Home > Career Advancement, Communication, Self-Improvement > The Best Career Advice I Ever Received

The Best Career Advice I Ever Received

It was a few years ago. I got this opportunity to sit down with a very senior and successful individual at Wall Street. I asked him one question: I am going to start this new job soon, what advice would you give me? He gave me three, and I have kept them in my heart ever since, and they have never failed me.  


Never over-promise and under-deliver

This is the secret of all secrets. People have the tendency to satisfy other people, to meet their needs, to say yes. But people are not good at “managing expectations”. When you get an assignment, the most important question to ask is “when do you need this”? 

Make sure you understand if this is really that urgent, and your boss understands what else is on your plate. If you think you will be able to finish it by the end of the day, say, I should be able to get this to you tomorrow. If you finish it today, great, you’re efficient. If you finish it tomorrow, great, you’re right on time.

What you don’t want to do is promise you can finish it today and end up not making it. 


Be honest, as much as you can

If you build a reputation of being a reliable person, more responsibility will come to you. And to keep that responsibility coming, you need to have other people trust you. It takes time, and there will be some situations that you need to navigate, articulate, sugar-coat, but you are first a human-being of integrity, and second a capable person who can do the job.

It is hard, especially when there are a lot of things on the line. But still, when it’s a no, say no; when you made a mistake, admit it. Yes it is hard, but you should still try to be honest as much as you can. 

It takes many years to build a reputation; it takes seconds to ruin it. 


And better yet, be nice and helpful

There are always people who will advance quickly by downplaying other members on the team, spending more time with senior managers than with work, or even being mean to junior people. Of course many of them are still very good at what they need to do, but chances are they will not go very far.

Maybe you don’t want your blind date to think you’re “nice”, you would want words like “cool” or “fun” in that situation, but you do want to be nice at work. Nice meaning you respect your coworkers, you communicate effectively among teams, you do the shitty work and “suck it up” as a junior employee, and most importantly, you want to be helpful.

Embrace opportunities and assume responsibilities that may have nothing to do with what you are currently doing, you will always learn something new and you will continue to grow. Be helpful to those who come to you, no matter they are senior or junior.  

Guaranteed, better things will happen to you, and you will go a long way.


This is probably one of the many career related posts I am going to write. What career advice have you received and does the above make sense to you?  


  1. Yuqing
    August 29, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Integrity is the key. Consistence between words and action are of great value.

    • September 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm

      Which is hard. But if you can do it, you will come a long way!

  1. February 18, 2011 at 8:36 pm
  2. February 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm

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