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When we were young, we put so much time into thinking about what we were going to be when we grew up. We imagined what it would be like to work in different fields. We dreamt of the difference that we wanted to make, and we planned out the best way to make it happen.
Unfortunately, after high school, career advice offices are few and far between. Instead, we develop relationships with mentors and coaches to help us develop in this area. The best way to get career advice that will make a difference for you is to ask for it.
Who to ask for career advice
One of the best pieces of career advice I ever got came from my first career mentor. He said that if you want something, you should find somebody who has it and ask how they did it.
It wasn't just about getting to a certain goal, position, or income level. He taught me to look at the whole picture. What kind of lifestyle did they have? Did they have control over their time? Did they have a work/life balance that worked for them?
Deciding what to do with your life isn’t about anyone’s definition of success but yours. Reach out to someone who is committed to your goals — whatever that looks like for you.
How to ask for career advice
Asking for advice in your career can be a vulnerable and daunting process. It's always a little nerve-wracking to ask for feedback. Here are three steps to make asking for career advice a little smoother:
How to ask for career advice
- Ask specific questions
- Ask about their experience
- Invest in the relationship
1. Ask specific questions
Asking people for “advice” might not yield the results you’re searching for. You’ll get farther with a specific inquiry in mind.
2. Ask about their experience
While it’s likely everyone you know will have something valuable to offer, the best advice will come from people who have personal experience to draw on.
3. Invest in the relationship
Thoughtful advice could come from anywhere. People could drop life-changing advice at an after-work happy hour. But instead of leaving it to chance, ask someone to mentor you or hire a career coach.
24 pieces of the best career advice
Advice for entering the workforce
“Opportunities don't happen, you create them.” – Chris Grosser
1. Create a vision statement
What do you want to do? What will your career look like, and what impact will it make? Once you understand your career aspirations, you’ll be in a better position to choose work you love. Use your vision statement as inspiration to create a vision board.
2. Find out what your career will look like
No career path is without challenges. Jane Fonda said, “If the career you have chosen has some unexpected inconvenience, console yourself by reflecting that no career is without them.”
You can learn more about what your career path will really look like by working with a mentor or coach. Apply for internships, attend networking events, or go to working interviews to learn if you’ll be satisfied with the job’s day-to-day.
3. Learn as much as you can
Cultivating a beginners’ mindset is a critical part of career growth. Take advantage of on-the-job training to learn as much as you can. Ask questions and get to know people across the organization. Try job shadowing someone to learn what their role is like. You can also try reading some career books to help absorb expert advice.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no
I firmly believe that opportunities can come from anywhere — but if your gut says no, listen. Don’t feel pressured to take a job that feels out of alignment with what you want for yourself. Sometimes, it’s better to politely decline a job offer than to get blown off course.
Advice for advancing in your career
“In chaos, there is opportunity. Most major career accelerations happen when someone steps into a mess and makes a difference.” — Kristi Hedges, Leadership Coach
5. Work with a coach
Every leader (or leader-in-the-making) needs a coach. After all, research shows that leaders aren’t born — they’re made. Working with a coach makes it easier to identify your strengths and spot areas of development. It helps you develop introspection — a foundational skill for personal growth.
6. Plan ahead
If you’ve had any experience at all in the working world, you’ve probably started to identify what you want — and what work doesn’t align with your personal values. Make use of this information to shape your career. Take it into account when you’re doing your career planning (which should happen at least once a year).
7. Stay on your edge
Once you feel like you’re developing mastery of your role, take a look at the bigger picture. Talk to others and read what people have to say about the future of your industry. Identifying where you can stay on your edge by upskilling or taking chances can make all the difference in your career.
8. Avoid burnout
Contrary to the age-old advice, your early working years aren’t the time to “grind it out.” Business influencer and freelancer Megan Williams says: “I have yet to see anybody do a good job of slowing the inertia of a grind habit they established in their youth.” Building the practice of work-life balance — and protecting it — early helps to insulate against burnout later in your career.
Advice for the job you dislike
“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” — Muhammad Ali
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotions of the job you dislike. But hating a job can actually tell you a lot about what you want out of your career. Instead of focusing on what you don’t like, write out what a day in the life of your dream job looks like. What kind of work are you doing, and who are you doing it with? Is there anything you do like about your current role, and how can you shift to doing more of what you love to do?
10. Bust a (lateral) move
If you’re starting to feel stuck, it might be time to explore a lateral move in your company. While it doesn’t have quite the excitement of getting promoted, it’s an opportunity to learn new skills and shake up the routine. You may find that the change makes you fall in love with what you do again.
11. Speak up
Sometimes, it’s not what you’re doing that’s the issue. A toxic leader or workplace could be ruining the experience for you (and likely, for a number of your co-workers). If that’s the case, share that with your coach, manager, or — if appropriate — with HR. Psychological safety is inextricable from job satisfaction.
Advice for changing jobs
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.” – Steve Jobs
12. Be nice when you quit
You may dream of telling everyone what you really think on your way out the door, but leaving on a good note might be a smarter move. Express gratitude for the opportunities, and stay in touch with your colleagues on LinkedIn. You may bump into them later, want to call on them for a reference, or even just be able to visit the same coffee shop without whispers.
13. Make up a new job
Don’t see your dream position? Create a new role for yourself. There are many benefits to continuing to grow within the same company, even if you’re working with a new team. Your new role might prove to be a strategic advantage for the business as well. It’s definitely worth exploring the opportunities in your own backyard before you decide to quit.
14. Reinvent yourself
Whether you’re changing jobs or changing careers, starting a new role is a chance to introduce people to the new you. And because it represents a change in your normal routine, it might be a good time to create some new habits. Think about how you want others to see you, and walk into your new job ready to share your best self.
Advice for job hunting
“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” —Theodore Roosevelt
15. Do your research
When you enter the job market — whether for the first time or the tenth time — know the rules of the game you’re playing. Read up on salary expectations, trends in the industry, and any certification programs related to the job skills you’ll need. Whether in an interview, salary negotiation, or networking event, job seekers will want to stay relevant and informed.
16. Be bold
Looking for a new job can be overwhelming and discouraging, and job search depression can kick in. When you decide to start looking, be clear about what you’re searching for. Is it a higher salary, opportunities for career development, or to break into another industry?
Whatever it is, keep those values in mind (and your chin up) as you evaluate new job opportunities. Don’t get seduced into taking a role you don’t want. Even a fancy job title won’t make up for a lack of fulfillment.
17. Practice your interview skills
When you’re new to the workforce, interviewing seems scary. But when you’ve been in the same role for a while, your skills get rusty. As you start setting your eye on the next job, brush up on your job interview skills. Try practicing your answers to interview questions with a friend or coach.
Advice for starting your own business
“Don’t try to do everything by yourself, but try to connect with people and resources. Having that discipline and perseverance is really important.” — Chieu Cao, Co-founder of Perkbox
18. Get real with yourself
When you start your own business, you’ll have to manage your first employee — yourself. To do that, you need to find new ways of establishing the accountability that’s readily present in corporate life. Working with a business or leadership coach is helpful to develop self-awareness, communication skills, and everything else you’ll need to be your own boss.
19. Lean into your strengths
While self-development is important, we can’t be good at everything. If you’re starting your own business, you might find it more prudent to outsource. Trying to do it all is a recipe for burnout. Asking for help keeps your business growing and frees you to focus on what you do best.
20. Set yourself — and your business — apart
The business market might be competitive, but there’s only one way. Establish your business’ core competencies (what sets you apart from others in your industry). Lean into it as an exercise in bringing your core values to the workplace.
Advice to find your joy at work
“When you have a passion for something then you tend not only to be better at it, but you work harder at it too.” – Vera Wang
21. Try everything
You don’t discover your passion sitting in one spot. Try everything you can. Only by taking chances, exploring new career paths, and having successes (and failures) can you find out what you love. Coaching can help you pinpoint your strengths and passions.
22. Connect to your inner child
When you were young, what did you think your first job would be? Inner child work can help you reconnect to your playful, creative inner self. Whether it inspires a career change or not, it may help you rediscover what brought you to your current job. And it might open a path to your next role.
23. Make time for Inner Work®
Inner Work® is key to career success. It’s the internal practices that make what you do for a living more sustainable and impactful. Whatever your career goals, make time to fill your own cup. We need regular moments of reflection — both to consider the road ahead and to enjoy where you are.
BetterUp Staff Writer