When you’re changing careers, or simply changing jobs due to boredom or the desire to move up, where do you turn to for advice? Some people look to family members and friends, while others turn to successful colleagues and network contacts. How has that worked out for you? If you think about it, you’ve probably gotten really bad career advice from a friend, family member, or colleague. While it’s easy to ignore the obviously bad ideas, some of that advice is recirculated year after year, making it seem like a standard job seeking practice.
While the tried and true advice may sound great at the time, it is often either outdated, lacking in critical details, or based on myth. If you’re in need of quality career advice, I suggest you seek out the assistance of a professional career coach. If you’re looking for a job because you’ve been laid off and you’re lucky enough to be offered career transition services that include a certified career coach, you’re probably in pretty good hands. If you’re on your own, a certified career coach with current credentials can help you land a job quicker and hopefully at a higher salary.
If you’re not sure about the advice you’ve been offered, we’ve gathered five of the most common and worst career tips we’ve heard and offered some advice about what you can do, instead.
Worst career advice #1: Do good work and you’ll be noticed by your boss
This advice is a little off point, but not completely wrong. You certainly want to do your best at your job, and the benefits that follow recognition for your efforts is always rewarding. However, if you’re doing good work to impress your superiors for a raise or promotion, understand that this method alone rarely works. The problem is that good work doesn’t mean recognition or rewards. You’ll be a reliable employee, certainly, but if you want to surpass expectations, you’ll need to have ideas.
Think about what you do in your current job. Is there a way to improve or enhance any part of it? Is there somewhere you can take the lead to be the agent of change?
Here are a few things to get you thinking like a leader:
- Improve workflow processes. If possible, come up with an idea or two to improve processes that save the company time or money. Companies love to save time, and saving money even more, which is a great way to get on your boss’s radar.
- Recommend better software. Suggest new company software that you know will save more time, smooth out processes, or improve productivity.
- Boost employee morale. This is especially key if you’re working in HR. Research what the top workplaces in your area and in the nation are doing. Suggest a similar program in your organization.
- Enhance the customer service experience. Can you turn a customer’s experience with the company into something memorable? Suggest implementing a program that rewards customer’s and helps keep your organization top of mind.
These are just a few ideas to draw attention to yourself and your work that will make it easier to justify why you deserve that raise or promotion. Remember to always claim recognition for your efforts, but don’t hog all the glory for projects that involve other team members. Give credit where credit is due, but be sure your boss knows the part you played to make the project a success.
Worst career advice #2: Follow your passion
The problem with this bit of advice is that following your passion doesn’t always lead to income or even a lucrative career. Blindly following your passion can result in a job history that seems disjointed and inconsistent. Those who simply follow their passions, without considering all the implications associated with extreme career changes, often need to return to their original career path in order to fulfill financial obligations. What does following your passion mean to you? For some it represents an extreme shift in focus, including:
- Starting a business based on a hobby
- Searching for a job in an industry that sounds interesting, without any real evidence or experience
- Pursuing an opportunity to try an uncommon and seemingly interesting job (e.g.: Bounty Hunter, Ethical Hacker, Waterslide Tester)
- Leaving a career due to boredom or dissatisfaction with a current position
If you are thinking of following your passion, start by taking inventory of your needs and long-term goals. Instead of following your passion blindly, take the time to find the career that matches not only your interests, but your financial and personal goals, as well.
Here are a few ideas to help you get the job satisfaction you’re looking for without creating a personal or professional crisis in the process:
- Consider starting a side hustle. A side hustle allows you to test your idea while you’re still employed. After you’ve spent some time working in your new career, you’ll have a better idea whether or not it will bring you the joy you imagined and you’ll have a better idea whether or not taking on your side hustle full time will fulfill your financial requirements.
- Research unique and uncommon jobs. Before you leave your job to become a bounty hunter, find out what skills you’ll need to be successful. Do some research to check if your past experiences and abilities are a match for the job.
- Update your skills. If you’re preparing to switch careers, examine your work history to discover gaps in skills and knowledge. Once you’ve identified the gaps, take courses to fill in your knowledge in unfamiliar areas before attempting to make the move to a new career.
Worst career advice #3: Your company will always take care of you
It was once commonplace for companies to reward those employees who kept their heads down and worked diligently. The wisdom of the time advised employees to refrain from agitating the boss by asking for a raise, or bombarding a manager with silly questions! After all, it was understood that the boss would always act fairly and ensure dedicated employees were taken care of when the time was right.
If you’ve heard this kind of advice recently, you probably already sense that this advice nugget is far out of date. Even when organizations and department heads have the best of intentions, the truth is that your job is far from secure and you can’t depend on anyone else to take care of you. Even in a good economy, your job could be eliminated as part of a restructuring or layoff event, sometimes without notice. The reason? Companies need to cut costs, and even if you’re a good worker, if your position isn’t needed it will be cut.
Instead of following this advice, remain alert and aware of situations occurring in your current workplace. One way to take care of yourself is to be aware of changes in management and the tone of internal communications. Stay alert for clues that a layoff is imminent, including:
- “Masked” layoff wording. If you hear executives talking about the way forward and they use words such as “Restructuring,” “Shifting Focus,” or “Pivoting,” you may want to polish up your resume.
- Layoffs have already occurred. There’s no need to panic if layoffs are happening in other areas of your workplace. Just be aware that the company is looking for ways to cut expenses and make sure you’re aware of which areas of the company might be vulnerable. If you’re working in one of those areas,
- Resources are scarce. You may notice that you’ve been tasked with much more work than before, or you’re given fewer resources to use.
- Internal job postings vanish. No explanation needed.
Worst career advice #4: Stay at your job, no matter what
Why would anyone want to stay someplace and be unhappy? Surprisingly, millions of people continue to work at a job they despise. The reasons people stay at unsatisfying jobs aren’t that hard to understand, and include:
- A need to pay the bills
- A family that relies on them
- Too much debt and too little savings
- Health care benefits for themselves and family members
“It’s a paycheck,” is often the phrase unhappy workers use to console themselves about their decision to remain at their current jobs. But this old advice is damaging, and can be especially taxing – both physically and mentally. If you’re tired of your current job—don’t stay! While you don’t have to quit without a source of income, you’re free to look at other opportunities that may pique your interest while you’re still employed – in fact, it’s recommended.
Sometimes it’s not the company that’s bothersome, but the work itself. Creative individuals often lose interest in repetitive work, because they require work that challenges and fuels their creative nature. If you’re tired of your job, you might need a job that challenges and renews your interest.
Dissatisfaction and disinterest in the daily work required to do a job can often lead individuals to consider shifting careers. If you share your desire to shift careers due to boredom, beware of following worst career advice #2 and take the time to research a new career that is a good fit.
Worst career advice #5: Success comes to those who are perfect
You’ve probably heard that perfectionism is expected in your job, but that’s not true at all. No one is perfect, so striving for this will only disappoint and frustrate you.
Instead, accept your strengths and weaknesses. You may be strong at customer service and diffusing tense situations, but you’re weak in communicating to management at your organization. Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can choose careers that match your strengths, while working to improve your weaknesses.
To enuure you’re making use of your strongest talents, ask yourself self-assessment questions, including:
- What have I been praised for in the past?
- Have I received any awards or other acknowledgement of my contribution?
- What problems and challenges do peers and colleagues seek me out to help solve?
Asking yourself these types of questions will help you to find where you excel. Use this line of questioning to help solve issues in your current job or identify the root cause in areas where you may be seeing problems. Often, finding the right job for you is accomplished once you learn to accept yourself as you are, instead of trying to perfect yourself to fit everyone’s wishes.
Some good career advice that hasn’t changed much over the years, includes:
- Always keep learning.
- Imagine where you’ll be in five years.
These two pieces of advice encourage you to continue learning if you want to climb the career ladder and to also work toward that retirement lifestyle or rewarding career you’ve always dreamed of. In the future, if anyone offers you great career advice, first take it with a grain of salt and then consider it carefully before you follow it. It could either be the worst piece of career advice, or the best. Find out which before you bet your future on it.