My Top 16 Pieces of Career Advice
By Marty Nemko
With petabytes of career advice out there, how
do you find what's really crucial? Here's one guy's votes:
Choosing a Career and
Focus on what really
matters. You're more likely to be happy with your
career and job if you focus less on its prestige or coolness and
more on finding a career and job that uses your natural strengths
and doesn't tax your weaknesses, is appropriately challenging, with
a good boss and coworkers, reasonable pay, commute, and job
Career passion comes AFTER you've
chosen it. Most people came to love their career only
after they chose it and took the time to become a go-to guy/gal at
it. So take a month or three to explore career options and then
pick what feels best, even if it doesn't make you want to do
Landing a Job
One job-search method does not fit
all. For example, networking works only for some
people. If it hasn't worked for you in the past, more networking
will more likely burn you out than land you a job. Based on your
past performance and current preferences, decide the proportion of
job search time you should spend on in-person networking, online
networking, cold-contact of employers, answering ads, and
Use a point-by-point cover
letter. In answering a job ad, the best cover letter
explains, point-by-point, how you meet the main job
Get a second offer.
When you think an offer is coming, let your other prospects know
that and ask if they're willing to fast-track the decision to hire
you. Having two or more employers competing for you boosts your
Succeeding on the job
Find out the
Most people think they're above average. Getting the truth can
help you before it's too late. And if you are above average,
feedback helps you be even better. Ongoing, get feedback from your
boss and respected coworkers, perhaps using TalentCheckup.
You must stop
procrastinatng. Procrastination is a career killer.
When I've polled audiences of successful people such as executives,
only 10-20 percent describe themselves as procrastinators. In
contrast, when I poll audiences of unemployed people, 80 percent
do. Please remember that the short-term relief of deferring tasks
is far exceeded by the long-term pain. Procrastination may have
worked in school but, except in low-level jobs, there's much less
grade inflation in the workplace. Get comfortable being
uncomfortable. That too shall pass.
time-effectiveness. Ongoing, ask if yourself, "Is
this worth doing?" And if so, how perfectionistically?"
Just as we drive faster or slower depending on
the situation, we should choose the right speed for tackling a
If you're smart, avoid
teams. Not withstanding the ubiquitous public
extolling of teamwork, the following rule of thumb is generally
wiser: Try to work solo if you're brighter and more motivated than
most of your coworkers. If you're not, get on teams.
Tell quest stories.
Everyone knows that most people are persuaded more by story than by
statistics but less well-known is that a most powerful form of
story is the quest story: Describe a problem and the
travails of trying to solve it, ideally a problem you
Hire slow; fire
fast. Hiring may be the manager's most important
task. Rather than rely on responses to job ads, tap your extended
network--they're more likely to refer good candidates. Then
evaluate applicants mainly by having them do simulations of tough
tasks they'll encounter on the job.
If an employee is doing poorly, after a brief
attempt at remediation, it's usually wiser to cut your losses and
try someone else. Extra time is usually not only wasted and
stressful but increases the employee's enmity and, in turn,
likelihood of filing a wrongful termination claim.
replicate. The leading edge too often turns out to be
the bleeding edge. Guinea pigs usually die. So you lower your risk
in starting a business by taking a proven business idea and cloning
it in a new location or giving it a minor tweak. For example,
you're more likely to succeed by incorporating the best features of
five busy laundromats into yours than by trying to invent some new
Keep it simple. The
more complicated the business, the bigger the risk. Do one simple
thing well. For example, sell amazing grilled cheese
Be cheap. Money is a
business's lifeblood. Spend too much and you'll die. So, for
example, work from home or see if you can get space free from a
friend, a room in a church, whatever. Hire on a just-in-time,
by-the hour basis. Use a template website, not a custom-created
one. Figure out how much to pay for products based not on the
retail price but on what it must cost to manufacture. Example:
Eyeglass frames may cost $200 retail but pennies to make--they're
just cheap metal or plastic. So if you, Mr. Optician, think you're
getting a good deal in buying frames "wholesale" for $50, you're
wrong. $1.00 is closer to right.
Work long hours.
That doesn't sound like fun but when you're doing work you're good
at and realize that the life-well-led really is mainly about
productivity, you'll be glad to work long hours, even if it didn't
increase your job security or make you more money.
Follow my father's advice. When I asked him, a Holocaust survivor, why he so rarely talked about that, he said, "The Nazis took five years from my life. I won't give them one minute more. Never look back. Always take the next step forward." I can offer no better advice.
© Marty Nemko 2004-2017. Usage Rights