The Best Career Advice We’ve Ever Received

August 4, 2021

Lauren Bech-Hansen

No matter what stage in your career, everyone stands to benefit from the experience of others. You could be thriving in your career, just starting out, stuck in a rut or feeling overwhelmed in the face of an increasingly competitive workforce. In any case, every so often, the right piece of advice comes along to provide clarity that we may not have known we needed, helping to guide us along our path.

Whether a conventional truism that struck a chord, a quick quip from a former colleague or wise words from a mentor, the best career advice carries enough weight to spur a shift in perspective. It pushes us to become better colleagues, smarter decision-makers and inspirational leaders ourselves.

So, while there is certainly no shortage of career advice to be found in the depths of the internet, we asked the K&P team to chime in on our own personal experiences. If you hope to be inspired, we suggest you read on.

Without further ado, today’s question is: what’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

“As leaders, we are not alone in our desire to develop and advance our career, and it’s almost certain that we didn’t get here without someone along the way opening the door to an opportunity to prove our potential.”

One of the best pieces of advice I have received was from my former client, current partner and friend, Virginia Brailey. She shared her belief that career development requires a personal and individual approach, and I was impressed how she knew, offhand, the particular career goals of each member of her team. I’ve tried to do the same for others along the way, helping to “lift as we climb.” – Janine Allen, President & Partner

Find a way to share responsibility. The solution to many problems is not a binary choice between you or me, but rather a gradient of how you communicate and make decisions.”

I have been the beneficiary of many mentors and educators who shared their wisdom with me, from single line quips to complete books filled with insight into business, finance and management. Roger Martin was the dean of the business school I attended, and I found his management approach, fully explored in The Responsibility Virus, invaluable. One piece of advice that particularly stands out is the “Responsibility Ladder,” loosely paraphrased here:

  1. You make the decision on your own, and inform the other party
  2. You recommend a solution and look for approval
  3. You present options for the other party to consider
  4. You describe the problem and seek input
  5. You ask the other party to solve the problem and make it clear you will use any learnings next time
  6. You ask the other party to solve the problem for you, making it clear they will have to figure it out

Think about this ladder the next time you are collaborating and pick which level you think is best for you and your partner/supervisor/report! – David Kaiser, Managing Partner

“You are smart and capable, and your view of the world is valuable.”

As an intern in a corporate environment, I remember feeling like my ideas wouldn’t be taken seriously, so I was hesitant to speak up and share my thoughts. I don’t remember who said this to me, but it was the confidence boost I needed to remember that this company hired me for a reason and I was at that table for a reason. I’ve never forgotten those words – I carry them with me to this day! – Jen Farr, Account Manager

“Learn how to advocate for yourself.”

Then find the people who want what’s best for you and who can help you do just that. – Hayley Suchanek, Senior Account Coordinator

“Failure is a gift. There is nothing less conducive to your professional growth than easy wins, and you will never discover your potential if you do not actively look for failures within your successes.”

The above (paraphrased) words of wisdom were shared with me by a former professor who recognized that I had a tendency to view failure as a personal inadequacy, and as something to be avoided at all costs. Most already know that embracing challenge, and by proxy risk of failure, cultivates perseverance. Similarly, many can – and do – reflect on successes to identify shortcomings to improve in the future. But this advice asks you to adopt a mindset that sees failure as an achievement in of itself, not just an opportunity to learn from your mistakes (though you should definitely do that, too). – Lauren Bech-Hansen, Account Coordinator

“Step outside of your comfort zone, and network with as many people as possible.”

Early in my career, I was advised to step outside of my comfort zone and network with as many people in the industry as possible. It’s not only a great way to meet new people and get your name out there, but it’s also extremely beneficial in learning about all areas of the industry to determine where you want your career to go. – Catherine Snider, Director

“EVERYTHING you write should be “client-ready.”

While the above is my best career advice, the most dated advice I’ve ever received, circa 1984, from a female PR entrepreneur I was interning for: “You need to take typing lessons because (as a woman), you will be expected to be able to type.” – Diana Conconi, Senior Vice President & Partner

“You should work in PR. Everyone I work with reminds me of you.”

As simple as this advice from a dear friend was at the time, it caused me to research PR programs and change my post graduate major, resulting in my current career! – Keera Hart, Senior Account Manager

While career advice is not exactly hard to find, good career advice is.

As unique individuals, with our own strengths and weaknesses, it is our hope that somewhere within this wealth of knowledge, you’ve stumbled across precisely the right piece of advice – something that provides clarity, offers perspective, or inspires you to make a change.

Life is too short to be mediocre. Constantly re-evaluate your goals, retain the advice you receive, apply what is relevant to your situation and make yourself indispensable. Success will be sure to follow.

Have a question? Interested in finding out more?