“A million girls would kill for this job“… a quote from one of my absolute favourite iconic movies (which I’ve probably watched more than ten times), The Devil Wears Prada – a 2006 film about a young woman who starts a new job as a second assistant to a demanding fashion magazine editor. Her boss, Miranda Presley, played by Meryl Streep, treats her employees like objects with no feelings and expects each one of her demands to be met, without fail, no questions asked. While this makes her a shrewd boss, Miranda’s work ethic and obsession with perfection got me thinking about the toxic situations we tend to find ourselves in, as women, in the workplace.

We come across all sorts of hurdles and curve balls that eventually help us step into our purpose, and when it comes to our careers, experience is a better teacher.

This week on #CareersTuesday, I spoke to phenomenal women, who shared their hard learnt lessons, reflecting on their career journeys. What is that ONE career advice they wish they NEVER took, I asked, and this is what they had to say… 

Make the boss love you 

“I learnt not to go overboard, trying to please my superiors at the cost of my mental health, to a point of depriving myself of family time just to produce excellent work and for recognition. I fell into the trap of being a people pleaser. – Tsholofelo Sithole, Senior Auditor, eligible to register as a CA

According to Author, NLP, Life and Career Coach, Yvette Ratshikhopha, People pleasing is often accompanied by regret and creates an unsustainable relationship basis without boundaries. “When you are in a work-relationship without boundaries, it leaves room for abuse. Most people don’t know when to stop taking, so learn to say no and prioritise yourself. Build a relationship in the workplace from a space of respect and knowing your value”, she adds.

Follow the money, passion won’t feed you

 “Through my previous jobs, I have learnt that when you follow the money, you fall into the trap of jumping from one job to another, whereas if you follow passion and purpose, the money follows you.” – Tshilidzi Matidza, PR and Accounts Manager

“Money is never enough, you end up accepting a job that is not in line with your growth and development path”, says Khathu Maestro, Author, Business Coach and Mental Health Advocate. “Yes the money may be good but your career may die a very fast death as you will be blindsided by money and miss out on opportunities of jobs that are aligned to your gifts and purpose. You can be well paid but miserable, however, if you follow your passion you’ll be fulfilled in your job”, he advises.

Just take any job that comes your way, it’s better than having nothing 

“The pressure got to me. I took the job just because I needed the money. It was the most miserable time of my life. I learnt to stand my ground and not just accept anything that is not worth my time.” – Nompumelelo Hlatshawayo, Entrepreneur  

“When we act from fear, we often accept less than what we deserve which can be disempowering. Focus on what you want instead of what you don’t want. There will always be pressure, however, don’t let fear be your deciding factor”, says Ratshikhopha. 

Don’t challenge authority 

“I got tired of keeping quiet. Stood up against my racist regional manager who gave credit to my white counterparts in the Marketing department. I didn’t care, I confronted him about the lies that were told about me. I listened until I couldn’t keep quiet anymore” – Sisonke Mazibuko, Marketing Coordinator

“Many people don’t want to rattle the cage at work because they fear being victimized” says Maestro. “Once you keep quiet where you should be standing up for yourself, you are already at a disadvantage. Speak up against injustice, remember you’re still in a work environment, so do it with respect and professionalism. Trust me, once you stand up for yourself, you earn the respect of your peers”, he emphasizes. 

Pay your dues, work for exposure

“In the name of ‘trying to get myself out there’, I found myself being exploited financially. Friends would ask for favours. I would kill myself with work, only to be told my payment was exposure”. It took a while for me to eventually set boundaries and get my bag” – Koketso Matloporo, Digital Graphic Designer

Maestro advises that you should never offer your services for free in the name of exposure. “You devalue your talent when you do that. Teach people your value, honestly this is how many music artists have ended up poor, performing to promote their music while the promoter is pocketing tons of money. Be confident in yourself and the right clients who are willing to pay will find you”, he states. 

In conclusion, Bernard Malmud once said, we have two lives: the one we learn with and the life we live after that. Sometimes it helps to grab a page from the experiences of others, in order to advance ourselves for better.

Do share your career lessons in the comment section below.