and begin with one small step. The truth is by the time things are 'perfect,' you will either have grown past them, or you won’t be challenged by them. When something excites you, reach for it in some small way. Each step that you take brings you closer to your dream much earlier and more effectively."
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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