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Career Coach: Fatherly advice from William Shakespeare

To honor Father’s Day, Pam shares the immortal bard’s wisdom as it relates to life and career.

Pamela Kleibrink


The Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s season recently began and I was reminded that the Bard imbued his characters with both wit and wisdom.  In honor of Father’s Day this month, I want to take a look at some insightful advice from William Shakespeare.  In Act 1, Scene 3 of Hamlet, Shakespeare shares plenty of fatherly wisdom through Polonius.  In a litany of pithy maxims, Polonius advises his son Laertes, who is leaving for France, on how to avoid trouble and be successful.  Shakespeare’s words are italicized and my commentary follows.


    See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

    Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

    Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

Keep your thoughts to yourself and do not act on a whim.

Guard your thoughts and don’t act in an unsuitable way.

Be friendly and always show good manners.

    Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

    Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;

Friends who will stay with you through thick and thin are valuable.  Cherish them.  Make yourself worthy of their friendship.  Keep friends you know well and trust close.  You can confide in your closest friends and they will help you.

    But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

    Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade.

Be careful in who you choose to hang out with.  Not every person is going to be someone who will be good for you.  Be cautious with new friends at first, even if they seem amusing and entertaining. 


    Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,

    Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.

Avoid fights whenever you can but if you are going to fight be sure you are ready and a force to reckon with.

    Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;

Listen respectfully to everyone.  You’ll learn what they know and you don’t have to share what you know.

    Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Know that others may judge you but do not prejudge others.

    Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

    But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;

    For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

    And they in France of the best rank and station

    Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Dress well because you will be judged on your appearance but do not overindulge in fashion and clothing.

    Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

    For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

    And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

Don’t borrow or lend money even with friends.  Manage your resources and money wisely.  If you need to borrow you are not being frugal or thrifty enough in your lifestyle. 

    This above all: to thine ownself be true,

    And it must follow, as the night the day,

    Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Follow your heart and your passion whatever you do.  If you are true to yourself and act in accordance with your values and don’t cheat, lie or otherwise be false, then your reputation will grow and you will be respected in the community.

My father gave me similar advice when I was in college and wanted to switch my major from pre-med to theater arts/film.  I was worried I would disappoint him with the change.  My dad pointed out that it was my life and I should follow what I wanted for myself and not to let anyone else tell me what to do with it.  He reminded me that you have to be true to yourself first and foremost. 


Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter and career coach who helps creative people succeed.   She loves her dad and thanks him for encouraging her to find her own path and to be true to herself.  She is looking forward to seeing her parents at her brother’s wedding in California.  Pamela is a frequent speaker at colleges and conferences around the world.   To contact Pamela for personal career coaching, recruiting or speaking engagements email her at  You can also connect with her on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter!/