How to Answer: “What’s the Best Piece of Career Advice You've Ever Received"

You find yourself in the middle of an interview with your potential new company when you hear a question that truly gives you pause: “What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?”

How should you answer that question?

best career advice

Let’s face it: There’s plenty of career advice to go around. Some pieces of it are more relevant than others, but for many people it’s almost impossible to sort through the number of well-intentioned career tips they’ve heard throughout their lives to highlight just one.

Take some time to think about it

When answering this question in an interview, however, you’ve got an advantage: Preparation. You’ve got time before you arrive to really think about what motivates you in the workplace. What drives you? What advice have you heard (or witnessed in action) that moved you in one direction or another? In the case of a question like this, remember that the interviewer is less interested in the particular piece of advice than she is in deciphering what that advice says about you.

What advice sparked passion?

So what makes a good piece of career advice? For many people, it’s one that sparks passion. This is where the ideas of “Do something you enjoy” and “Be a lifelong learner” come in. Responding this way lets the interviewer know you’re not just looking for a job—you’re looking for a place that has a purpose. You’ve figured out what makes you happy—and the job you’re applying for is one you know you’ll enjoy. If you answer in this vein, be prepared for follow up questions about how the role you would play at that company relates to your specific passion projects.

What advice changed your perspective?

Other pieces of career advice focus on helping you look at a skill or career in a brand-new way. Think along the lines of “You are the CEO of your own life” or “Have a path, but be flexible.” This type of thinking can explain a change you’ve made in your career that put you where you are today, or it could indicate the start of the “take charge” attitude you employ in your daily life.

What advice gave you confidence?

Similarly, any piece of career advice that gives you confidence is a great one to mention as a response to such an interview question. Gems such as “Make your own path” or “You’ll never end up where you started” can spur conversation with your interviewer about the inner strength and increased confidence you’ve gained over the course of your career. A sense of self-assuredness can be extremely attractive to potential employers.

What advice helped when things went wrong?

Sometimes you hear something that comes in handy when you attempt to tackle problems in the workplace. These pieces of career advice (like “In chaos there is opportunity” or “Find a way to say ‘yes’ to things”) can help you think about situations from a new angle—an attribute interviewers are sure to find appealing. If you’re answering with this type of advice, be prepared to discuss a specific problem that arose during your career and how the advice helped you through it.

You never really know which piece of career advice will open your eyes and stick with you for years to come, so keep your eyes and ears open for words that will help along the way. When it comes to answering “What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?” the important thing to remember is to provide a response that rings true to you, yet also conveys a particular message about yourself that will resonate at that particular company.

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