The one piece of career advice we all need


At the start of your career, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. All of a sudden you are surrounded by new people, new challenges, big personalities and probably a fair bit of discomfort. You've probably been thrown in the deep end. I recently went to a presentation by Jane Huxley, the MD of Pandora Australia. While Jane shared a lot of great tips, there's one piece of advice that really struck a chord with me.

“It’s not personal.”

It’s a difficult concept for many of us to grasp. I know it is something I have struggled with over the years.

Jane spoke about some of the challenges that she had early in her career, and shared a question that a mentor had asked her many years ago after she received some criticism:

When you arrive at work in the morning, look up - do you see a sign on the door with your name on it?

I am guessing that, like me, your name is not on the door. And unlike what they lead you to believe on Suits, it probably won’t be tomorrow either. So, what’s the important lesson here?

It’s not personal.

While it’s important that you take your work seriously, you are not your work. When you are super connected to a piece or work, or perhaps a particular client, it is easy to become passionate and maybe even a little emotionally attached. And that’s not always a bad thing!

But what happens when things don’t go quite right? Get a nasty call from the other side? Abusive customer or client? I’m sure we’ve all been there. This is when you need to remember that you’re at work. Even if it seems like someone is criticising you personally, it’s most likely the work you do, who you are representing, or maybe they’re just having a bad day - a whole range of things that are well beyond your control.

When people get tired and stressed sometimes things don’t come out the way they should. While I am not excusing this behaviour, we all need to remember that we are more than a pointed comment that someone makes about us, an abrupt email, or lack of thanks after completing a big task. It is easy to get so wrapped up in your work, that the slightest comment (or no comment!) offends. And if you made a mistake, as we all do - it’s not a personal flaw.

Sometimes it’s hard, but there is nothing you can do but take a deep breath and move on.

But what happens if it does become personal, you ask? I asked myself this question at the presentation too. Perhaps you don’t get along with a colleague or your boss? After asking yourself if it really is personal, think about ways that you can take the personal element out of the interaction. If you can’t, then take a step back and talk to someone that you trust. I will try and find some experts and explore this in a later post.

When Jane shared this story, it really resonated with me because like a lot of us, I have been known to take things personally. I love that Jane shared this story with her audience. It shows that everyone, no matter what point we are at in our career, will sometimes feel upset, threatened, undermined, challenged - a whole range of emotions - at work. It was one piece of career advice that I definitely needed to hear!

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts, please comment in the box below.