24 People Reveal The Best Career Advice They've Ever Gotten


For the third year in a row, Bustle's Upstart Awards are honoring young women who are doing incredible things in the realms of business, STEM, fashion and beauty, the arts, philanthropy, and beyond. Want to be an Upstarts honoree one day? Read on for career tips, insights, and inspiration to help get you there.

Of all the things we learn in school, how to build a successful career doesn't actually come up that often. And even as we get older, finding mentors to provide this advice is no easy feat. But if you ask around, you'll find many nuggets of career wisdom from everyday people. After all, everyone at one point had no work experience — and learned a lot on the path from that point to where they are now.

The single most important thing you can do for your career is "cultivate strategic and authentic relationships," Deena Baikowitz, career coach and chief networking officer for Fireball Network, tells Bustle. "Build relationships with people in diverse industries and sectors and stay connected online and in person. Don't neglect your network or wait until you need a job to get out there. You never know where your next opportunity can come from. You'll get access to the best jobs, clients, mentors, and friends by actively and consistently building a network of people you can count on and who can count on you."

That advice makes a lot of sense: I've gotten many opportunities through friends and acquaintances (and their friends and acquaintances). To learn even more about how to further one's career, I asked people what the best piece of career advice they've ever gotten is.

Hannah Burton/Bustle
"The #1 piece of career advice I have ever received is '15 minutes early or you're late.' Meaning, in a professional context, arriving 15 minutes early to any appointment should be your standard. As a person who has, how shall we say, an unjustifiably optimistic sense of how much time it takes to get from point A to point B, keeping the phrase '15 minutes early or you're late' in mind gets me out the door quicker. Because of that phrase, I arrive on time to professional meetings and events."
"I just had a fabulous dinner with a female mentor of mine last night. I asked her, 'As a woman who is constantly in a crowd of men, how do I assert myself at the table?' This lovely, lovely woman responded simply with, 'Let the data speak for you. Data isn't emotional and it can't be beat. Know the data more than anyone else and you'll always win.' She then made a funny quip about how men really are the emotional ones and how it's so fun to watch them squirm when a woman tells them to shut it."
"When I started my internship at the same company I work for now, a female EVP told me, 'Fake it until you make it. Do your research, show your confidence (even fake), stay uncomfortable. No matter who is in the room with you, stand your ground. Eventually you’ll believe you can do anything.' I live by these words every day and share them with my own mentees."
"Laugh a lot. Unless you are saving lives, put things in perspective. When I am most stressed working on a deadline and we are all starting to freak out, I take a deep breath and start to make jokes. It relaxes the team and then we can get some great work done. I have also learned a lot about the type of manager I want to be since I have worked for some of the best and some of the not so best. The key is that the perception people around you have is more powerful than your intent. Especially when working in a youthful industry, it's important to manage each person in a way that brings out their individual best, encourages creativity, and maintains a professional work environment for all."
"Personal responsibility is fundamental for growth. My mother was a single mom, supporting two kids as a secretary for the Orlando Transit Authority, making around $7,000 a year. Despite facing many challenges, my mother set the bar high, imparting the idea that I could make it on my own through strength and hard work."
"I wanted to share a few words of wisdom I’ve taken away from a TED talk by David Kelley on building your creative confidence: 'Children are socialized to believe that they are either left brained or right-brained; you’re either practical-analytical or the artsy-creative type. Contrary to what we grew up believing, anyone and everyone can be the creative type, even if it doesn’t channel out the same way as artists or graphic designers. To be successful in your career, we need to overcome our fear of 'failing' at being creative and feel empowered to approach problems with our unique ideas, even if they’re different than most."
Hannah Burton/Bustle
"My advice would be not to worry about finding a lifetime career. Instead, focus on your current marketable talents and interests and find a career or job that is the best match. Five- and 10-year plans are obsolete. We evolve and often find different career paths as our life changes."
"Never take a job you can’t afford to lose or you’ll become a prisoner to it."
"The best career advice [...] for deciding timing and next steps in any job: '1) Am I learning and growing? 2) Am I contributing? 3) Is my contribution being recognized? 4) Am I having fun?'"
"Never look to your company to make you happy."
"The best piece of career advice that I've ever received was from a mentor and former boss. She said 'Don't spend your career trying to figure out what you WANT to do, because that's a fool's game. Instead, spend it identifying all of those things you DON'T want to do.' That piece of advice has stuck with me throughout my entire career and has guided many a decision, with positive outcomes."
"If you want to impress others... if you want to maximize your greatest career potential and leave your most lasting footprints... ALWAYS go the extra mile."
"You know more than you think. More often than not, you know better than anyone else what’s best for you. Yes, seek advice of those older, younger, and outside of your industry on a regular basis, but evaluate their insight and mold it into what works for you. If it feels right, it’s right for you. If it doesn’t, find another solution. Sometimes, the solution is to walk away. Sometimes, you must go through a process of elimination. The bottom line is always how it makes you feel. You’ll know what is right when you feel lighter, excited, relieved, calm, or assured. Even if it scares you, if you feel it’s right, it’s right for you. If you can’t listen to yourself, who will?"
"Best piece of career advice I ever received came from a gentleman I shared an Uber Pool with in San Francisco. He dropped a nugget on me half way through our conversation: 'Be obsessed with what it is you're doing.'"
"A co-worker once said to me that everyone should have at least one bad boss in their career. She said you learn more from a bad boss than a good one. I didn’t really understand what she meant until I went out on my own and became a boss. I had a bad boss prior to that and it helped me realize the things I wanted to avoid as a boss, which helped me tremendously."
"On my first day of work at my first job out of college, my boss told me that when I feel I have stopped learning in the position, I shouldn't be afraid to move on to bigger and better opportunities. Never stop growing!"
"Don't ever work for free."
"When you reject a job simply because you cannot afford to work for the salary they've offered, do not apologize, and in a dry but professional and polite email, tell them you're doing so because you've got a few 'more lucrative offers' on the table. I've done this six times, and all six times, the employer (who was previously unable to increase the wage) made me a much better offer."
"Don't let yourself feel rushed. A good opportunity may present itself at the wrong time. Don't kill yourself trying to make it work. Keep your eye on the long game, be the best at what you do, and success will follow."
"Someone once told me, 'If you're being asked to do the impossible, that's not your problem to solve — it's your manager's problem.'"
"On a scale of 1 to 10, do what you're an 8, 9, or 10 at, not what you're a 4 at. Nobody wants to hire a 4."
"'Don't borrow trouble.' Of course, at the time I was really resistant to it. I thought, 'I'm NOT borrowing trouble,' and of course I was. I'm a big planner. I like to think ahead, but I was also stressing out about things I couldn't change. This one took me years to internalize. Once it clicked, I was liberated."
"If a new job opportunity is presented to you, always throw your hat in the ring — even if you're happy in your current position."
"Don't apologize (which I agree with 99 percent of the time). It almost never fixes the situation. Instead, it places you in a position of weakness and tends to fuel the flames of the other party's anger. Instead, turn it around and thank the person (if possible) for bringing the issue to your attention or for the feedback."

I don't know about you, but after reading this, I already feel wiser and more ready to take on the world.