Professional Development

7 pieces of tough but loving career advice

tough career advice
Written by Peter Jones

There’s an awful lot of career advice out there. Some of it is great; some of it is not so great. What most of it has in common is a general tone of optimism—”Reach for the stars! You can do anything you set your mind to!”

While it never hurt to think positively, we know it also can’t hurt to hear advice that’s a little more of the tough love variety. Here are a few career advice gems that will guide you to take a more careful look at yourself and your choices, while not painting the path ahead in a completely rosy hue. Keep these in mind as you begin (or continue) your career, and you should be prepared for whatever comes your way.

1. You aren’t going to be great at everything right away.

Every time you start a new job or attempt to acquire a new skill, you’re likely going to be terrible at it—at least at first. And that’s fine! You cannot be perfect (at anything!) right out of the gate. Don’t despair, and don’t compare yourself to other people. Just keep plugging away and you’ll improve.

2. Not everyone is going to love you.

Some people just plain aren’t going to like you. There’s almost nothing you can do about this—many times, it has very little to do with you and everything to do with them and their issues. If you don’t expect a 100% positive consensus about you in any situation, you won’t be disappointed.

3. Chill out—the day to day doesn’t matter that much.

Learn to find the more sustainable, moderate ground between “Everything is terrible” and “I am the most awesome worker ever” and shoot for sticking in that middle territory on average. Work hard, but don’t take things (work or home) too seriously or personally. If you don’t let things get under your skin, you’ll stay in better control of yourself—and make a better impression on those around you.

4. You don’t get brownie points for overworking yourself.

There’s no trophy for the most stressed out person. Your career isn’t a death sprint to some finish line where success is waiting just on the other side. It’s a long slog, but one that will hopefully be a labor of love. It will take endurance, patience, and positivity. Work on cultivating those rather than running yourself into the ground. Don’t take on more than you can reasonably handle.

5. Going the extra mile can be tough.

Don’t just be a team player on paper or for show. Demonstrate to people that you have made them a priority. Seek out tasks that aren’t on your docket or directly assigned. Figure out what’s stressing your boss out the most and find a solution to that problem. Go out of your way to be helpful to others or to streamline your (or everyone else’s) workflow. Being thorough and extra attentive in these areas will make you better at your job and a better person. It takes a lot of focus and purpose, but you’ll see results in the long run.

6. Vulnerability = success

The most successful people, in work and in life, are willing to humble themselves enough to understand their own weaknesses and learn from those around them. Don’t get so caught up in getting ahead that you forget the world is made of other people too (there is no “I” in “teamwork”). Admit your mistakes and ask for help.

7. Making friends is an important part of work life.

Sorry introverts—you might have to channel a hidden social butterfly within. Whenever you start a new job, always say yes to coffee invitations, to that first happy hour, to the company picnic. Make friends. Be a person too, not just some shark trying to swim straight to the top.

Workplace success comes when you find that ideal balance of the personal and professional. Work hard, but don’t overwork yourself. Be respectful and businesslike, but kind. Finding that ideal footing isn’t easy, so don’t be hard on yourself. Even just striving for it puts you on the correct path for a healthy and fruitful career.

About the author

Peter Jones