With all of the work-related books, podcasts, and online courses available, it’s easy to find career pointers. But there’s something special about career advice given to us from someone we adore and look up to — and as Mother’s Day approaches this weekend, we’re thinking about the life-changing work wisdom we’ve received from the mother figures in our lives, and how their words inspire us to step outside our comfort zones.
We asked our Thrive community to share the best pieces of career advice they received from their moms or other mother figures in their lives. Which of these tips resonates with you?
Find your niche
“Mom spent her entire career as a registered nurse, including over 30 years leading various departments at our community hospital. When I was hired as a teenage dietary aide, it was an honor to be ‘Pat’s daughter.’ One of the best career lessons she taught me is to find your niche. I didn’t love the hands-on caregiving, but I excelled in marketing healthcare programs and bringing innovative career opportunities to help medical professionals. I’ve got the natural talent there, and enjoy that facet of my career.”
—Pat Roque, career and leadership strategist, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Go with the flow
“My mom used to always tell us to go with the flow. She has been gone for 20 years now, but the phrase sticks with me. I’m not sure my mom meant it this way, but my interpretation today is to let go, slow your mind, and see what the universe is telling you. Be open to other ways of finding an answer to your problems, and tap into the energy flowing around you.”
—Laurie Jonas, author and blogger, Red Wing, MN
Embrace what makes you unique
“The best piece of advice that I have ever received was to be authentic to myself. For years, I had tried to succeed by emulating people I admired and who had found success in their respective careers. Although it had helped to some degree, when I truly embraced who I was and allowed myself to focus on my strengths and my unique personality, I really found new levels of career growth. What has truly surprised me in this shift in approach is that I have found a greater level of confidence in my abilities, and I am able to take more risks in the work I do, which helps drive me to be more creative and innovative.”
—Suzanne Schnaars, engineer, Basking Ridge, N.J.
Be clear on your top priority
“The best career and life advice I’ve ever gotten was from my mom. She told me and showed me that life is easier and happier when you are clear on your top priority — and you can only have one top priority. You’ll be better off when you are honest with the people in your life about that priority and you give yourself permission to say no to things that aren’t aligned with that priority.”
—Rebecca M., happiness coach, Ashburn, VA
Pursue the path that makes you happiest
“I am blessed to have a mother who is a teacher who goes above and beyond for her students. Growing up, she always encouraged all of us to follow what we are good at and enjoyed. I never felt the pressure to have to follow a certain career path because of status or finance, or just because it was believed to mean ‘earning a good living.’ My mom always saw the best in us in the areas that we excelled in and came naturally to us. She advised us to follow the path that made us happiest, which is why today, I was able to shift from my corporate job at Microsoft to doing what I love in starting my own business in the middle of COVID. I live her advice daily.”
—Nausheen Saumtally, empowerment speaker and trainer, Toronto, ON, Canada
Bring your A-game when you commit to something
“As someone who grew up without a mother, I have been so fortunate to have amazing women in my life who have mothered me in so many ways and given me invaluable advice. One of the best pieces of advice I received was from my dear friend, Lauren Cosenza, who demonstrated the power of showing up, paying attention to the details, and taking the time to properly close out all projects and experiences before moving on to the next thing. Whether it’s a networking event, a project, or a birthday party, when someone asks you to be a part of something and you accept, own it completely and commit to bringing your A-game. Do your research, over prepare, and throw in something special.”
—Brenda Della Casa, content creator and founder of BDC Digital Media, U.K.
If you don’t feel fulfilled, consider something new
“My mom, who is the smartest woman I know, has told me my whole life that work is work. Some days might be boring, and some days might be fun. But the moment when there are more boring days than fun ones, that’s when you should start thinking about getting a new job. We end up spending more time in the office around our co-workers than we spend at home, or with family, or with friends. It is very important that we feel happy and fulfilled at work.”
—Martin Sevillano, architectural designer, Los Angeles, CA
Listen to your gut instinct
“The best advice I’ve received was from my Titia, my aunt. She told me when I was very young that my gut was my compass. Listen to it and follow it, as it knows where it needs to go. Every time I strayed from listening to it, things never turned out well. Every time I listened to it, I ended up exactly where I needed to be!”
—Nicki Anderson, women’s leadership program, Benedictine University, Lisle, IL
You don’t have to be in the spotlight to make an impact
“As a first-generation resident of the U.S., my Taiwanese mother instilled within me a solid work ethic and the importance of being humble. A lesson she taught me is that you don’t have to be in the spotlight to make an impact. During so many moments of our family’s life, she has stood in the background caring for others, including acting as one of the principal caregivers for my grandmother. She taught me that making effective contributions doesn’t always mean being in the spotlight.”
—Dr. Michelle Feng, chief clinical officer at Executive Mental Health, CA
Do the right thing
“One of the best pieces of career advice I have received from my mother is to always do what is right, regardless of what the circumstance is. I grew up knowing that if standing by what is right and upholding my morals would hold me back from a certain job or role because I was instructed to do something that didn’t feel right to me, that would be OK because I stood by my core values.”
—Joanna C., founder of The Millennial VA, Philippines
Focus on uplifting others
“The best piece of career advice I received was from my grandmother when I was 12. She told me that life is about the interactions we have with other people, and by uplifting others, you will find your own path. In my professional life, I strive to collaborate with people I meet to build more meaningful relationships. From my experience, the best outcomes come from non-transactional interactions with others. And if you are out there helping others overcome their challenges, you will never have a problem finding your professional life path.”
—Lidia Vijga, co-founder at Briefbid, Toronto, ON, Canada
Take the leap, even if you’re scared
“My mom had lots of guts and she used to say, ‘Even if you are scared, just do it. Do it scared, but do it, because you know more than you think you do. Her words have helped me along my career path and stick with me today.”
—Lori Paulin, global head of customer empowerment, Palo Alto, CA
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