7 Things I Learned About Career Success From My Mom

My posting has been a bit all over the place this past week. I apologize. I was swept up in wrapping presents, baking xmas cookies, and stockpiling posts in preparation for my long weekend away.

You can see some of the fruits of my labors above. They’re tassies, a recipe I learned from my mom when I was young, a delicious bit of heaven made up mostly of brown sugar, butter, and vanilla (yum!).

As I uphold the traditions my mother passed down to me, I marvel at how much of her is in me. Though there was a good amount of resistance in me, I’ve learned a lot from my mother.

After the jump, 7 things I learned from my mom about career success, despite myself:

1. Don’t be stupid:

This was her way of saying “invest in yourself.” She knew that if I wanted to achieve something big, I had to work at it, prepare for it, prioritize it. Financial needs be damned, she always supported my investment and participation in continuing education, barely-paid internships, and…um…the writing of vibrator reviews (though I heard “can’t you write about something else?”a billion times). This is important. If you want something…and you want it bad…you have to invest in that future, even if it’s impractical for the short term, and even if it’s risky.

2. Have patience:

I stayed on as a full-time staffer in the publishing world for far longer than I actually wanted to. All I did was breathe, read about, think about, talk about the full-time freelance life I was craving. “Be smart about it,” my mother told me. “Be patient.” Even though she didn’t understand what freelancing was all about, she believed in me, and knew that all of my careful preparations would pay off. After a no-too-exruciatingly-long period of time, I found a regular enough freelance gig that made it safe for me to make the leap. If I had leapt before then, I would have struggled a heckuva lot more.

3. Be positive:

When I lost my first post-college job, my mom wasn’t too concerned. “Now you have the time to find your dream job,” she told me, as I freaked the eff out. She also told me: “Don’t take a job just because you’re desperate.” (I was desperate.) I was living off unemployment benefits for a full year before I made my big break into the publishing world. She acted as if she knew all along that this would all work out. Now, as I struggle in the midst of this recession, my mother takes much the same view. It’s still infuriating, but also helpful. Be positive and sure that you’ll get the work and income you want and deserve, and it will come to pass. Mostly because you didn’t give up.

4. Aim High:

As I concentrate all my energies on blogging, web magazines, and other short-form content, my mom still wants to know when I’m getting my book published. (Disclosure: I am not actually writing a book; my mother is delusional.) She wants to appear on the dedication page. She sees no problem with thinking big.

5. Network with everyone:

My mom’s shameless. She’ll tell anyone who will listen what I do for a living, whether I need a job, whether I’m looking for work…It’s embarrassing sometimes, but it’s also the way to be. As she says, “you never know who might be able to help you out, or who might know someone else who can help you out.” My mom basically got me my first post-college job. Through someone at her exercise class.

6. Treat others as you would like to be treated:

I’ve always been a cranky introvert, while my mom has been the social butterfly, friendly and willing to chat up anyone she came across. I’ve learned a lot from this. Her warmth makes others respond to her more positively and, similarly, I’ve used this same approach to develop a good rapport with authors, clients, and editors. Taking this further, you should always be generous in sharing your wisdom and experience with  the other struggling freelancers you come across. They may someday — in some way — be able to reciprocate.

7. Be proud of yourself:

When I got a piece published in Playgirl a year or so ago, my mom photocopied the article — naked people and all — and brought it around to all her friends. I found this both amusing and heartwarming.

Remember to brag to others. Show off your work. It may bring you more work.

Or it may just make you feel good.

(My mom also taught me the correct way to decorate a tree.)


  1. Mom’s rule. Mine always gives me a kick in the ass right when I need it.

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