Alright, so maybe eating a bunch of carrots didn’t keep you from needing glasses, and no, you never actually went blind from sitting too close to the TV. But, that doesn’t mean that all of the advice your parents gave you is completely bogus.
In fact, your folks probably dished out their fair share of clichés and proverbs that are actually pretty applicable to your career and professional life now. Of course, you probably rolled your eyes and sighed dramatically at the time and were all, “You don’t get it, you still call Twitter, ‘Tweeter.’”
But, it’s never too late to put that advice to work. Here are five sentiments from dear old Mom and Dad that are more applicable than you ever believed they would be. And don’t worry—you don’t need to tell them that they were right.
1. “You Catch More Flies With Honey”
Preaching kindness must be on the first page of the “parent handbook,” as they’re always quick to remind you that thoughtfulness is the way to go. Obviously, there are occasions when you need to be a bit more stern and direct in the workplace—like when your intern comes in late for the umpteenth time. But, in general, you can’t go wrong with being polite.
It’s human nature, really. When people are kind to us, we feel inclined to be kind to them. Plus, being more friendly and upbeat in your office not only impresses your team and does wonders when it comes to fostering better work relationships, but it’s also likely to improve your attitude toward your daily work.
So, bring in bagels and donuts every now and then, compliment your co-worker on a job well done, or perform a completely random act of kindness. You’ll be surprised how much your entire work environment—and mindset—will change by just being nicer.
2. “Never Burn Your Bridges”
We all know the far too catchy Disney song, “It’s a Small World After All.” Annoying as it may be—and I do apologize that it’s now stuck in your head—the sentiment definitely holds water.
Let’s face it; the business world is actually pretty darn small—especially if you’re in a more niche industry. So, you always need to be mindful of maintaining positive relationships with co-workers, supervisors, and peers.
Keeping this advice in mind is especially critical when resigning from a position (yes, even if it’s one you hated!). It’s important to turn in your notice in a way that’s respectful and professional, regardless of how much you want to throw both middle fingers in your boss’ face. After all, you never quite know who your boss is connected with, which former co-workers you’ll encounter in the future, or who’ll get called for a back-channel reference.
3. “It’s Not Always About What You Know, But Who”
Oh, the undeniable power of connections. Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re being considered for a job you know you’d be amazing at, and you’re confident you completely nailed the interview. A few days later, you receive the dreaded “thanks, but no thanks” email, letting you know that the company’s moved forward with a different candidate—and then, just when you’re moving on from the rejection, you discover the boss’ neighbor’s cousin’s daughter landed your dream job.
Chances are, that rude awakening was soon followed by this little pep talk from one of your parents. Unfortunately, it’s true. The most qualified person isn’t always the one who gets the job.
So, how can you apply this to your professional life today? Continue building your network—work on it every single week. Join industry associations and attend local networking events. Set up informational interviews with companies you love and people you admire. Putting yourself out there can be scary (and even feel unnecessary when you like your current position), but assembling a powerful set of contacts will give you a leg up on the competition when you need it.
4. “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day”
We all know that your first job likely isn’t going to be your dream job. (Or even your first few.) No, it takes your fair share of grunt work before you even get close to where you want to be in your career. But, there’s nothing wrong with working your way up the ladder.
It can be frustrating to feel like you’re going nowhere in your position and you’re not directly contributing to the bottom line—especially when you know you’re capable of doing much more important work. But, as your parents loved to remind you, progress takes time. It’s not an overnight transformation.
Plus, there’s an upside: You’re immediately likable if you’re the one who brings the coffee. At the very least, you’ve got that going for you.
5. “Actions Speak Louder Than Words”
Not only was this statement likely printed on a poster hanging in your kindergarten classroom, but you probably heard it plenty from your parents, too.
Well, Mom and Dad were right—again. Saying something and actually doing it are two completely different things. Anybody can state on his or her resume or in the interview that he or she’s a skilled team builder or a Photoshop expert. But, the proof is in the pudding, and you’re going to need to be able to put your money where your mouth is. (Like that? I squeezed two bonus parentisms in here for you!)
The same applies to office relationships and conflicts. It’s easy to apologize to your boss or a co-worker for a mistake you made. If you continue to repeatedly make that mistake again and again? Now you’ve got problems. Follow up everything you say at work with a real, live corresponding action. Don’t have time? Then don’t tell someone otherwise—it’s as simple as that.
Sure, your parents probably didn’t actually trudge three miles to school, uphill both ways, barefoot in a snowstorm. But, once you move past the exaggerated stories and eyeroll-worthy “parentisms,” you’ll likely see that they actually know what they’re talking about. After all, you might as well take the advice from someone who’s been through it all before.
Photo of father and son courtesy of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author