Career advice is like parenting advice: everyone has an opinion to give, but it doesn’t mean that it’s right. Like parenting advice, the suggestions may be well-intentioned, but no longer applicable in the modern workplace. It may be a common practice in some industries – just not yours. Or, it might just be wrong!
There is no doubt that things have changed over the years. Technology has changed everything, from the way we find available positions, interview for them, and the criteria for candidate selection. Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is becoming increasingly popular for screening applicants, and keywords on a resume can make or break your chances of even being screened in the first place. If the job market has changed, so should the advice job seekers should heed when searching their next role.
We asked our readers to name some of the worst career advice they have received, so that we can set the record straight.
Worst Career Advice at Its Finest
1. Find a company and stay there for your entire career – don’t jump jobs.
There is well-meaning advice in this statement, but it is no longer applicable in today’s society. It is not advisable to change jobs every year, but the old adage of the “one company employee” is both impractical and counterintuitive. Companies change – mergers, acquisitions, and downsizings are common practice in the workforce. With these events, changes in staff are expected. Furthermore, having exposure to different company cultures and management styles are seen as an asset by many employers.
2. Any work experience can be used to get into a particular field.
This simply is not true. Companies appreciate relevant experience, particularly in specialized positions. Spending ten years working in retail is not going to get you a cost accounting job in a manufacturing company. If you have your mind set on an industry, ensure that you have easily transferrable skills. Spend some time looking at the LinkedIn profiles of individuals in your desired field. What has their career progression been?
3. If you are working as a contractor, do not list the companies you have done the contract work for.
If you have spent a prolonged period of time (>3 months) working for a company, and have gained valuable experience, DO list that company on your resume. State it as “ABC Company, Inc., Financial Analyst (Contractor through XYZ Staffing)”. This allows you to show relevant projects that may get you one step closer to getting into a particular industry. As mentioned above, companies are looking for relevant, transferrable skills when they are hiring employees. Having 3 months, or a year of exposure to a position can provide that edge!
4. You have to get a college degree to be successful.
I don’t need to tell you that there are hundreds of success stories involving individuals that dropped out, or never attended college. Additionally, advancing your education does not necessarily involve obtaining your Bachelor’s Degree. There are many skilled trades programs offering additional training, but are not considered “college”. It is not uncommon for a journeyman in the trades to earn north of six figures, especially with the dwindling numbers of skilled workers available for employment.
5. Only apply to jobs on this job board (enter your favorite here).
This is similar to the advice I hear many recruiters tell candidates: “only work with our firm – we’ll find you a job”. False. When applying for jobs, search all of the relevant job boards for positions. You know my two favorites are Indeed.com and Ziprecruiter.com, but there are MANY others! LinkedIn has a great job interface as well. Back to the recruiter advice, work with as many recruiters as you can! They often have unique clients that they work with, and there is no such thing as too much exposure.
6. It is better to have a job, than quit and be jobless.
I will tie this in with another reader’s comment that you should not leave a job until you have a job. In general terms, the advice is fairly accurate. It is definitely easier to leverage salary negotiations when you are employed. However, there are many reasons that a person may want to leave a job prior to finding another. If the work environment is toxic, and it is affecting your performance (or health), it is acceptable to resign. Some individuals have also told me that when they job search, they put a full day of work into their search every day. This is both possible and practical, when networking, job seeker groups, etc. are factored in.
7. Just demand they give you a job!
This one is obviously poor advice, but I wanted to share the story the reader provided for the lesson learned. In case I wasn’t clear, DO NOT demand that any company or agency give you a job! The reader had finished working a temp job from a staffing agency, and had not heard from the agency in over a week. The person’s parent advised that they demand another assignment from the agency. Needless to say, the agency told the person never to call again, and to find another staffing firm! That was a bridge burned needlessly, and advice that should not have been given. Period.
8. Work hard, and the money will follow.
This is only true to some degree. In order to be rewarded, your efforts need to be noticed (and personally documented). If you are saving the company money, make sure your boss knows (and be sure to include it on your resume). If you are going above and beyond to help a co-worker, document it. If you are doing work that is normally completed by those above your pay grade, write it down. These are items to not only gently bring attention to at the time, but are great things to have documented in detail when your performance review comes around. You can’t be rewarded for something no one knows about (or takes for granted).
9. Find your passion and money will follow.
Let’s face it – regardless of your level, all jobs are tough. The market pays for skills that you can deliver on. Over time, and with effort, you will become an expert in your field, and will find much greater satisfaction in your work. In the meantime, save your money wisely. Once you are in a secure financial position, and if you still seek to make your hobby your job, you will be in a better position to do so.
10. Pretend not to see indiscretions at work.
Ignoring unethical (or illegal) behavior is not the way to rise up the company ladder. Maintaining your integrity and reporting actions that make you feel uncomfortable may not win you popularity at your current employer, but could save your career (or even your freedom) in the long run.
What have we missed?
This article cites some basic examples of poor career advice, but there are many more stories to be told. We would like to hear from you! What bad advice have you received, and what lessons have you learned that have made you a better professional? Feel free to comment below, or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Natalie Lemons
Natalie Lemons is the Founder and President of Resilience Group, LLC, The Resilient Recruiter, and Co-Founder of Need a New Gig. She specializes in the area of Executive Search and services a diverse group of national and international companies, focusing on mid to upper-level management searches in a variety of industries. For more articles like this, follow her blog. Resilient Recruiter is an Amazon Associate.
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