Recently, we featured a post titled, “11 Pieces of Career Advice That Go 95% Ignored” – a look at the really good advice almost no one follows. Today, we’ll talk about the other side of that coin: career advice and clichés spewed by self-anointed, though usually well-meaning, career “experts”.
Granted, many of these experts were taught these tidbits of advice by their mentors and trainers. And they were probably effective in the 1980s. Now, however, we must regard these antiquated gems as a disservice to the job seekers who listen – and learn the hard way… that there’s a better way.
Here are 11 pieces of career advice you’ll receive from old-school career counselors, advisors and gurus – that should be ignored:
1. Study Hard; Your Education Is All You Need
You’ll hear this one from parents, career center advisors and others who know nothing about finding a job in the 21st Century. Education is important. Very important. In fact, your college degree is now – at many companies – the minimum requirement for employment.
Education alone, however, doesn’t make you special. Or employable.
What does? The combination of education, real-world experience, finely-tuned soft skills… and a lot of hustle.
2. Employers Only Care About Formal Education
Let’s get this straight: many employers strongly believe your formal education – all that theory you learned sitting in the classroom – actually hurts you in the workplace. They want you to not only gain the experience we just mentioned, they want to know that you’ll self-learn everything you need to complete the task at hand and help move the company mission forward.
MOOCs, short-form classes, YouTube how-to videos, forums, help-desks, Ask-and-Answer sites and mentors are all self-learning resources employers will expect you to utilize often in the workplace.
3. Networking is Not Effective
Over the last month or so, I’ve heard many contrarians and trolls spout their view of networking: “A waste of time” and “Don’t drink the populist Kool-Aid” as well as phrases that include the word “fad” are thrown around. They ignore data that shows networking, and specifically networking your way into an enthusiastic employee referral, is the best way to find work in today’s economy.
What’s ironic about this particularly poor piece of advice? This drivel is dispensed through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook – and every other social networking site.
4. Include an Objective Statement
Yes, we’ve talked about the “Objective Statement” argument ad nauseam. Yes, there have been a billion blogs on the subject. But just as school resumed this year, I sat in an amphitheater and heard a corporate recruiter from a Fortune 100 company say how important objective statements are to his hiring team.
My advice: if you apply to his silo-driven, archaic company – or any organization like his – by all means, include an objective. For every other company: show you’re well entrenched in a job search designed to secure employment in this century.
5. Cover Letters Aren’t Necessary
Even some of the best recruiters will tell you they ignore your cover letter until they’ve been impressed by your resume. Fair enough… and probably true in my case, also.
However, when I am impressed, the very next thing I review… is your cover letter. Are you articulate? Original? Confident? Did you customize the letter to my company, the culture and the position? Most important: what makes you different from the other “blah, blah, blah” applications I received?
Not sending a cover letter is a lost chance to impress. Don’t take that chance.
6. Your Career Center Can Find You a Job
I can’t have a cup of coffee with an on-campus career center professional without hearing something like this: “That student thought he would spend an hour on his resume, do a mock interview or two, and then sit back and wait for my staff to FIND him a job! We are not a placement agency!!”
Where did students, parents and professors got the idea that career services was responsible for job searches? I don’t know how anyone still believes that career centers exist to do the work for you. All I can ask is that you utilize your career center knowing only YOU are responsible for your job search. They’re there to help you, help yourself.
7. Apply for Everything
In 2001 when unemployment hovered around 4.2%, this was okay advice. After all, if you were breathing, had decent technical skills and had showered in the last week… you’d get a job offer. So, just hit the ‘Apply Now’ button on a big job board 100 times per day and wait for something good to happen wasn’t a bad strategy.
A dozen years later, however, this is one of the worst possible pieces of career advice.
Why? Because you can hit ‘Apply’ 500 times per day and never get called. The ATS will eat your resume, and you’ll go hungry. Take time to build a target list. Get to know the company, and the players at the company. Determine how you’ll help solve that company’s problems. Only then – apply.
8. Don’t Be a Pest
You know who spits out this crappy advice? Old-school, anonymous recruiters. That’s right… those in a position to hire you.
They don’t want to hear from you; that requires work. They don’t want to talk to you; that requires time and communication skills. They don’t want you to follow-up; that makes them feel guilty for failing to reply or meeting a commitment in a timely manner.
The reality: you don’t want to work for these bozos. Take them off your target list – and replace them with companies that genuinely care about the candidate experience and employee engagement.
9. Stay Within Your Job Description
Another cliché left over from the 1970s and union-run shops where we did exactly what was required and nothing more. Times have changed, and so have employer expectations.
Since the economic collapse that started in 2008, organizations of every shape and size do more with less. They run leaner and smarter; they’re focused on team contributions and developing a nimble workforce. Those who fail to meet these new expectations – and work with a “that’s not my job” mindset – will find themselves terminally unemployed.
10. Don’t Rock the Boat
This advice was born to save someone’s job when things weren’t going well. And for many who suffered under a command-and-control leadership style, this was good counsel.
Today, you want to work for a boss who is confident enough to hear a contrary opinion. You want an executive team willing to hear the truth, whether it hurts or not. Yes, you should be tactful. Yes, you should always present a dissenting opinion in a solution-oriented manner. However, in today’s economy, “rocking the boat” just may save your job… and your company.
11. If You’re Not Happy, Leave
Let’s be clear: we don’t mean physically or emotionally unsafe working conditions when we say this is bad career advice. In those situations, don’t walk away… run.
For everything else, however, instead of just leaving, focus on being part of the solution. How can you make that process, your boss, or the company better? What can you learn from the experience? How can this dreadful, stressful situation enable you to become a better contributor, employee or leader?
Once you’ve exhausted every possible opportunity to fix the problem, and the manager or company proves they aren’t listening or willing to change, then consider leaving. Just one thing: start your new job search first. You know the cliché (the one you DO want to listen to): “It’s easier to find a job when you have a job.”
That’s it… the 11 pieces of career advice you SHOULD ignore. What would you add?
About the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO.com regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Switch and Shift, and Under30CEO.
Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors” , HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and CareerBliss’ “Top 10 Gen Y Career Experts”. Mark is currently working on two new books: “A World Gone Social: How Business Must Adapt to Survive (AMACOM, June 2014) with Ted Coine and “The Ultimate Guide to Internships (And Making Your College Years Matter Again)” (Allworth, September 2014). Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!