If you’ve been around the workplace block a time or two, you’ve probably heard all kinds of well-meaning advice about what you should do to be a good employee, a good teammate or a good boss. Some of that advice is great, some of it not so much. However, there is some advice that’s timeless and applies across all skill levels and industries. Whether you’re a brand new employee just stepping into your first entry-level job, or a seasoned leader with a few decades of experience under your belt, here are 7 critical pieces of advice it’s never too late (or too early) to follow.


1. good coworkers lead to good work

Who you’re working with matters as much as the work you’re doing. Intelligent, capable coworkers who you can count on to help you out of a bind, or just support your day-to-day work are invaluable. If you surround yourself with smart people, your combined work will be better for it. People are collaborative, work best when they have a great team to bounce ideas off of and share in the workload. Even if you’re working in a highly independent role – say as a solopreneur freelancer – we guarantee you’re still working with people on a daily basis, and those people impact your work life. Whether you’re looking for a new job, making hiring decisions, or seeking out new clients, choose your coworkers carefully, because they’ll have a huge impact on your work output and general happiness.

2. you are your own biggest advocate

Need something at work? Ask for it! Too often, we’re scared to speak up if something isn’t right. Instead we suffer in silence for no good reason. Much as they might want to be, your boss or coworkers are not mind-readers. If you need something to do your work to the best of your ability, you are your own strongest advocate. Sure, your boss and coworkers should be a support system to help you achieve your goals, however, it’s up to you to determine those goals and speak up about what’s important to you. Do you feel you deserve a raise after taking on a big project? Do you feel overwhelmed by the addition of a few new clients? Do you wish you could work from home a little more often? All of these are goals you should communicate! No one will know unless you tell them. You’ll be shocked by just how powerful using your voice can be. Also, the more you use it, the easier it becomes to speak up!

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3. taking risks leads to bigger gains

There’s a nugget of truth to the cliché, ‘no pain, no gain.’ What’s easy and safe rarely leads to big gains, especially at work. If you put in the effort and take risks, even calculated ones, you’re more likely to see bigger long-term gains. Don’t be afraid to try something new and make an impact. No one ever did anything great or innovative by sticking with the status quo and doing the same old tasks day in and day out. Take risks and try something new. Even if the first thing you try doesn’t work out, you’ve learned something you can take with you to your next attempt.

4. kindness is never wasted

Being a kind person who cares about others is the most transferable skill of all. Help out a fellow employee that’s falling behind their deadline. Be empathetic when one of your direct reports comes to you needing time off. Offer to pick up some food for someone who’s working through lunch. Having basic human kindness and respect will earn you respect in return, and a workplace with mutual respect is a stronger one. Whether you’re someone’s boss or a freshly minted intern, kindness will always pay off down the road. Just remember you can be firm and decisive, while still being empathetic to the plights of others. Being kind is not the same thing as being a pushover. You can have limits while also being kind and respectful.

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5. invest in knowledge before tools

If you’re going to put all your eggs into one basket (not that we recommend doing that!) make it the basket of knowledge. Tools come and go. At one point Netscape was the browser of choice for the vast majority of the population. Today, we’re willing to bet you haven’t thought of that name in decades. Software, tools, platforms, whatever you want to call them, are a means to an end. Sure they’re useful to have at your disposable, but they should not be the sum total of your work experience. There’s no replacement for experience and hard-won knowledge. Set aside some time each week to get caught up on what’s trending and invest in your professional development. If your company offers opportunities to take courses or learn new skills, take advantage! We guarantee in 5 years those learning experiences will have been more valuable than investing in some cool tech.

6. put your mental health first, always

No job is worth sacrificing your mental health. Work is a means to an end to live your life. If your work-life is wreaking havoc on your mental state it’s time to step back and reevaluate what’s right for you. It’s an unfortunate reality that 23% of working adults in Canada say they’re stressed most or all of the time, the primary source of that stress being their job. Stress and unhappiness shouldn’t be your constant state of mind, no matter where you work. It’s understandable to go through stages where there’s a big project or deadline looming that ratchets up your stress-level temporarily. It’s hard to avoid stress entirely. However, those projects should come and go, not be the norm. Always, always put your mental health and happiness first. If your work-life isn’t sustainable or you need time to yourself to reach a healthy state of mind, do it. You’ll be a better employee, boss or coworker when you’re feeling 100%.