I know that that it’s easy to get caught up in the inspirational Pinterest quotes when it comes to career advice, but the thing is not all career advice is great.
So today, we’re going to be talking about the type of career advice that is well-meaning, well-intentioned, but eventually leads you to a dead-end job in a cubicle you resent.
I’ve always been asked why I love my job, my work, and why I’m not spewing hate about the 9-5 every day. And that’s because I’ve been very careful about what advice I’ve actually applied when it comes to my career. But it hasn’t always worked this way, there were many jobs I took when I was younger, that I “thought” would make me happy, but actually just made me miserable. There is also advice that will make you money, and for some people, that is all there is to their careers – to make money. And there’s nothing wrong with that mindset if that is what you feel will make you happy, but for me, making money, but hating my team, job, or life, isn’t worth the cost,
So today I wanted to talk about the terrible career advice that you want to avoid if you want to create a fulfilling, successful career and not end your workday with the gut feeling asking yourself “what did I actually accomplish today?” Let’s just get started.
Terrible Career Advice #1: You need to go through a formal 4-year college/university.
I know this is very controversial right off the bat, but I actually don’t think education is a waste of time. I think school actually has a lot of benefits to life, and I do believe so vehemently in the power of education. However, when it comes to education towards a career, it doesn’t have to be a traditional path anymore.
Yes, maybe back in the day, this was the right/only path to take, but nowadays education can be online, it can be through vocational programming, or on-job training or work experience. It doesn’t have to be one-dimensional anymore.
Unlike some of the other terrible career advice in this article, I think the problem with this career advice is that it’s actually ingrained to us at a very young age, institutionally taught to us, and then transcends to the job market later in life.
Many millennials have been burned by the degree-career promise that states that if you go to a 4-year college, you will get this amazing career afterwards. That might have traditionally worked in the past, but that job that is promised at the tunnel isn’t there anymore.
That’s why, when you are considering higher or additional education, it is more important to be critical of the skill that you are developing, rather than the job title that it will give you.
Lastly, the career and job market is advancing so quickly. There were many jobs today, in 2020 that weren’t available in 2010, and the world to advance and change. It’s not as common to stay in one job anymore for 40 years, so you need to be prepared for the market changes and to constantly be adaptable in new industries.
Terrible Career Advice #2: Do What You’re Good At
This is the type of advice that is well-meaning but actually doesn’t lead you very far. I think this is probably the most dangerous advice anyone can follow even though it’s so commonly pushed on everyone, even at a young age.
When you go into a career counsellor’s office in high school and you say you don’t know what you want to do in your life, the first response is usually “well, what are you good at?”
The reason why I don’t think people should just do what they are “good at” is because there’s probably a high chance that you are “good” at a lot of things. Because that’s what we were taught in school – to try to be good at everything.
In high school, chances are that if you were an overachiever like me, you got straight A’s because you tried to be “good” at everything. And when we’re young, that’s what we are taught – to be good at everything. In high school, we all take such varied courses like math, science, English, etc. and while I do think it’s important to have a basic understanding of all these concepts, it can also be kind of confusing to figure out what we are actually good at and what we should be pursuing in our careers.
The reason why I think that you shouldn’t limit your career to just “what you’re good at” is because that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what you should be pursuing. I chose to follow this advice at the beginning of high school and completely changed my mind.
When I was in high school, I thought I would go into pharmacy, because I was good at the sciences, until I realized I HATED chemistry in my senior year of high school and re-directed my university applications to liberal arts and business schools. I eventually chose to study political science and I’m so happy with my decision looking back.
The truth is, if you’re only “good” at a career, you will never truly be successful in your field or industry because the truly successful people are not only good at it, but they have the passion, motivation, and work ethic to be great at it.
Ultimately this is bad career advice because it doesn’t account for all the other factors of finding the right career. Yes, being good at something is a component of finding a great career, there are so many other elements to a great career like lifestyle, environment, personality, etc. To read more about how to find a job you love, check out this article here!
Don’t settle for “good” in your career, go for greatness.
Terrible Career Advice #3: Do what you love or Follow Your Passion
Similar to the advice I was just talking about, this is the kind of advice that’s well-intentioned but doesn’t really work in execution.
To be fair, I actually don’t think that this is “terrible career advice,” it’s just terrible when it is said as stand-alone advice.
The foundation of this kind of advice is good, you should be doing something you enjoy and have a type of passion towards. However, the problem is that it doesn’t factor a myriad of other factors.
For one, you, like me and many other people may be multi-passionate. You may love or have a passion for more than one thing. For example, I love working in public service, but I also love/ have a passion for cooking, travel, and writing. So it can be hard to choose exactly what to do, which passion to follow because there is more to a career than just passion.
I used to think that because I love to travel (and have previously worked in it) I should become a travel blogger. I tried it, I hated it. It wasn’t right for me for many reasons, I didn’t like just blogging about itineraries and what to do, I felt like a lot of travel blogs out there also skew and romanticize travel into an artificial aesthetic (my ex-travel agent and travel blogger advice is just to use TripAdvisor) and lastly, I hate having to constantly be online, take the perfect photo, and upload/document everything I’m doing. Like I mentioned in my last episode – my personal growth update for June, one of my favourite things to do when I travel is to ask local people how they view their country and government. I don’t want to constantly be sticking cameras in people’s faces or be too busy seeing a country through a camera/phone, that I don’t really experience it.
Lastly, when I travel I just like to drop offline. If I wanted to be on my phone all day, I would have stayed at home. I still travel a lot (not with COVID), but I don’t monetize it anyway. It’s okay to have passions that are not monetized.
The second problem is that to follow your passion or do what you love, you have to have already experienced or have been exposed to it. You can only love what you know, so that dismisses all the career paths and opportunities that you may have not yet even learned. The fact is, you may be passionate about a career that doesn’t even exist yet. Don’t limit yourself to what you know. Instead, focus on developing skills that you enjoy.
Lastly, the reason I don’t like this type of advice as standalone advice comes from a lot of privilege. Because some people can afford to follow their passion or do what they love, and that doesn’t mean you can’t have a meaningful career. I don’t believe in everyone just “quitting your job and just follow your passion” because there are financial consequences. And if you do not have that obstacle, that’s great, but that’s not the same for everyone. I’ve been in places in my life where I was fortunate enough to change careers without consequence – aka when I was living with my parents.
However, as I talked about in the 2nd episode of the podcast on saving for an emergency fund, it was a lot harder and a lot different when I lived on my own and owned my apartment. Now I live with my boyfriend and let me tell you, it’s so much easier financially and in everyday life. I can now also work on MLA because I have help for other aspects of life like the bills, and clearing up.
Not everyone can “follow their passion” but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great career.
If you’re interested in more, there’s a great video from Rosie from Badass Careers that talks more about the dangers of this advice.
Terrible Career Advice #4: You have to find your perfect career path at X age.
A concerning narrative in society, when it comes to career is the pressure to have your career “figured out” when you are 30, 40, or 50. Career goals a lot of time revolve around age – for example making a 30 before 30 lists, etc. But the truth is, there are so many factors in being successful in a career, you could spend your 20s and 30s working towards something specific and not reach career success until you’re 50 after decades of experience and research. Or you can change careers. There are many people including Julia Child used to be a CIA spy until she revolutionized the cooking world in her 50s, Vera Wang failed multiple times before becoming one of the world’s most famous designers in her 40s, and even Colneral Sanders didn’t franchise KFC until he was 62.
You don’t have to hit a certain milestone by any age to be successful in life. If you’re looking for more success stories of career change, check out the Second Life podcast where women share how they completely changed careers!
Terrible Career Advice #5: Everyone hates their 9-5 so it’s okay that you hate yours too.
I think that one of the worst pieces of career advice out there is that everyone hates their 9-5 job.
Unlike the career advice on this episode that had caveats, this one doesn’t have a caveat. If you hate your 9-5 then just know it’s not normal and it’s not okay. I don’t like how it’s normalized in society sure it can be fun to poke fun at in memes, but just know you don’t need to be in an environment you hate. Many people love what they do enjoy their 9-5 or their careers in general. The 9-5 is taken quite a beating the past couple of years I think especially with the rise of entrepreneurship (which is amazing), but it’s quite concerning the number of people who think that it normal to hate your 9-5.
I think this kind of stems from that but old-school mindset where people used to stay in their jobs for 40 years and thought that the only reason for a job is a paycheque and that’s all there is to life. However, I want to invite you to the possibility that there is more.
I feel like this kind of narrative can be normalized even in work offices – like water cooler talk. It can be pretty normal for you to bash your jobs with your co-workers. But, let me just tell you that if you are constantly talking with your co-workers about how much you guys hate your job (and bond over it), you’re probably in a toxic work environment. I have been there. And the weird thing is, when you’re in this kind of environment, you complain about the same thing over and over again and are afraid to leave. Have you ever felt that? You may feel comforted by the routine because as someone who coaches people out of these environments, I know it can be scary and easy to think that the grass is greener on your side.
However, when you remove yourself from a toxic environment, you will be surprised by the amount of energy and happiness that overflows to other parts of your life. I have more time to work on MLA because I am happier in my job instead of going home miserable and exhausted by all the drama. A recent example just highlighted this for me when I made a mistake at work and instead of being thrown under the bus, I had a co-worker defend me. To hear more about this story, make sure to listen to the podcast or catch it on my IGTV (when it is available).
So if you’re in a miserable situation right now, I’m so excited to announce that I’m currently doing FREE Career Audits for the MLA Community. If you’re not sure where you are in your career and feeling a little lost, make sure you fill out the questionnaire and book a call with me to get unstuck in your career!
There’s a lot of terrible career advice out there, but remember, you don’t have to apply everything to your life. Careers are so personal, so take what works and leave what doesn’t.
If you’re looking for more career clarity, make sure you fill out the questionnaire and book a time! Unfortunately I only have a few spots available so first come, first serve.
Talk to you soon!