If you are reading this article right now, you are one of the millions of job seekers every single day who seek out career advice. With access to successful workers in any given industry at an all-time high thanks to social media outlets like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, if you are not reaching out to someone for career advice you are doing social media wrong.
However, many career websites want to caution job seekers that reaching out for advice in this day and age can be a double-edged sword. Someone could end up providing you with really valuable advice, but at the same time they are showing a path that worked for them—which may not necessarily work for you.
In a recent article in Mic.com’s section “The Payoff,” author Anna Bahney took this thought process a little bit further. In an article titled “5 popular pieces of career advice you should actually just ignore,” she detailed why job seekers should avoid these pieces of common advice:
- “Follow your passion”
- “Keep your options open”
- “Under-promise and over-deliver”
- “Work hard, you’ll get ahead”
- “Don’t leave a job unless you’ve been there a year”
The article, which you can read in full here, was a combination of opinion and expectation for job seekers at all levels of their career. For instance in the “Follow your passion” section, she was not knocking someone who wanted to work in a career they love. Instead, she was suggesting that “aiming for the stars in your very first job can be a recipe for disappointment.”
Now that we understand the premise of this article, it is important to understand these two things from what the author was attempting to accomplish.
Nobody is bashing traditional job values
If you just read the bullet points above without any context—especially those who have been employed for 20-plus years—you could take the author’s point of view the wrong way. Many of those are values that were ingrained in the minds of job seekers from the days when they walked 10 miles uphill both ways in a blizzard.
Okay, cheap shot at the story I heard on every single snow day in my adolescence aside, the context behind the author’s point is the ever-changing job market. Employees are not staying at the same company for 20-plus years any more, which means ideas like not leaving a job until you have been there for a year are no longer mainstays in the hiring community.
Sure, it may look bad if you did not stay at a company for a certain period of time, but ultimately it is the reasoning for your leaving that matters more than anything to a hiring manager. Was the job not a good fit? Did the opportunity you have been waiting for finally come available? Were you not challenged? Having a solid supporting reason for leaving means more than how long you ultimately stayed at a company.
Develop and specialize your job skills
Throughout the article, one theme seemed to stick out more than any other—skill development. Whether that was “working on your soft skills” or becoming the best at what you are a good at, the message seemed to be the same.
Why is this important? Think about organizational value in baseball for a second.
The utility man is great to have on a 25-man roster. He can give the stars a day off here and there, pinch run late in the game or come in as a defensive replacement in a tight spot. However, the utility man is ultimately replaceable because he does not do any one thing at an elite level. This is why you usually see players moved in and out of the utility position on a roster from year to year.
How does this relate to your job? Well, if you do everything that is replaceable by younger, cheaper members of the workforce—when you get to the point where you are looking for additional compensation, your employers may not see you as a valuable asset to their organization to reward you. They may just decide, let’s bring in a few people at the salary demands and have multiple people in an attempt to increase production.
Now, this isn’t an attempt to scare you or say you are replaceable. But it should be an eye-opener to get you to focus on developing and honing a skill that is not easily replaceable to the organization. Sure, it may go against the cross-train mentality of every employer in 2017, but at some point employees need to take pride in the fact they are needed by an organization—and being the best and only person who can perform integral tasks at a high level is exactly how to do that.
Is there really such a thing as “bad career advice?” Not unless someone is telling you to channel your inner Milton and “burn down the building.”
The advice you will receive from those in the workforce comes from different experiences that change from industry to industry and generation to generation. What is important is finding a way to find part of that advice that applies to you, and then use it to improve your career growth opportunities.