Best [and Worst] Career Advice I’ve Ever Received

best and worst career advice

I’ve never been a huge New Year’s resolutions person. However, I do find myself getting reflective as the year draws to a close. It’s a great time to take stock of your progress toward your goals, your strategies for reaching them, and the reasons behind those dreams. In fact, this line of thinking had me reminiscing about the best ⁠— and worst ⁠— career advice I’ve received over the years.

While these tidbits primarily emerged from my mentors in the broadcast news industry, they are applicable to all career fields. Looking to get ahead at work this year? Hoping for a promotion? Yearning for personal growth and professional development?

These pointers really helped me, and I hope they help you get a jump start too!

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Worst Career Advice

We’ll get to the best career advice shortly, but let’s start with the duds… While these recommendations all came from a place of good intentions, they were anything but helpful. Moreover, in my opinion, they are completely off-base. If you hear something similar at your workplace, pull on the earmuffs – and ignore!

  • “Stay in Your Lane” – The person who suggested this believed the only way to succeed in your career was to focus narrowly on your own job. They felt that as long as you knew your job functions and could perform them well, you didn’t need to understand the broader picture. Learning more was a time suck. Why take the time to explore what others do, or learn about the organization as a whole, when you could spend that time honing your skills?

If you want to be a leader in the modern era, this attitude just won’t cut it. Contrary to this advice, there is immense value in reaching beyond your role and becoming a life-long learner. In fact, taking the time to explore and understand your colleagues’ roles helps you earn their respect and cooperation. Consequently, you emerge well-positioned as a future leader. 

When I first started in TV news, I never imagined I would become involved in production, photography/videography, website management, newsroom leadership and social media, in addition to reporting and anchoring. I was able to do my own job better and lead more effectively by learning about those various areas. 

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  • “Cut Your Hair… or no one will take you seriously” – If I had a dollar for every time a broadcasting consultant or news director told me I needed to cut my hair, I’d be enjoying a vacation right now. Yes, there is something to be said about adjusting your personal style to fit the image required of your industry (more on that in this post). Possessing a certain “look” can help you get ahead…. and yeah… sometimes it pays to assume the aesthetic of your goals. But, take those suggestions with a grain of salt!

My long hair didn’t mesh with the “news anchor” style that was en vogue when I first started in the biz. However, it was my signature. My hair was part of my identity. I rejected the notion that reporters needed a bob cut to project authority. Consequently, I ignored this advice and set out to prove you can be an assertive, aggressive reporter without losing your personal style.

It is possible to be feminine and still command a room. Long hair does not compromise your authority as a journalist. Were there a few uncomfortable conversations because of my reluctance? Sure. But I’m glad I held my ground. Turns out, I was ahead of the curve. The hair I refused to relinquish a decade ago, is now pretty commonplace in broadcasting.

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  • Don’t be “too nice” – I say “yes” a bit too much… and I think that’s where this spot of advice came from. However, there is a huge difference between being a door mat and being “nice.” Even in the most competitive of industries, I firmly believe “playing nice” will pay dividends in the end. Do favors, avoid the trap of workplace gossip, be an ear to those who need it. You won’t regret it.

I’ve worked with a plenty of big (aka difficult) personalities in TV news. In fact, my workplaces often had factions. You were expected to choose a camp and stick with that group. Instead, I chose patience… I was determined to be friendly with both sides. Straddling those divides made my life much easier. I earned the trust of both groups, and consequently, dodged all the land mines a testy workplace can dish out. It never hurts to be everyone’s friend.

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Best Career Advice

Don’t let “no” derail your dreams

Spend any time in journalism and you’ll hear the word “no” a LOT. It takes a lot of trust to get someone to agree to an interview. News flash – The only people who want to be on TV are usually children.. or drunk. [I’m not kidding, just watch YouTube bloopers. Bar-goers love the camera!] Whether you’re tracking down a key interview or making a big ask of your employer, “no” becomes even more prevalent when an issue is contentious. Therefore, prepare yourself for the objections ahead of time. Anticipate the factors that are driving the “no”, then lay out arguments to fight them. Listen thoughtfully, show your consideration, and make your case!

Focus on the writing

When you’re trying to make a mark in broadcast news, the various pressures can pull your attention in so many directions. (More on that in this post) Furthermore, your time is limited. I’m grateful I had a mentor who pushed me to prioritize the writing first. “If the script is good, the story sings,” he said. Anyone can regurgitate facts, a writer weaves them into a compelling, educational narrative. Ever read an article/watch a news story you just couldn’t pull away from? That is skillful writing at play. And it goes way beyond journalism! Writing has become a lost art. Hone the craft and you will have a surprisingly marketable skill.

Be fair, cultivate trust

In business and in life, you are only as good as your word. Trust is everything. Build it, never abuse it. Once trust is gone, you will find it exceedingly tough to restore.

Treat every project like it’s the “lead story”

Whether you love your assignment or hate it, you will never regret giving a project your all. Your work is a reflection of you. It’s a matter of personal pride. Put your best foot forward and there’s a good chance someone will notice your efforts and reward you. Even if they don’t, you know what you accomplished.

Build a personal brand

In the era of social media, personal branding is a must. When you apply for a job, your employer will be looking for more information about you. Some of the best career advice I’ve ever received was to allocate time for building a personal brand.  What does your online presence say? Is the story you want to tell coming across loud and clear? Do you have an online portfolio? Are your photos updated?

Diversify your skill set

Industries change, job functions too. It pays to branch out and become a life-long learner. Follow trade publications and make sure you are up to speed on the latest and greatest in your industry.

Find a mentor

Nothing facilitates rapid career growth quite like finding a trusted mentor to guide you. It’s great to have someone who “knows the ropes” and can help you dodge the land mines. Furthermore, they can be a great source of encouragement when you’re struggling. They truly offer the best career advice. If you can’t find a mentor in person, I highly recommend reading all you can about a successful leader in your industry. By studying the career trajectory of someone you admire in great detail, you will feel like you have a virtual mentor.

Be your own “agent”

Humility is a great thing, until it comes to landing your dream job. No one will ever be able to sell YOU better than yourself. Spend time thinking about the career moves you want to make. Additionally, think long and hard about how to best articulate the successes/experiences you’ve had. Don’t wait until you’re between jobs to develop your action plan!

Make your resume/portfolio a living document

Always, ALWAYS keep your resume/portfolio up to date. Don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed by waiting until you’re between jobs to polish your resume. It’s far easier to update as new things happen and the experiences are fresh in your mind. Additionally, your resume is your safety net. Have it ready!

When making a pitch, make sure you can spell out the benefits

Never make an ask, until you can clearly articulate how this move will benefit your company, organization, etc. All the best career advice calls for thoughtful reflection. What will your employer glean from making this move? How will this decision help them emerge stronger? Make it impossible for them to say no to your request by explaining the value.

Shop The Post

These cozy winter styles are both from Chicwish. I have been hunting for a faux fur vest for quite some time, but as a petite, needed to find a piece with a bit of shape to it. This belted asymmetrical style is not only the most unique I’ve found, it is also super snugly. Consequently, it’s nearly sold out in my cream color. Never fear – The tan and black are also gorgeous – and still fairly well stocked.

It’s tough to make out in these photos, but the black cross knit top is a lighter weight, ribbed knit. This is that versatile piece that will serve you well in all seasons. Pairs beautifully with everything from jeans to pencil skirts.

Related Reading:

News Anchor Outfits – The Best of Amazon Dresses

Put on the spot? How to Handle Work Pressure

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