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Career Advice no-one tells you


Let me share three lessons that I have learned in my professional life.


  1. Choose your boss, not a paycheck


Fresh out of university, I got a leased car. It came with my first job. I vividly remember the day that the CEO’s Personal Assistant showed me my Mitsubishi Galant and handed me the keys in the parking lot that evening. She didn’t even try to hide that she was a bit jealous. And I understand: young man, mid-twenties, no track record, walks into the door and gets a brand new car. In a way it doesn’t make sense, does it? And while a nice car, a good salary and bonus can be tempting in the early days, you better watch out!

Of course, this is not wrong in itself, but, if you really want to make progress in those first 10 – 15 years, you better choose your boss! If you can work closely with someone that inspires you, someone who role models for you, someone who gives you opportunities and protects you when you make your mistakes… that’s where real progress happens. Don’t let household brands or quick money fool you. Don’t focus on the money too much. Try to choose your boss. This is probably your best investment toward making real progress.


  1. It’s a marathon, not a sprint


Our professional careers are getting longer and longer. This is due to simple demographics and, on average, living longer. The classic pension systems when you retire at 65 are less and less common. People move into portfolio careers. Professionals stay active into their 70s and beyond.


Keep this in mind: keep moving forward, slowly but surely. Make sure you train your patience muscle. Focus to create tangible results in every job before accepting the next challenge. Three to five years is usually a healthy period for this. These accomplishments are your building blocks, the real proof you can do it. This is what you need to be ready for the next step. If you move forward to a bigger title of, say, senior vice president, but without the tangible performance, you are building your career on quicksand. Make sure you create a strong basis.

Remember, it’s a marathon.



  1. Reputation is everything. It’s compound interest


Your reputation is the cumulative result of everything that you’ve done before. Make sure you know your reputation. Ask people for painful feedback. And ask for it regularly. Say thank you when people tell you what you need to hear. Stop. Think. And plan what you need to adjust. It’s very often about your behavior. The higher you get, the more important your leadership behavior becomes. Take good care of your reputation, it’s everything you have got. The world is a connected village. If you get it right, your reputation starts to work for you after some time. If you don’t, many doors close. And it’s only very rarely that someone will really tell you why. Usually, it’s much more subtle. People don’t call back, you don’t get invited, you hear reasons that don’t make any sense, etc. etc. etc. Reputation is all about compound interest.


 we all need help!

Never think that you know everything, or that you don’t need help. Because you do! Not because you’re not good. But because it can enable you to take the next step. Doing everything on your own is an expensive mistake. Choose some trusted advisors, whether they are bosses, coaches, or other professionals. People that help you accelerate or get you out when you get stuck. It can help you navigate those make-or-break moments that you will encounter during your professional life.


I hope that’s helpful and makes sense to you.


Paul Donkers

Paul P.J. Donkers is a sought-after global business coach and serial entrepreneur. More about his work and projects can be found via and via

By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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