The Best Career Advice Mom Ever Gave Me

May 9, 2014Mother’s Day will be celebrated in many countries throughout the world this weekend, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, and the United States. So we thought we’d celebrate by asking our staff to share the best career advice their mothers ever gave them. See below for some words to live by!

Compassion is give it freely.
--Michael Chamberlain, Vice President, Brand Management


Find something you love, and it won’t feel like work.
--Sarah Dinolfo, Director, Research

Stand up for yourself—and be persistent. It’s possible to be assertive and courteous at the same time.
--Raina Lipsitz, Senior Associate Staff Writer

The best career advice my mother ever gave me was to make sure to do what I say and say what I do.
 --Tolonda Tolbert, PhD, Senior Associate and Consultant, Global Member Services

My mom, Neil, had a couple of maxims, including, “Be yourself, always, and follow your gut.” When I was occasionally overcome with guilt about work/life/family balance, she’d say, “If you’re happy, your children will be happy. Just do it. It’s okay and they’ll be fine.” (She was right!) And when I thanked her for supporting me in so many ways, she’d say, “Don’t thank me. Pass it on.” I do—with gratitude and delight, Mom!
--Susan Nierenberg, Vice President, Global Communications

You have to stand up for what you believe in. You can’t live for an organization whose ideals you don’t agree with. You have to live for yourself.
--Cheryl Yanek, Director, Librarian

She always told me to be self-sufficient, to never rely on a man for my sustenance. Which hasn’t impacted my career choice, but it did impact the way I approached men and dating and relationships. I was free for us both to truly be equals; I didn’t have to care about how much money he made, and I never had to feel like I owed him anything, and I never EVER felt like I had to hold myself back in my career aspirations to serve his.
--Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon, PhD, Director, Panel Manager, Research

Speak up when something is not right. In the 1980s, my mother discovered she was making much less than a male colleague in a similar teaching position. She fought for equal pay many years ago and was not afraid to use her voice for anything that seemed unfair or unjust. She was fearless in that way.
--Allyson Zimmermann, Senior Director, Catalyst Europe AG

Respect your elders, for they have the wisdom to show you the way; respect youth, because they have the energy to get you there; and respect yourself, because you have the courage to lead.
--Rowan Arndt, Catalyst Australia Consultant

My mum always told me that it wasn't my future husband's responsibility to support me and our children, but my responsibility to support myself and my children. I think this was pretty forward-thinking of her, considering how many Indian parents still have gendered expectations for their offspring. It also made me think differently about the importance of having a career—it isn’t just a fulfilling activity, but something I owe to myself and my family.
--Sushmita Pamidighantam, Research Intern, Catalyst India

Have you own bank account. Have a joint account for family purchases but definitely have your own bank account too.
--Emily Troiano, Senior Director, Information Center

The one piece of advice my mother gave me was "Make sure you're financially independent.”
--Frances Knox, Communications Consultant, Catalyst Europe

Focus less on wanting everyone to like you and more on earning the respect of the person in the mirror.
--Cynthia Emrich, Vice President & Center Leader, Catalyst Research Center for Career Pathways

My mom put no limitations on me because of my gender and always told me, “You can do anything you need to do.” This advice has given me courage, confidence, and boldness whenever I have faced challenges throughout my life.
--Jennette R. Gregory, Senior Associate, Information Technology


My mom refused to let me sign up for the typing elective in high-school. As an ambition-thwarted secretary, she didn’t want me to be able to fall back on typing for a living. Although I didn’t agree with her, and taught myself to type anyway, I always appreciated her underlying message to aspire and dream bigger.
--Brande Stellings, Vice President, Corporate Board Services

The best advice my mom ever gave was, “You can do whatever you want—don't let anything hold you back.”
--Coleen MacKinnon, Membership Manager, Montreal

Trust your instincts, be confident that you can do anything you set your mind to—because you can. Find a partner who respects, values, and supports your independence. Know that there is no right or wrong way to build a career and a life, as long as you do what you love.
--Alixandra Pollack, Senior Associate, Research

It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.
--Aarti Shyamsunder, PhD, Director, Research

Never stop learning. Not every day will be fantastic, but if you treat each day as a learning opportunity, some days will be.
--Jan Combopiano, Vice President & Chief Knowledge Officer

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.