Sometimes there’s a huge gap between what you SHOULD do, and what’s actually EFFECTIVE.
Nowhere is this more true than in the realm of career advice, where you’ll routinely find “experts” offering wise-sounding advice that will, at best, waste your time with little to show for it, and at worst, actively sabotage your efforts.
So let’s clear up the air.
Here are 5 well-known pieces of career advice floating out there that are completely wrong:
1) “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”
Short-term thinking at its finest. If you were offered the opportunity to shadow a hero of yours for a month, someone like Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffett, and you wouldn’t get paid a cent, wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t the long-term benefits of that kind of learning outweigh the short-term cost of doing so without compensation?
Things are changing faster than ever before. Entire industries and job functions are being disrupted. If you have an opportunity to learn or grow quickly, but it entails sacrificing some money, really ask yourself what it would cost you to obtain the benefit through another route. If the short-term pain is less costly than the alternative, go for it.
2) “Never let them see you sweat.”
This advice stems from the idea that you should try to present yourself as perfect when it comes to your professional life. But is this actually effective?
More and more, we’re seeing CEOs and other business leaders opting to share personal stories and yes, lessons from failure, as a means of engaging and inspiring others. When you present yourself as a human being, when you’re transparent about the effort involved in something, you demonstrate a level of confidence which goes way beyond the illusion of perfection. An illusion that is becoming well-nigh impossible to maintain in the age of social media anyway. So- stop trying to live up to that outdated ideal and start sharing more of your journey. In all likelihood, you will be respected and valued more for going this route.
3) “Good things come to those who wait.”
Avoidance as virtue. To paraphrase David Mamet, “There is no doing it tomorrow. There is only today. And if you can’t attempt what you want today, you probably won’t be able to tomorrow.” The timeline in your mind does not exist. There is only the goal you’re after, and the certainty that the way to get there is going to be more winding and uncertain than you think. So start putting one foot in front of the other- it’s the only way.
4) “Be the first one in the door, and the last to leave.”
This advice plays to the idea of subservience as job security. But that idea has been proven, time and time again, to be false. If you fail to DELIVER what you promised, then you’re going to be let go, and all of the extra hours at the office won’t make a bit of difference. This also matches up with the larger trend towards more remote working and consulting- as employers give up the ability to micro-manage, the focus shifts (correctly) towards the end result.
Here’s a better piece of advice: “Be amazing at what you do, and be kind to yourself when you’re not doing it.”
5) “Take it one step at a time.”
Only sometimes. We enjoy a greater degree of “cross-pollination” between industries and job types than at any other point in history. The old silos continue to break down, and in that re-shuffling lies great opportunity. Do people leapfrog over the standard job title hierarchies? Yes. But it requires getting creative. Build bridges with senior leaders at your company that have nothing to do with your current job function. Identify people on LinkedIn who have made the kind of career change that you’d like to make- what aspects of their background do they highlight? What associations and groups do they belong to? What types of advanced training have they taken? It’s perfectly acceptable to take it MULTIPLE STEPS at a time…just so long as you know that you’re going to be landing on stable ground.