10 Executives Share the Best Career Advice They’ve Ever Received

Your career shapes a large part of your life, so it’s important to seek good advice as you create objectives or review the goals you've set for your future.

We've asked ten business leaders to share the advice that most positively influenced their careers.

Executives Share the Best Career Advice

Pursue Passion

Aaron Montgomery, CFO and cofounder of Carlotz, had a Harvard mentor who told him to pursue his passion for automotive retail and avoid following the traditional MBA path of banking, consulting, and large-company-rotational-management programs. He believed the skills Montgomery had gained as an MBA were just icing on the cake—the real differentiator for his career would be the drive and ambition that comes with real passion. “It hasn't always been easy advice to follow, because sometimes the line between contrarian and wrongheaded are very thin, but…I'm glad I did.”

Acquire Skills

Mary Gordon, vice president of quality, safety, health and environmental at Altria Client Services LLC, had a boss pull her aside after a promotion. She told Gordon she needed to evolve in her new role. “She said my leadership level changed and I had to stop relying on the same skills that had made me successful in my previous roles. It seems obvious now. It is human nature to repeat what has worked in the past instead of developing new skills.”

Seek Advancement

For Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, buying the company from Intuit in 2009 was risky. She moved from being a lawyer to becoming the CEO of a company that was once a division of a much larger publicly traded company by listening to her best career advice: keep evolving. “I was originally an attorney, then became the GM of a business division within Intuit, then purchased the business out of Intuit and became an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you evolve daily.”

Project Leadership

Liz Bentley, executive coach and founder of Liz Bentley Associates, said advice about executive presence is critical. Without it, career paths get derailed. Executive presence shows up in appearance, basic social etiquette and speaking style. “Most people won’t give you honest feedback because it’s so personal and uncomfortable. So you need to look at yourself with a critical eye.”

Avoid Procrastination

Tami Halton Pardee, founder and CEO of Halton Pardee + Partners, was told to do whatever she dreaded most right away—instead of procrastinating throughout the day. “If you prioritize your day with doing what you dread first, your mind will be clear and your day will be free to accomplish everything else on your to-do list.”

Model Respect

Todd Davis, chief people officer at FranklinCovey and author of "Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work," was told everyone matters, and everyone wants to be part of something that matters. Whether a person is the CEO or the receptionist, he or she has hopes and aspirations, worries and concerns. That insightful advice “reminds me to treat every person with thoughtful consideration and respect, whether or not that is reciprocated. It reminds me to continually be modeling the very change I hope to see in others.”

Be Consistent

Sean Conlon, real estate entrepreneur and host of CNBC’s "The Deed: Chicago," was advised to read widely for inspiration and to remember a quote: "Build your own dreams or someone else will hire you to build theirs." To do that, outwork competitors and stay consistent. “People who call the most, reach out the most, frankly work the most...make the most. If you’re not hopeful and optimistic, then you just give up. You have to take the long hard look and just believe that if you’re consistent, you will succeed.”

Excel Now

Ashley Cordova, vice president of finance and investor relations at Novocure, recalled that Hank McKinnell at Pfizer said the best way to prepare for the next job opportunity within the company was to do your current job well. “I’ve taken that advice to heart over the last 10 years, and it has served me well—transitioning from audit to pricing to business finance to treasury and now to a much broader leadership role at Novocure, an oncology company. None of the moves and function expansions were ever planned."

Be Forthright

Adam Honig, cofounder & CEO of Spiro Technologies, said the best advice he heard was to share bad news early. “It’s always tempting to wait for good news to pair it with—and make it more appealing—but that temptation leads to waiting too long.”

Remember This

Concise and powerful counsel snags the best interview advice award for Austin LaRoche, chief marketing officer, ATAK Interactive: “When you get to the interview, the person on the other end is really trying to answer two questions: Is this person experienced and capable enough to help me grow my business? And do I want this person in my life?”

No matter where you are in your profession, listening to great advice may not only motivate you during difficult times, it may change the trajectory of your career.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market