9 pieces of career advice you should never follow

Career Advice
JC Cornell

By JC Cornell
August 10, 2018

November 30, 2023

0 min read

Not all career advice is created equal. Good guidance will help you move your career forward in ways that have long-lasting positive effects.

However, following bad counsel may damage your career. The following clichés may have been sound career advice once upon a time, but in today’s fast-changing work place, they are best discarded.

1. “Don’t ask for a raise if your company isn’t giving any this year.”

This type of conversation isn’t only about your financial compensation. It is about ensuring that your company understands the value you bring to the table.

Requesting a raise at a company during a wage freeze is going to be difficult, but just because a company has said they won’t be giving raises doesn’t mean that they don’t potentially have a budget set aside to reward top performers.

When approaching your manager with this request, be well-prepared with comprehensive details of your achievements and contributions.

Be patient. Don’t rush the potential results; you may not receive a raise right away. And that’s okay; this is also a great opportunity to set the goals you need to achieve to qualify for a raise down the road.

Don’t let this career advice stop you from getting a raise you earned.

2. “Do what your boss asks, no matter what position it puts you in.”

We are not talking about your boss asking you to get that 20-page report to them by Friday.

We are talking about when they ask you to omit financial details from that report to inflate earning numbers.

This career advice not only has moral repercussions but could have legal ones too.

3. “You should leave your personal life at home, it has no place in the office.”

While no one wants to have a play-by-play of your weekend every Monday morning, they don’t want to work with a robot either. Strike a balance between personable but professional.

You spend around 40 hours a week at work; having some friends among your coworkers is nice. This can only happen if you share work-appropriate information about yourself.

4. “Even if you hate your new job, you should stick it out for at least a year.”

Though rare, there may be times when you realise quite quickly that you’ve made a mistake in accepting a position. 

There may even be an occasion where you realise this within hours of your first day. Sometimes the information gained during interviews doesn’t give a full picture of what the job will actually entail.

Sticking it out for a year in a job that makes you feel hopeless and frustrated can hurt you so much more than a month of unemployment can.

If this happens, you should be honest with your hiring manager and hand in your resignation straight away. Try to work with them as much as possible to assist if you can while they hire your replacement, but know that sometimes you need to walk away.

5. “Follow your passion, and the money will come.”

This is, potentially, the worst piece of career advice making the rounds right now. It paints this idea of a golden utopia dream job, where you are constantly happy, fulfilled, and paid well.

Even Steve Jobs had days when he probably didn’t love what he was doing.

There is no such thing as a perfect job. Even if you love what you do with every ounce of your being, sometimes it will still feel like work. There is a difference between pursuing your passions and chasing after an ideal that just doesn’t exist.

6. “Find a good job that you can be safe and comfortable in until you retire.”

While this may have been sound career advice for the baby boomer generation, over the last twenty years, companies have drastically changed how they operate.

The age of “one job for life” has gone the way of the dinosaurs for most people. Today, companies are constantly changing and evolving as their business goals change.

If you are unable to get out of your comfort zone to grow your career, you run the risk of being left behind.

7. “Take a job at a big prestigious company for the experience.”

Accepting a job because it looks good in job applications won’t help your day-to-day happiness. Any job you take should move you forward and provide challenges that enhance your skills.

Being stuck in a role that is soul-draining just because it looks good on your CV, or for the salary won’t do you any favours long term.

The only time this career advice should be taken is if you are accepting a short-term internship where your potential career growth will outweigh any downsides you may encounter. In this situation, there is an end in sight, and you are walking in knowing what to expect.

8. “Don’t rock the boat. Do the work the way it has always been done.”

If you can find a way to save your company time and money by instituting a new procedure, you should definitely speak up. You may find that the existing process still works the best.

However, not sharing an idea that could potentially improve your coworkers' daily work because of a fear that you will “rock the boat” is unwise.

9. “Be the first in and the last to leave. Work as much overtime as possible to show your dedication.”

This can be extremely counterintuitive. While you may think it makes you look dedicated and hard-working, being at your desk hours longer than your coworkers can make it appear to managers that you aren’t able to cope with your workload or tasks.

They may succumb to their unconscious bias and no longer put you on big projects. Also, working overtime may actually lower your productivity long term.

Take all career advice with a pinch of salt

Everyone may have your best interest at heart when giving you career advice. However, remember that what works well for one person will not necessarily work well for you.

Listen to the career advice that is given to you, but make sure that if you follow it, it is to the betterment of your career and keeps you moving forward.

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