Job hunting is not for the weak of heart – especially if you’re not currently employed. Heading to interview after interview, writing meaningful cover letters, and trying to sell yourself day after day can be exhausting, and really takes a toll on your mental health and self confidence. It doesn’t make it any easier when friends and family start to offer unsolicited advice, either. How many times have you been told to fake it until you make it, or that work is work and you should just settle with whatever pays the bills?
This common career advice, well, kind of sucks – and while getting advice on your impending job search or climb up the corporate ladder can be useful, there’s a lot of not-so-great advice and clichés floating around out there that you definitely don’t have to listen to. That’s why we asked a handful of career coaches and employment professionals to share the worst career advice you can give or get – and you’ve probably heard of most of these before.
Fake It Until You Make It
“One of the oldest pieces of advice there has always been is ‘fake it until you make it.’ Though this is a great way to think in terms of confidence, it’s frowned upon when submitting your resume/application or during formal interviews,” says Ciara Van De Velde, Client Engagement Manager at Employment BOOST. “For example, stating your expertise for technical skills such as programming languages can affect daily processes and result in difficulty completing tasks or, in some cases, lead to termination.”
Instead, Van De Velde says you should be honest about your background. Though you may be determined to find a new position, finding one which you are not efficient in will only set you back in the long run. If you find that your desired position/career path requires a specific skill or proficiency, it may be beneficial to consider taking on courses to help you to succeed in the future.
Just Follow Your Dreams!
“This sounds nice, and people want to believe it,” says Sean Sessel, Director at The Oculus Institute. “However, life isn’t a Disney movie. The truth is that following your passion often requires a great deal of work, especially when it comes to learning how to market yourself, sell products/services, and break through internal mindset issues. The starving artist doesn’t starve because he’s an artist; he starves because he doesn’t know how to sell his art.”
Work Should Be Work
If anyone ever tells you that trying to find a career you enjoy is a fantasy subscribed to by lazy or idealistic fools or to just focus on making as much money as possible, feel free to ignore them and walk away. “This bad advice is commonly perpetrated by people who have given up on their dream, and they console themselves by telling themselves that it’s impossible. In reality, it’s very possible (15% of people enjoy their work, according to Gallup); it’s just not easy,” says Sessel. “The people perpetrating this often point to people who have failed as a result of buying into the ‘following your dreams’ advice as evidence, but then ignore the 15% who are thriving and happy.”
You Need a University Degree
“The one piece of career advice we hear that is very dangerous and wrong is that you need to go (or have gone) to university to get a great career,” says Freddie Chirgwin-Bell, Marketing & Communications Executive at Morgan Jones Recruitment Consultants. “This is not true and in fact bad advice as your work experience and job-relevant skills vastly outweigh what qualifications you have. Having a successful career does involve a certain amount of education, but that can be learned through in-house courses, apprenticeships, vocational courses and colleges and even self-education. The best decision you can make is to ascertain what you want to do as a career and pursue the qualifications that are the most relevant to that path.”
“You’re Doing Great – Keep It Up”
“The most frustrating – and persistent – advice I hear is a variation of ‘keep chopping wood.’ There are several other ways people give this advice, such as, ‘keep doing what you’re doing,’ or ‘you’re doing great, don’t change a thing,’ or ‘we love what you’re doing, keep it up,’” says Albert Ciuksza Jr., Career Coach at Solutions 21.
According to Ciuksza, there are two problems with this advice. First, it deprives professionals of crucial performance feedback that can be career-changing, especially for those early in their careers who are just forming work habits. Second, it’s demotivating for the person who is trying to figure out how to enhance their career. Ciuksza says to get better advice, ask more specific questions – perhaps about part of a project or a point in a presentation. That way, someone has to consider what feedback they give, and the person gets something more concrete and actionable.
Avoid Looking Overqualified
“As a recruiter, I have over time been confronted with a number of applications and resumes that simply do not stack-up. A quick conversation with the candidate has revealed they decided not to include their degree education,” reveals Simon Royston, Managing Director of The Recruitment Lab. “It leaves me baffled but I am always told the same thing; that ‘friends’ have said not to include the information because it makes the candidate look overqualified for the role they are applying for. Instead, they have an application with a 3-4-year gap on it, which leaves employers wondering if the candidate is completely unemployable or has just been in jail!”
According to Royston, having a degree does not make you overqualified, especially given the high number of graduates now entering non-graduate roles. “You have worked hard for that academic achievement, show it off, be proud of it. Do not hide it away. For one thing you could be shutting down opportunities and offers from an employer that could be earning you a higher remuneration and a steeper career path.”
Everyone Else is Competition
According to John Crossman, CCIM, CRX at Crossman & Company, “You are in competition with your fellow students” is one of the worst mindsets to have when it comes to job hunting. “It’s often not true and even if it is, you can’t control it. Some of your fellow students will be co-workers, vendors and clients. Looking at your contemporaries as competition is a negative outlook and produces jealousy, envy and depression,” he says.
Instead, focus on networking and supporting those around you. You never know when someone you came in contact with will extend an olive branch and actually help you with your job search – even if it’s years down the road.
“All job-seekers are told that it’s important to ‘sell yourself’ in a job interview and this is horrible, mindless, garbage advice,” says Rafe Gomez, co-owner of VC Inc. Marketing. “Why? Because a prospective hirer isn’t interested in you as an individual as much as he/she is interested in finding an employee who can help make his/her business thrive – and also make his/her department shine! So instead of ‘selling yourself,’ you need to sell your ability to deliver the exact solutions that a company is looking for to meet its needs, overcome its challenges, and achieve its goals.”
How is this done? By presenting anecdotal evidence and factual, data-based examples of how you’ve delivered such solutions throughout your career. If you can explain and validate how you can make a company money, save a company money, and/or improve its image in the marketplace – and those benefits are in line with what the company is seeking – you will get hired.