Out to a Mother's Day brunch with my roommate (like the little Manhattan orphans we are), one mimosa became two and then three and, in turn, the stories got more animated (read: loud). In the midst of a particularly juicy story, my roommate started referencing Kristins, Jessicas and basically any Top Ten Baby Name from 1980-1985. "Wait, which Kristin?!" I interrupted, "I need last names!" She was outraged.
"A former boss of mine once told me never to use last names in public," she said. "Especially in New York, you never know who's listening." I paused a minute, soaking it in. Simply put: BRILLIANT — and now a mantra I'm subscribing to, mimosa bender or not.
It got me thinking about what other bits of advice I was missing out on. Not the "Reach for the Stars!" stuff the Valedictorian wrote in the back of your high school yearbook; more, the practical lessons learned from real-life experiences, successes and, yes, even failures. Last week, I solicited some of my most-admired industry friends to find out what piece of career advice has helped them most along the way. Read the below carefully (it's good stuff):
“Never stray from your code of ethics. You'll never go wrong by being nice, being yourself, and doing the right thing.” -Graham Kostic, Art Director at Rue La La
“When I was a senior in college, I interned at Seventeen, and the then-editor (and just really awesome woman) Atoosa Rubenstein asked me, ‘You aren't going to do something silly like go to journalism school, are you?’ Of course, I was considering exactly that, and instead I moved to NYC without a job and eventually got an editorial assistant gig where I didn't make much money but avoided spending a lot.” -Erica Cerulo, Co-founder of Of a Kind
“Be nice to everyone! That includes the receptionists, janitorial staff, and even people in other departments that you don't work with very often. You never know when you'll need their assistance. Also, during the interview process, remember that hiring managers will frequently ask the receptionist for their opinion of potential candidates.” –Ben Setiawan, Editor-at-Large for Racked.Com
“The best career advice was from my Grandmother: ‘Just don't change careers. Stay a photographer.' She has been right so far. Every year, it's been getting better…” –Stephan Würth, Fashion Photographer
“Find your niche, discover something in the marketplace that’s not being done and never give up.” –Scott Lipps, President of One Management
“Be willing to do anything in the beginning. Nothing is beneath you.” -Gina Duckworth, Director of Ford Artists-NYC
“Success isn't genetic…Opportunities will be missed if you're always focusing on the next big thing instead of what you're already doing. Today is what's happening and what needs to be experienced. Have the confidence in yourself to stay positive about any situation and stay focused on the present. Also, avoid the sun, cigarettes and alcohol — it all only ages you. All of this advice comes from my mom and dad!” –Lydia Hearst
“Balance is important in the industry and applies to so many things. Whether it's the balance of the makeup look with the styling, the balance of your work schedule with your personal life, the balance of knowing when to stress and when to let things go — having balance in your career will get you further than you think." –Jenna Menard, Global Colour Artist for Clinique
“Hire the best team possible — then, give them the platform from which to do the best work of their careers. Oh, and leave your ego at the door.” -Melissa Beste, CEO of Akris
And, it bears repeating: Don’t use last names in public.