Stop Listening to Bad Career Advice (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. 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—is 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”

The ever-popular pep talk parents give their children. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true for everyone.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work hard to achieve your dreams. I’m not cynical, but I am not an irrationally positive either. At a certain point, your limitations will catch up with you. Not every child wishing to play in the NFL will get drafted.

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

 “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, your manager, 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 at 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 pay their dues and are patient enough to wait” and “you’re lucky you have a job” are mantras of previous generations, 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 CEO. Nowadays, if you’re not bold enough to ask for more responsibilities, someone else will. 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.