10 career lessons learned the hard way

by Mar 12, 2017

These are the top 10 career lessons that were generated in a recent round table discussions. They are the career lessons you didn’t know until you found out the hard way! No one told you and you wish someone had. You wised up with a red face or a 20/20 hindsight moment.

10 Career lessons learned with a red face!

career lessons

1. Never eat tuna at your desk

A sure-fire way to make yourself the least favourite flavour of the month is to eat fish or any other strong-smelling food in the office whether at your desk or in the coffee-room. Tuna stinks and so will you!

2. It all goes down around the printer

Or any other place where co-workers congregate even for a few minutes, the water cooler, coffee line, or waiting for an elevator.  If you want to get the real scoop and low down and news make sure you listen attentively in all the right places.

Read: 5 tips to lead above office gossip 

3. Your degree is worthless

Sad but true. You have just invested thousands in your education but unless you are in a very special and vocational field you are now at the bottom of the learning curve. The good news you can only go up. Your new mantra is “I know nothing.” Even in your later career, in any organization unless you come in as a leader (and even then) you will have much to learn.

4. Be nice to everyone in a service function. Scratch that. Just be nice.

Be nice

We’ve all seen movie clips of Barak Obama high fiving the janitor and dancing with old ladies. He had being nice down to a fine art. So whether the receptionist, the IT support person, the concierge or the travel organiser it’s important to be solicitous and charming. You never know who they know and talk to. It’s not about the smiling trap that women fall into. It’s about empathy and charm.

Listen to our podcast:  How to cultivate empathy 

5. You have weaknesses you never knew you had

Afraid so. We all do. So if you get feedback on the same issue more than once it will be a pattern . Ask the probing hard question. “What do I need to do differently?” You will be surprised at the answer.

Read: Top Mentoring Advice from 3Plus Mentors  

6. Opportunities are everywhere – not just above you

Opportunities are everywhere

Diverse experience counts for a lot.  Look at sideways possibilities and lateral moves as well as promotions. Opportunities in other geographic areas give you wide-ranging exposure to new challenges especially overseas assignments.

7. You will never be perfectly ready for a promotion

If your boss thinks you are ready for a promotion, then you are. If you think you are ready for an upward move tell your boss. She will let you know pretty quickly if  the timing isn’t right.

Read: How to pitch for a promotion

8. Never complain. Ever.

It’s never a good idea to complain about anything. If you have an issue, observe a situation and come up with a solution.

Read: Feedback for professional women

9. Never under-estimate the importance of social rituals

You may not be a fan of birthday cake, office drinks or baby showers. But these small social celebrations make up the cement that binds your co-workers together at a level above and beyond their professional obligations.

10. You are there to learn not to be taught

You are now the organizational sponge. No one may sit you down and go through every last detail of company business. Find a role model or someone you admire and watch and learn. You will pick up far more than you would in a formal training session. The key lessons are frequently in what is not said.

What would you add to the list?


If you need career advice –  make an appointment for a 30 minute complimentary career assessment session.


Staff Writer: Career Contributor
3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Job Search, Career and Mentoring or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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