The Best Professional Advice You Ever Received

Throughout our careers, we accumulate a wealth of professional advice. These are the words that echo in our heads during our most challenging moments and help shape us into the professionals we want to be. They are the reminders we tack to our wall to glance at when we need inspiration or a push over the finish line. They are the signposts we turn to when faced with a tough decision about what to do or where to go next.

This wisdom can come from unexpected sources—a mentor (like a manager or professor), a relative, a friend, maybe even a client or an employee. Maybe it’s a reminder to trust your gut, or a warning against making promises you can’t keep. Perhaps it’s a charge to always put family first, or to always hire someone smarter than you.

What is the best professional advice you ever received? And where did it come from?

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Georgiana Cohen is a freelance writer and blogger who has contributed to publications including the Boston Phoenix and the Boston Herald and works full-time on web content for Tufts University. Her blog at covers a variety of topics relating to web communications and content, while her blog Safe Digression covers life, music and adventures around Boston. You can also follow her mobile photolog.


  1. Kyle on the 3rd August

    “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

    • Cesare on the 4th August

      This is nice. Never heard it …

  2. Fred on the 3rd August

    The best career advice that I have received is that the most important work behavior is having a great attitude. If you have a great attitude, people will always want to work with you. And, when people want to work with you, they help you to succeed.

  3. Dan on the 3rd August

    Rule #1: Always have clear lines of ownership. Know exactly what you are supposed to do and ensure others know that exactly.

    Rule #2: Always have your act together. You can’t know everything, but what you can know try to know it well.

    Rule #3: Under promise, over deliver. You will always come out on top.

    Rule #4: Never make yourself indispensable. If you do you’ll stay where you are because you are, well, indispensable.

    Rule #5: Credibility is king. Period.

    Rule #6: Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. You can teach anyone anything, you can never teach right attitude.

    Rule #7: If you find yourself in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging. Old cowboy saying.

    Rule #8: “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is (or where it has been).” The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.

    Rule #9: At the end of the day always remember that it’s just a job.

    As written by the man himself, Avanash Kaushik:

  4. Mike Abasov on the 3rd August

    “Get a job,” — my dad.

  5. Nicolas DORIER on the 4th August

    “The only way to do great job is to love what you do, if you have not found yet, keep looking, don’t settle.” –Steve Jobs at Standford speach in 2005

    • Mike Rosas on the 5th August

      ah yeah, i saw this one… inspiring speech btw xD

  6. Jonas Brauer on the 4th August

    “Be brave enough to get into new areas, but wise enough to know you can manage them” – unknowned book

  7. Donald Farland on the 4th August

    “Be the right kind of lazy.”

    My DBA mentor use to say this to me all the time. Find the annoying, repetitive little tasks that could drag you down and work hard to find ways to automate, simplify and streamline these time sinks so that you can focus more time on the “fun” work.

    It also means, you should focus on fire prevention instead of fire fighting. Expend the effort to make sure things are working well in the first place and you wont spend all of your time putting out all the little fires that pop up.

  8. Paul Irvine on the 4th August

    “Speak with your wife about it. If you are happy with the new structure, like and trust the people you’d be working with then it could be hard to say no.” – Bill Kenny

  9. Mark on the 4th August

    “Do what you say you’re going to do.” Following this will keep your customers happy and you on task

    Less seriously…
    “Don’t be an idiot” – Michael Scott

  10. Sean Plemons on the 4th August

    “Perfection Is Acceptable”
    – VisCom Professor

  11. Pablo Valerio on the 4th August

    “If its not written, it never happened”

    • Ana da Silva on the 5th August

      That is good advice. I learned it the hard way :/

  12. Johnny on the 5th August

    “Surround yourself by brilliant people, working with and for idiots gets you nowhere.”

  13. Ana da Silva on the 5th August

    From my mom: “Don’t charge less than you’re worth.”

    From my cousin: “Do what you love and not what ‘makes sense’ or you’ll be unhappy.”

  14. Mike Rosas on the 5th August

    “There are no excuses”

    this one came from my boss, it has changed my life, i realize that some times there are many excuses to acomplish a task, or simply its hard to do it in the time and resource the company allow us, but when you think deeper on that concept there is no excuses you realize that some times to finish a task you have to put in some of your own resource like time, money and even creativity. once you cross over the line on the thinking “this is mine and that is yours” and start working with the company as one individual, then you stop complaining about little things and start focusing of the big picture.

    i gotta say, in 2 years of work with the company after that scolding (where the frase came from) ive turn my work experience 360 and ive received 3 raises.

    i really dont need to look for oportunities, when you trully work thinking in one single goal along with the company, oportunity knocks your door by it self.

    regards xD.

  15. Nick on the 6th August

    On one of my first decent jobs out of college, I was having a beer with a mentor. While I was fretting to him about how I should handle the job, etc, the mentor just laughed, cut me off mid sentance and said, “Nick, just do the best job you can , learn as much as you can while doing, it, and have fun.” May sound strange, but it’s definitely the best advice i ever got…

  16. Invert on the 16th August

    “Look, listen, don’t talk, absorve information, don’t get distracted by money. Gather all the experience you can and there will be a day when all these will make you a pro and then you’ll get all you’ve ever wanted.”

    It was a long time ago and then I thought my boss was saying me these just to keep my salary low. After 12 years I understood he was right.

  17. Keith Shelley on the 19th June

    “Don’t take a newly created position in an older organization.” Chances are they are not wanting to develop or change and they will eventually dissolve the position.

  18. Jason Cotton on the 10th August

    This one can double your salary, but may take some time.

    Ever sit at your desk wondering how to get a raise from where you’re at and come up blank? It helps to know exactly how to do it and if you focus on it, the raises will come consistently. Your biggest problem would be that you didn’t start sooner. It’s like compounding interest.

    Answer: Train/Develop Yourself

    1) Your people skills (just try it, the results speak for themselves)
    2) The technical skills in your field
    3) and Your Skill at Navigating your organization’s political structure.
    4) Also, connect yourself to new people that your company would want to be connected to (this is part of the people skills).

    The self help section of a bookstore is the best place to start. People writing these books are paid to share their best knowledge with you. Make sure to focus on developing your skills with people as well as the technical ones in your field.

    What happens:
    You become indispensable.

    Contrary to a previous post, you DO want to become indispensable, but learn how to clone yourself with the people side of the knowledge. Then you won’t be stuck in the position… you’ll be managing it. The more you can clone yourself, the higher up you go as long as you can seek out and take on more work.

    Think about it, if they train you, they already have the advantage the knowledge brings.

    If you train yourself, practice and start producing results, you bring new knowledge and benefits to the organization that will always be associated with you. Be open and giving about it and don’t try to “take credit”, people will figure it out. Do it once and you are a one hit wonder. Do this over and over and it will be obvious no matter how much credit stealing happens.

    Tip: If you are around credit stealers, just learn to tell them last. If they’re your boss, transfer or get out (nicely) and realize you didn’t interview your boss properly. If you’re stuck in the position, just keep giving and eventually word will get out, it just takes a while. People aren’t stupid.

    The idea is that, if you want to grow personally or financially at your job, or you want a better job, there really is no difference between you and the people who already have that. BUT there IS something you’re DOING different. Plenty of people have decided to sell this specialized information, that’s what self help books are.

    It may take a bit of time to learn and practice the changes, but hey, at least then you feel you worked for it right?

    Hope this helps.

  19. Andy on the 3rd January

    You don’t find good clients, you train them that way!

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