Back in late 2004, I got my first job at a magazine. My mate told me I should stay at the call centre I was working at instead of taking a two-day-a-week role as a writer – and that I could work my way up to team leader. Thinking about this made me wonder what other people had been told along the way to their future – so I asked them.

  • “In my first job, telling me to be honest with my employer and tell them I was going for a better job at a rival company, and needed the afternoon off, because they’d be supportive of my dreams.”
  • “Jews should stick to show business.”
  • “Old male exec to my junior assistant self: ‘If you wanted the promotion, you could have tried being more of a turn-on.’”
  • “A friend: stick around and see how it turns out.”
  • “None at all. The career adviser at high school looked at my grades and just asked what I wanted to do, and said, ‘Do that’. Didn’t dig into why, didn't ask any questions about what I wanted to achieve, didn’t provide any kind of advice.”
  • “Just hide that you’re gay and people will think of you as more of a leader.”
  • “Tomorrow never dies, so just get this done today.”
  • “You can’t make money in this industry. Walk away.”
  • “Watch the same TV show as your boss.”
  • “Stick with this sh*t job because it’s a stepping stone to better things. It’s still a sh*t job and made me unhappy so I left. I coulda been a contender.”
  • “You do too many things. Just do one thing.”
  • “I think you should go for it; everyone in the industry respects you.”
  • “All from male colleagues: ‘Don’t do your master’s. You have a permanent position. Just ride it out. They can’t get rid of you now.’
    ‘Stay quiet. No one likes a bossy little girl. If you’re quiet, you’ll get further.’
    ‘Just say yes to everything. That way you’ll get noticed.’
    ‘Now you have a job, just have kids and go part-time.’
    ‘Don’t climb up any higher. You won’t cope.’”
  • “Do what you love.”
  • “My publisher told me that I was ‘getting above myself’ when I did my MBA.”
  • “Fake it till you make it. That’s terrible advice. Because if you are actually faking it, you will get ‘fired it’.”
  • “When I was 17 and quit my entry-level call centre customer service job to go to uni, my manager said I should stay, and ‘You’ll regret giving up on your career here.’”
  • “There are jobs out there for Arts graduates.”
  • “Do an apprenticeship before a degree so if the profession doesn’t work out, there is a trade to fall back on.”
  • “You can’t do a music degree (from my parents – lol).”