Whether you’re settled into a lifelong career or just starting your first job, it never hurts to get advice.
Ngoc Nguyen, a career coach at Ama La Vida, spoke to Business Insider about how you can seek out career advice from a variety of sources, including “family, colleagues, managers, mentors, books, or speakers.”
“It’s not always what you’re told, but could also be actions you observe throughout your life,” she said.
Nguyen suggested thinking of advice like feedback. “It’s a gift, and you can choose what you want to do with it,” she said. “You can act on it right away, be inspired to do something else, or just put it in your back pocket for a rainy day.”
Here, Nguyen and 10 other career experts share the best job advice they’ve ever received. The responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.
1. DO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY
Someone said to me early on, “Find something you enjoy doing.” 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.
—Tom Murry, former CEO of Calvin Klein
2. BE CURIOUS AND ASK QUESTIONS
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.
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.
3. SAY ‘YES’ TO THE SCARY STUFF
Another career coach once told me to say “yes” to things you don’t think you can do. 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.
5. BE A TEAM PLAYER
Be a team player, but make sure you are not always the one offering to do the office “housework” — planning the company picnic or holiday party — especially if you’re a woman, as we disproportionately volunteer for unpaid, unrewarded office tasks.
Speaking of being a team player, honor relationships with your colleagues, your clients, and yourself. In this age of technology, left to our own devices (excuse the pun), we aren’t connecting. So, be intentional and build relationships. That is what ultimately moves you forward not only in your career but in your life.
6. GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Don’t be afraid to try new things. 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.
—Michelle Armer, director of HR operations at CareerBuilder
7. BE A LIFELONG LEARNER
The best advice I ever received was to be a lifelong learner — no matter what stage you are in your career. It’s estimated that the average shelf-life of a skill is about five years. LinkedIn research also found that 89% of professionals feel that skills are more important than job titles. Continuous learning allows professionals to be more flexible and adaptable in their career paths, something we know companies value very highly.
— Blair Decembrele, LinkedIn career expert
8. ALWAYS ASK, AND DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU’LL DO
Always ask — the worst you’ll hear is “no.” This has turned into a life mantra, and I have found that “no” doesn’t happen very often. Usually, if it’s not exactly what you want, you’ll at least get something more than what you started with.
This is especially important in the context of compensation. It was drilled in my head early on that there’s a pay gap between what women earn and what men earn. From then on, I made the promise to myself I would not allow myself to be part of that statistic, and I even once refused a job because they wouldn’t negotiate with me.
Also, do what you say you’re going to do. 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.
9. ALWAYS BE BUILDING YOUR BRAIN TRUST
I didn’t get this advice, but I learned it by doing, and now it’s what I tell others: Always be building your brain trust. This is the web of contacts you can call on when you have questions or need expertise beyond yours.
Meet colleagues you have a good feeling about, but don’t work directly with. Have coffee (virtual or real) with teammates in other locations. Get to know the corporate vendors (digital, legal, policy, creative) who do good work. Follow up with promising job candidates who didn’t get or accept an offer. These are all people you may want to call on over time for ideas, questions, or reality checks. The broader your network, the smarter you’ll be.
—Karen Wickre, former editorial leader at Google and Twitter, and the author of the forthcoming book“Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count“
10. DON’T DO SOMETHING FOR THE MONEY
The best business advice I ever got was from Dany Levy, the founder of DailyCandy, who started a daily newsletter for millennial women in the early 2000s. I reached out to her as I was starting my first business, CheekyChicago.com, which was an online magazine for women.
Months before I met with Dany, she had sold her business for $125 million to Comcast. One of my first questions was: “How do I make money doing what I’m doing?” She responded, “Don’t think about the money. Build a great platform. Make it the best content it can be. If you do, you’ll grow an audience that loves you, and focus on them. The more you focus on them, the more they will grow. And that’s when the money comes in.”
I have followed that advice with everything I have ever created. I now run a branding agency, and I always have the story, the platform, the heart, the art, and the audience in mind in everything I create. That’s my guiding force. And Dany was right. The money came.
11. WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER
One of my best friends is super successful in her career, and she always reminds me that no one cares how busy you are. Stop complaining about your workload, sit down,
and think about how to do it more efficiently. It’s about working smarter, not harder.
—Lauren Berger, author of “Get It Together: Ditch the Chaos, Do the Work, and Design your Success“ and CEO and founder of Career Queen
12. DON’T GIVE UP
I started out as an editorial assistant at House Beautiful magazine. At the time, Tony Freund was a staff writer for Town & Country magazine, and he told me that if an editor rejects an idea, do not scrap it. Instead, he suggested refining and repitching it to the same editor or trying a new one.
—Sara Bliss, freelance writer and New York Times bestselling author of the forthcoming book “Take the Leap: Change Your Career, Change Your Life“