“Our world is moving at such a rapid pace, things that worked just a few years ago may not work so well today,” says Bill Holland, author of "Cracking The New Job Market: The 7 Rules for Getting Hired in Any Economy". “Any career advice should be taken with a grain of salt.”
The old refrains are well known — you can be anything, do what you love, make yourself indispensable — but may not reveal the path to the top. Early in her editing career, then-bored Diane Alexander remembers reading that if she followed her passion, the money would come. She followed it onto a farm in Buena Vista, Colo., where she took up raising animals. She soon discovered money didn’t flow as fast as chicken feed. She went back to editing, and eventually opened her own business. Now she has more clients than she can handle.
The moral? Career advice comes cheap, so be careful what you buy into. A cross-section of specialists weigh in to debunk some old favorites. Don’t be fooled into following the worst career advice disguised as the best.
Life is short. Never stay in a job that isn’t personally rewarding.
“Most people misunderstand the relationship between passion and career choice,” says Holland. He believes the current fixation on loving what you do is misguided, as you’ll have better career outcomes if you choose a profession that you’ll excel in. “Passion alone is not a sufficient condition for making a living.” Similarly, business owner Rodger Roeser says that entry-level workers believe their first or second job will be “all wine and roses,” and often leave after only a few months if disappointed. “It’s this entitlement mentality,” he says. “If I see resumes with four jobs in two years, I won’t hire them.”
They aren’t paying you enough to do that.
“If you actually believe that you’re too good to do something, you’re fooling yourself,” says Roeser. Young workers who thumb their noses at menial tasks are often perceived as immature and unwilling to be team players. By completing small tasks with integrity and attention to detail, you’ll earn the trust of supervisors and work your way toward bigger projects.
It’s who you know. Network, network, network.
“It’s important to stay connected,” says James Tarbox, a professor of management at San Diego State University, but smart networking hinges on quality rather than quantity. “It’s about the strength of your connections.” You may have 700 friends on Facebook or LinkedIn, but how many are willing and able to help? Craft a more targeted networking strategy, and also ask yourself: Am I a good referral? Consider how best to position yourself to your network.
Bring it up in your performance evaluation.
“Nothing should ever be discussed for the first time at a performance evaluation,” says Robin Goldwater, a corporate climber who recently started her own business. Managers should use this time as a cumulative review rather than blindsiding employees with information about their performance that they haven’t had the chance to correct. Similarly, employees should never save a question or concern for the evaluation. Positive career development requires open communication year-round.
Get an MBA.
While an MBA may be one of the more useful general degrees, it’s not an end in itself. “Getting an MBA is a very costly option these days, and unless you’re obtaining it with a clear career goal in mind, your school time can end up being nothing more than a glamorous two-year vacation,” says Min Choi, chief executive of education consulting firm Avenue of Admissions. Entrepreneur and business founder Chris Stephenson agrees, saying business school is no longer a sure thing. If you pursue a degree, he advises specializing and using the time to build a strong network.
Multi-task to get more done.
A psychologist and co-founder of the Human Performance Institute, Jim Loehr, says that because younger workers grew up using advanced communication technologies (smart phones, instant message, etc.) they often feel like “masters of multi-tasking,” who can tackle many projects quickly and at once. In fact, they split their concentration and spread themselves too thin. “The brain works best when laser focused,” says Loehr.
You have to start from somewhere.
“I often hear from recent college graduates, especially in a tough economy, that they are tempted to take a job that is beneath [their education level] as a way of getting a foot in the door,” says education consultant Choi. “But be careful. If you want to play a marketing role, go for the marketing role.” If you accept a role that is far off-track from your career goals, it can be more difficult than you’d expect to shake the label and rebrand yourself.
You must stay in a job for at least a year.
“This is nonsense,” says Ellen Lubin-Sherman, author of career guide "The Essentials of Fabulous: Because ‘Whatever’ Doesn’t Work Here Anymore." While a pattern of job-hopping on your resume will reflect poorly, it’s never wise to tough out a job with unhealthy levels of stress or a toxic environment that hinders you or your work. She suggests keeping the job while you look for a new one. In interviews, spin the short timeframe as “it was a great job but the wrong fit for me” and move the conversation forward.
Apply for as many jobs as possible.
“While casting a wide net may seem like a good strategy,” warns DeLynn Senna, an executive director at staffing firm Robert Half International, “it’s more important for job seekers to focus on opportunities that will be a fit for them and where they will fit best.” Concentrating on select openings gives applicants the necessary time to research the company, tailor their resumes and better prepare for interviews. “Simply applying for every possible job using a template resume is frowned on by hiring managers.”
Delete unrelated work experience from your resume. Attach a picture.
“Career counselors will tell you not to put trivial jobs on your resume; I totally disagree,” says Jim Finkelstein, author of "Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace," who still lists “camp counselor” on his resume. He believes that retail jobs, part-time work and volunteering may exhibit character and leadership roles that otherwise would be lost. Also, attaching a picture to your CV has recently come into style, but in fact, it may get your resume tossed. Employers are legally barred from discriminating based on looks.
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