The best career advice I have been given

It’s interesting to hear what those at the top of organisations say about the best career advice they were given. Although on reading some of that advice I think if the individual followed it then they must have been a challenge to manage. Howard Davies chairman of the NatWest Group is quoted as saying the best career advice he’s been given,” Always show you could do your boss’s job if required”! 

If best advice is the most effective then the best advice I was ever given was ,” Keep hitting him on the shoulder , hard “. Admittedly this was not careers advice but I do use it as a yard stick for effectiveness because it worked. I should explain it was an incident in the school playground where a class mate had brought a set of boxing gloves to school and was challenging individuals to box. Sensing my reluctance as I put on the gloves his best friend whispered the advice. Honour was satisfied and my status enhanced. 

The most reassuring careers advice I have been given was, sometimes you have to move sideways to move up. 

The advise that resonated with me came from   Doug Bannester head of the Port of Dover in an interview in the Observer.   “Go into any change positively.” He believes “an early positive attitude” about change, “combined with early engagement, generally leads to a better outcome”

A very successful former colleague told me, when I was between jobs .” Don’t think about what you need to do to get the next job but what you need to do to get the one after that”. Which made me realise how ambitious some people are and that successful  careers are planned they don’t just happen. But as my next manager said when I told her of this advice. “That’s all well and good but things don’t always go to plan .” From which I took be prepared to take a risk rather than waiting for the right job and think of it as better to gain new experiences than more of the same. It worked for me. 

My advice don’t try and copy some else even if they are very successful and you admire them as a role model. What worked for them in a given set of circumstances at a certain time won’t necessarily work for you. At best you will be seen as a poor imitation. Instead adopt a pick and mix approach, what you like best about how those you admire operate. Remembering that every one even the Legendary Leaders had faults and weaknesses. As Fleetwood Mac said ,” Go your own way”.

Blair Mcpherson former director. Author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk 

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