There’s a lot of career advice out there, but a lot of it is not very well thought-out. It’s all well and good to “connect with your co-workers around the watercooler” but is this kind of career advice really going to help you develop a strong and healthy work-life?
We’ve gathered our top 25 pieces of career advice that will hopefully help you build the kind of career you can be happy working in for many years to come.
1. Be confident in your decisions
When you make a decision, make a decision. Do it confidently. Don’t go with the flow just because it seems easier or you’re not sure what to do. Decide on your course of action and then stand by it. If the outcome is poor, you’ll have well-thought-out and sound reasons for why you did as you did and can confidently make your case. Most employers understand a bad judgment call, but they have a harder time overlooking what they perceive as negligence.
2. Leave when it’s time to go
Don’t be afraid to grow with a company, but don’t be afraid to leave. If the company is not serving your career goals anymore, you are frustrated with the lack of promotional opportunities, or you simply aren’t being treated well or compensated fairly, don’t let some misplaced sense of company loyalty keep you there. They wouldn’t hesitate to replace you–don’t be afraid to choose yourself and replace them.
3. You are more important than your career
Mental health and quality of life are more important than career milestones. Protect yourself from burning out, set reasonable limits on your accessibility and what you’re willing to invest in your company.
4. Don’t be afraid to change your mind
Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your career path. You’re not the same person you were at the beginning of your career. If it isn’t for you anymore, do something else.
5. Learn everything you can
Take advantage of any development opportunities you can on the company’s dime. Spend your development budget, take the certification classes, get a free Master’s degree. Any knowledge you gain is knowledge that can never be taken away and can give you leverage and value in this job or in the next one. (But don’t get taken advantage of by doing too many different things you’re not getting paid for, even if you’re getting paid to learn the new skills.)
6. Know how to climb the ladder
Know how you’re being evaluated. Ask for a clear promotion path. If you don’t know this, it will be impossible to leverage your career growth. If your manager doesn’t have a promotional map laid out already, ask if you can build one together. You don’t want to be stuck on the same merry-go-round without any hope of advancement your entire career.
7. Track your success
Keep track of your accomplishments. Get in the habit of creating notes weekly or monthly that document all the things you do, projects you work on, etc. When it comes time to find a new job, you’re going to need to know details about your greatest accomplishments, but they’re easy to forget, especially if you’ve been in the same job for many years.
8. Create visible wins
Drudge work is inevitable, time-consuming, difficult, and possibly what you’re most proud of, but what is going to get you noticed are high-impact accomplishments. For instance, moving the needle on a product sale, design, increasing revenue, etc. Even if your work on it took less time and was less impressive, it’s going to matter the most to the people in charge and impact your status in the company and financial rewards the most.
9. Join a group of professionals
No one understands what you do better than other people who do what you do. Your work can feel lonely when you are the only person you know who does it all day, but other professionals in your line of work will not only understand, they’ll make you better.
Chances are someone in the group has figured out a solution to something you’re struggling with, or can at least encourage you because they’re going through the same things too. They can offer resources and a sympathetic ear.
10. Stay up to speed
Don’t fall asleep on your industry. Keep up-to-date on what’s expected and what needs to change. You don’t want to fall behind because you got too comfortable and your skillset is now irrelevant.
11. Put yourself first
Love your job. Love your company. But understand at the end of the day the company is a business and will operate as such. Make decisions that are best for you and your overall health and happiness.
12. Be clear about what you want
Make sure your manager knows about your goals. Don’t assume they know you’re interested in management, or changing departments, or learning more about public relations. Share your career goals. A good manager will want to see you succeed and build a path with you.
13. Solve your own problems
Get in the habit of trying to solve your own problems first. Show that you have researched and troubleshoot any issues you have before taking it to your manager. This will show intelligence and initiative and they will understand you are not trying to waste their time by not trying very hard and will take your concerns seriously.
14. Solve your team’s problems
Come to your team with solutions, not problems. At the very least, you should have brainstormed a few approaches that you have researched and thought out. This can build collaboration and respect for your leadership skills.
15. Be patient and strategic
It will take some time to get where you want to go, and sometimes you have to start at the bottom, in a different industry, or make a lateral move. The key is to make smart choices, don’t get complacent, and leave if you are getting taken advantage of.
16. Be polite and discreet
You don’t have to like your co-workers, but you do have to work with them. Be polite to everyone and keep your interactions about work. Stay out of the drama and do your job.
17. Set boundaries early
Block off times in your calendar that you’re not available. Don’t take work calls/emails/messages on your off time. Set up how you expect to be treated early and don’t budge on your boundaries. Work a little overtime to get important projects done, but don’t wrack up overtime on the regular unless that’s the expectation you want to set.
18. Get instructions in writing
With instructions in writing you will have documentation about what you were told and why you did as instructed. This is good as a way to preserve your work and protect yourself, but also is invaluable if HR needs any documentation later down the line.
19. Be the hero now and then
You don’t have to volunteer to do all the grunt work, but once in a while, volunteer to lead something no one else wants to do, especially if it’s visible and helpful to your managers. Your team will also be grateful that you took the lead and may be more inclined to volunteer themselves next time.
20. Communicate your unhappiness
Resentment breeds resentment, so if you are peeved, feel overlooked or undervalued make your case professionally. If nothing is done about it, you know all you need to know and can move on knowing it won’t get better. If you have a good manager, they will be grateful you brought it up to them and will rectify the situation.
21. Own your mistakes
Take responsibility for your mistakes. Don’t talk down about yourself, but explain why you made the decision and make it clear you understand it was a mistake, apologize if you were wrong, and make sure it’s clear you understand how to avoid the mistake in the future.
22. Fight for what you deserve
Don’t assume your efforts are being noticed and will be rewarded accordingly. If you want recognition you’ll have to fight for it. Strategically take projects that are visible, make yourself useful to your boss’s weaknesses (if they hate Excel, etc.) ask for raises.
Don’t just do excellent work silently and expect it will be noticed.
23. Know what you’re about
Be confident, but not arrogant, teachable, but not apologetic. Give the impression you know what you’re about and do things on purpose. Don’t apologize unnecessarily.
24. Keep your word
Always keep your promises, but don’t make promises you can’t keep. Make realistic deadlines for yourself and keep them.
25. Build genuine relationships
Cultivate important professional relationships, but don’t brown-nose or use people. Make yourself useful and show them kind professionalism. This can really help you grow in your role and in your career.
Your career can be whatever you want it to be, but it will require being strategic and thoughtful about how you conduct yourself and what kind of work life you want.
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- To learn how to land an offer after every interview, discover actionable lessons and interview practice here (Rated with 4.9/5 by 1,000,000 users).
- Learn how to effectively describe your current role and responsibilities here.
- Become a better leader by developing your leadership skills.