9 Successful Women Share The Worst Career Advice They Were Given

...and why they're glad they didn't take it.

The thing about advice is that it’s just that — advice from someone else. It’s often biased and based on things like background, personal experience, and values. While seeking guidance from others can be beneficial, of course, not all advice will be right for your situation. Only you know what is best for you, and to be honest, most people won’t know how to achieve the goals you have set for yourself. So as you grow as a professional and prepare to take career risks, it’s essential to follow your intuition. Here, successful female executives and entrepreneurs share the bad advice they chose to ignore — and more importantly, how going with their gut changed the course of their career. 

“Rethink your goals.”

When Gigi Goldman was first developing the idea behind her company, Kopari Beauty, she met with a vet to discuss product ideas and vision. This person was dismissive, and in so many words, told Goldman it would be impossible for her to become successful and meet her goals. When she left the dinner, alongside her husband and fellow co-founder Bryan, they all felt defeated. But instead of giving up because it was “too hard,” they kept the vision of what they wished to accomplish and worked toward it.

“People all have their own opinions and that is okay. But you really have to listen to your own intuition, your heart, and what drives you,” she says. “I am thrilled that we didn’t take her advice because we wouldn’t have Kopari, which is four years old, in more than 2,000 doors, and distributed in five countries. Most importantly, we are living our dream and have only scratched the surface on what we can do.”

“Just stick it out.”

Tawny Holguin Toci recalls a previous job where she was incredibly unhappy and knew the working relationship with her employer was toxic. But instead of encouraging her to find greener pastures, her colleagues and friends told her to stick it out. She decided to turn a cheek and carve out her own path, eventually leading her to become the CEO of Social Print Studio.

“I was able to find a better job, with greater flexibility, doing work that I enjoyed,” she says. “It’s hard to remember that others aren’t living your reality and that their advice is just their best interpretation of what fits. I was proud to have listened to my instincts and to come out better off on the other side.”

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“Don’t speak up.”

When Amy Fohr first started her career, a female boss advised against giving her opinion to men in senior positions at her company. At the time, Fohr thought she meant well and was trying to help her, but she later realized it was the wrong advice to take as a professional. Now the founder of Sweater Hound, she prescribes to the motto of “if you see something, you should say something.” And that’s regardless of gender or position.

“You can and should share your voice and opinion with any superior, male or female, when delivered in the right tone and timing. When speaking up in any setting, it’s best to speak with authenticity and honesty,” she explains. “In my current company, I encourage feedback in all directions to ensure people feel heard and their voices are valued.”

“Don’t go back to school.”

When Sarah Luna, the president of Pure Barre, was living in Chicago in 2010, her colleagues recommended against getting her MBA. They said the money would be better spent starting her own business, rather than investing in an education. She disagreed and decided to go for it. In the end, it was the right choice for her trajectory.

“I am glad I did not take that advice at the time because the education gained throughout my MBA has been instrumental to the rocketship career that I’ve experienced over the past several years,” she explains. “What I learned in less than two years as a full-time student has given me way more than what I sunk into that opportunity.”

“Keep a low profile.”

In the early stages of creating her company, Bomba Curls, CEO and founder Lulu Cordero, was advised by a colleague to keep a low profile. She warned her against discussing her Dominican heritage, especially about lack of representation and diversity in the beauty industry. Proud of her history and passionate about breaking barriers, Cordero raised and eyebrow and did, well, just the opposite.

“It has not only heavily influenced my style of product formulation, but it also played a huge part in why Bomba Curls came to be,” she says. “Staying true to who I am is what allows me to have remain connected to my customer base. I am honored to be in a position where I can relate to customers on a personal level and provide them with products that I know will help ease the oftentimes stressful, emotional but oh-so freeing journey that is the natural hair journey.”

bad career advice
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“Don’t move across country.”

When Deb Monti was in her early 20s, she decided to pack up everything she owned in New York, quit her job at the cosmetic counter of a department store, and move across the country to San Francisco. This was against everyone’s advice — her friends, her family, her coworkers — who said she should wait until she’s older and had a better job lined up. She ignored them and set out on a life-changing adventure, which eventually empowered her to start her own company, Milvali Extensions & Academy.

“I needed to get out of the small city I grew up in. Yes, there was comfort and familiarity but no room for growth, and I was in a point in my life where I needed to grow. I also knew I was destined for bigger things and broader perspectives,” she says. “By not taking this advice and believing in myself, no matter how hard it was sometimes, has led to me to where I am today. Advice is tricky sometimes, I’ve found it’s best to listen to your gut and follow your dreams.”

“Fire them.”

Everyone goes through difficult stages — and you can’t always judge a performance based on the darkest of a person’s days. As Julie Castle, the CEO of Best Friends Animal Society tells us, she refused to fire a dedicated employee when they were going through major life issues. Rather, she took the opportunity to find a solution and demonstrate to the team how to be a compassionate leader and support for those when they need it.

“As leaders, we need to recognize that we spend most of our life and energy at work — jobs are not just jobs, they become lifestyles — so it’s essential that the workplace be fulfilling, empowering, and safe.” she explains. “Your good employees should know that you’re going to be there to help pick them up when they stumble and fall.” This, of course, leads to higher moral and stronger employees in the end.

“Raise the price of your products.”

When Priscila Tsai, the CEO and founder of Cocokind first started her company, a beauty industry expert suggested she increase the prices of her products. How come? This mentor claimed people associate price with quality, and that she wouldn’t be taken serious with products less than $20. She was wrong. “I was, thankfully, naive and really stubborn about the values that I wanted Cocokind to stand for,” Tsai says.

“Having quality products at a reasonably accessible price point was one of the core reasons I started the brand, so I felt like this piece of advice was questioning the entire company’s mission,” Tsai explains. “As it turns out, having accessible pricing has been one of the key pillars to our brand, and we’ve only strengthened that over the years. If I had taken this advice, which was standard beauty industry advice to price as high as you can, we wouldn’t have been able to reach as many customers.”

“Bang through emails.”

There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your inbox at zero, but rushing through unread emails is not the answer. Carola Jain, the chief marketing officer at Spartan, says colleagues often advised her to “bang through emails,” but she didn’t feel this was an effective way to communicate or get things done. “While you need to handle emails to support your team, communicate efficiently, and clarify projects, you also need ample time to think, be creative, and lead effectively,” she says, adding that it’s important to give yourself enough time to step back before hammering out “poorly-considered” email responses.

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