Nine Pieces of Career Advice to Live By

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I’ve recently been invited to speak to students about the “real world” and give them advice on how to succeed after college.

As I’m preparing my little talk I’ve been thinking back on my career and why I’ve enjoyed success and disappointments along the way – and what I’ve learned from both. So here’s a sneak peak at my presentation – I hope it gives you a good idea or two in your journey!


1. Be a positive force!

This is probably the one thing that has served me the best over the 28 years since I graduated. People want to hire people (especially college grads) that bring positivity and a can-do mentality to the workplace. Nobody likes a whiner – at least nobody that’s successful. Be a force for good. Be enthusiastic about your work, even if you think it’s beneath you. You don’t have to be outgoing if that’s not your nature. You don’t have to light up a room with your personality. But you should always come from a good mental place no matter what gets thrown at you. If you try to always be a positive force, you will always be valued by your boss and your team.

2. Work like hell. Harder than everyone else.

I’ve never been a big fan of the “work smarter, not harder” philosophy. Who sets out to “work dumb?” The reality is once you start doing good things at work and get recognized for your value and your positive outlook – you’re going to be given more to do and more responsibilities. That’s a good thing. I’ve always taken pride into giving 100% of my effort to my career. I may not be as smart as a lot of people, but I can sure work hard and give it my all. Now that’s not to say you give up having a life or spending time with your family. Of course you only have one life and you must enjoy it! (That’s why Thing #3 is so important). But if you want to be the best you can be at your job or career, you have to work hard.

3. Care about what you do.

This sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many people don’t care about their work. These are folks who don’t help you when you call customer service, or don’t look up and say thank you at the coffee shop, or come to meetings unprepared.

When you actually care about what you do, you put your heart into it. You get noticed by other talented people who care. And when you make mistakes – and you will – your managers, employees and co-workers will more likely stand by you because they know you really care about being great at your job. Jim Henson said it a lot better than me – “If you care about what you do and work hard at it, there isn’t anything you can’t do if you want to.”

4. Bring solutions, not problems.

Our team has read The No Complaining Rule. It’s a great book that I highly recommend. A big lesson from that book that is absolutely 100% accurate is that nobody cares about your problems. If you want to be successful, bring solutions to your boss’s desk. Get to know her challenges and help her solve issues – you will be a rock star.

5. Learn to deal with jerks.

There are jerks in every workplace. People who yell and scream. People who treat their employees badly. People who have no idea what they want, but they want you to give it to them…yesterday. I try to never hire a jerk and if I do, I remove the jerk as soon as possible. But they exist and to be successful you’ll have to deal with them.

I’ve found that most jerks don’t last long, but some can last years. Be professional, take the high road, do your job, and take great satisfaction that you outlasted them when they’ve been booted out of the company.

6. Don’t lose faith in people.

During your career, people will let you down. There will come a time when you really helped a person and they will seem ungrateful, or even backstab you. Please don’t let that make you doubt every new person you encounter in the workplace. 98% of the people I’ve encountered at work are good people. 1% are jerks. And 1% let me down. I focus my time and attention on the 98%.

7. You must have fun.

If you are not having fun at your job you have to find another one and then leave. Or find another opportunity with the organization you work for – just don’t stay in the spot you’re in. I’ve had manual labor jobs, clerical jobs, office jobs and executive jobs. I’ve made sure I was having fun at every one of them, and when I didn’t I found another job and left. Life is too short to spend the bulk of it not having fun.

8. Never stop learning.

While I think it would have been pretty cool to work in the Mad Men era of marketing, writing TV commercials and working with large budgets, I can’t imagine a more exciting time to be in my field. Technology has changed everything about how I do my job and how I can contribute to my company. It’s changed everything. The only way to be successful is to stay on top of that change. You must make it a daily habit to read about your industry, your specific job, and the job you aspire to in the future. Don’t let yourself become outdated. Always be the one to offer up new ideas and new ways of doing things. It will make you great at what you do.

9. Trust in your team.

In the workplace, you are only as successful as the team you build, or work alongside. No one can succeed on their own. I’ve worked hard to build a team of talented, passionate people who care about what they do. A team that complements each other skills including mine. Where I’m weak, they’re strong. When they are better than me at something (which is most things I’m happy to say), I get out of their way. When they struggle, they reach out for support. Why? Because we trust each other.

I’d love to get your take on my 9 Things and would love for you to add to the list. Think we can get to 20?

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