Top 5 Worst Career Advice Ever (And What You Should Do Instead)

Have you ever considered asking friends for career advice? Unless they’re way ahead of you in their chosen profession, it might be best to reconsider. A survey by The Creative Group, a part of Robert Half staffing company, states that about 6 in 10 executives admitted to receiving bad advice from their peers.

Bad advice, even from the most well-meaning sources, abound. Some so-called experts dish advice they have never put to use themselves—all theory, no proof. Even more astonishing—and disappointing—are the advice women give to other women. Phrases like, “Go get ‘em” and “follow your heart” are vague at best and misleading at worst.

As an eye-opener, I’ve rounded up the worst career advice I can find. These are actual advice parents, managers, and other supposed ‘career experts’ said or wrote.

“You can be anything you want”

Ah, the quintessential pep talk parents give their children. Unfortunately, this is not always true for everyone—no matter how strong their desire is.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard to achieve your dreams. I’m not cynical, but am not an irrationally positive either. At a certain point, your limitations will catch up with you. You can’t grow up to be a unicorn, no matter how hard you try. In the same token, not every child wishing to play in the NBA will get drafted.

Sometimes, it’s better to cut your losses and focus on a much more achievable path.

“The Number 1 thing you need to get your dream job is…. A professional business card”

I read an article advising people that the number 1 thing they need to get a job is a professional business card. The author advices readers to have at least a few cards on hand at all times, so they can give it to everyone they meet.

Yes, having a business card is great, but it’s not the most important thing in the job hunting process. There are far more important things, like a resume, a strong network or a list of target companies.

Instead of wasting $50 on fancy cards, invest your time in practicing interview questions for your target job. Understand what companies are looking for then figure out how you can portray yourself as the best fit. No expensive business card will get you through an interview, remember that!

“Choose the highest paying job”

A huge paycheck can fund your desired lifestyle but it won’t be enough in the long run if you don’t like your job. Don’t be blinded by dollar signs—or impressive healthcare packages—when you’re looking for a new job.

A company’s reputation, its people, advancement opportunities—these are far more important factors to consider.

“Increase your network. Connect with more people”

When it comes to connections, we’re after quality not quantity. Look at your LinkedIn profile, how many of those ‘connections’ do you actually know in person? And an even harder question is, ‘how many of them will be willing to refer you?’Sure, people are friendly in mixers and networking events, but will they vouch for you a few months down the line?

Ten strong connections can outperform a huge network of 500 acquaintances any time. So choose the people you connect with and nurture your relationship with them. Allot time for keeping in touch with, and help them by sharing job leads and other resources.

“You’ll need at least 5 years tenure to get promoted. Be patient”

Don’t you just hate it when people tell you to wait your turn? Advice like, “good things come to those who’re patient enough to wait” and “you’re lucky you have a job” are mantras of our grandfathers, applicable back in the time when career paths are mostly linear.

Back in the day, you can get a job as a receptionist, and maybe 10 or 20 years later, you’ll be Regional Director. Nowadays, the competition is too tough. If you’re not bold enough to ask for more responsibilities, someone else will.

So instead of patiently waiting your turn, step up and play the role you want. Then ask for the recognition or promotion later, when everyone else has seen what you can do.

There’s a lot of junk advice out there. Choose who you listen to.


Photo credit: iStock




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