50 Career Quotes That’ll Motivate & Inspire You

Julie Gerstein
Career Quotes

The mid-career crisis: We all experience it. It may be that we’re at a job we love, but it’s just not going anywhere, or it may be we’re in the midst of figuring out where to go next. Or, maybe we’re contemplating making a radical life shift and are in the process of gearing ourselves up for the move that’ll turn your whole professional world upside-down

Whatever you may be going through, to help you along and and get you motivated to make big moves, we’ve collected 50 career quotes to help you get out of your comfort zone and empower you to kick some major butt.

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50. “This is what I tell young women who ask me for career advice: People are going to try to trick you. To make you feel that you are in competition with one another. You’re up for a promotion. If they go for a woman, it’ll be between you and Barbara. Don’t be fooled. You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone.”—Tina Fey, Bossypants


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49. “I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.”— Gloria Steinem

48. “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”— Sheryl Sandberg

47. “Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.”—Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

46. “Feeling confident—or pretending that you feel confident—is necessary to reach for opportunities. It’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.”—Sheryl Sandberg

45. “You’ll never make a fortune working for the boss man.”—Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

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44. “Your career is like a garden. It can hold an assortment of life’s energy that yields a bounty for you. You do not need to grow just one thing in your garden. You do not need to do just one thing in your career.”—Jennifer Ritchie Payette

43. “The worst days of those who enjoy what they do are better than the best days of those who don’t.”—E. James Rohn

42. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”—Confucius

41. “It’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome. That’s what defines your career.”—Carlton Fisk

40. “Work to become, not to acquire.”—Elbert Hubbard

39. “Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.”—Katherine Whitehorn


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38. “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”—Michael Jordan

37. “Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure. It just means you haven’t succeeded yet.”—Robert H. Schuller

36. “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”—Abraham Lincoln

35. “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”—Thomas A. Edison

34. “I think everyone should experience defeat at least once during their career. You learn a lot from it.”—Lou Holts

33. “I want to look back on my career and be proud of the work, and be proud that I tried everything.”—Jon Stewart

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32. “Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you imagine it.”—George Lucas

31. “If you can dream it, you can you it.”—Walt Disney

30. “Desire! That’s the one secret of every man’s career. Not education. Not being born with hidden talents. Desire.”—Johnny Carson

29. “I can not do everything, but I can do something. I must not fail to do the something that I can do.”—Helen Keller

28. “A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory.”—Arthur Golden


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27. “It’s not the days in your life, but the life in your days that counts.”—Brian White

26. “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”—General George Patton

25. “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”—Albert Einstein

24. “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

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23. “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”—Mark Twain

22. “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”—Confucius


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21. “I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life.'”—Maya Angelou

20. “A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.”—Marilyn Monroe

19. “Begin somewhere. You cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do.”—Liz Smith

18. “In fact, there is perhaps only one human being in a thousand who is passionately interested in his job for the job’s sake. The difference is that if that one person in a thousand is a man, we say, simply, that he is passionately keen on his job; if she is a woman, we say she is a freak.”—Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? Penetrating, Sensible, and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society

17. “Often people attempt to live their lives backwards. They try to have more things or more money in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do in order to have what you want.”—Margaret Young

16. “What you’re really supposed to be doing is whatever makes your heart sing.”—Barbara Sher, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It

15. “Pitting your dream against someone else’s is a fantastic way to get discouraged and depressed.”—Jon Acuff, Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job

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14. “I determine to render more and better service, each day, than I am being paid to render. Those that reach the top are the ones who are not content with doing only what is required of them.”—Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman in the World

13. “Every time you have to make a choice about anything, think, ‘Does this go toward or away from what I want?’ Always choose what goes toward what you want.”—Barbara Sher, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It


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12. “Every time you worry that you could get trapped in some kind of work you don’t care about, you’re dealing with the problem of meaningfulness. I guarantee that in the back of your mind is the thought that somehow you have to make a contribution to something, be acknowledged, do something that matters—or you’re just fooling around.”—Barbara Sher, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It

11. “When one door closes, another opens, but all too often there is a long hallway in between.”—Rick Jarow, The Ultimate Anti-Career Guide: The Inner Path to Finding Your Work in the World

10. “I was very lucky to be offered a lovely piece of property to build a career on. I started building a house on it, but it wasn’t necessarily a house I would want to live in. So I ripped down that house, and I worked with these great lumberjacks to build a really cool cabin—a place I want to drink whiskey in and hang out until the sun rises.”—Vanessa Carlton

9. “No one can discover you until you do. Exploit your talents, skills and strengths and make the world sit up and take notice.”—Rob Liano

8. “Know the difference between your hobbies and your passions.”—B.S. Wood

7. “Follow your passion; do not get married to it, though.”—Ashok Kallarakkal

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6. “Desperation works in job search as well as it does in dating.”—Darrell Gurney, Never Apply for a Job Again!: Break the Rules, Cut the Line, Beat the Rest

5. “Be true to what naturally interests you—and be brave enough to turn an obsession into a profession.”—Shelly Branch, What Would Jackie Do?: An Inspired Guide to Distinctive Living

4. “Some people make enough, some people don’t, and it has nothing to do with their paycheck.”—Janene Murphy

3. “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”—Sharon Cooke Vargas

2. “If you’re not the hero of your talent story, you simply become a player in one you didn’t choose.”—Jay Perry, Take Charge of Your Talent: Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organization, and Life

1. “Don’t be in a hurry about finding your work in the world for yourself—you are not old enough to judge for yourself yet. But just look about you in the place you find yourself in, and try to make things a little better and honester there.”—Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s Schooldays

A version of this article was originally published in January 2014.