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Career Advice

When to Ignore Common Career Advice

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

October 9, 2017

It seems everywhere we turn in life, there is always someone eager to share advice. But which advice is good? And which tips should you ignore?

On top of it all, you may be part of the group that is most commonly targeted by these well-intended advisors: college graduates.

Even though you’ve left the classroom, the education hasn’t ended. You have one last lesson to learn: when to trade common career advice for more logical and fulfilling alternatives.

Choosing a Job...The Task People Comment On the Most

No matter what task you are facing — writing your resume, buying an interview suit, paying your dues as the newbie — people will offer their input. But there is no task that draws as much critique as choosing your first job.


Perhaps the reason for this is because it is one of the biggest challenges college graduates face. It’s a struggle to determine your calling, which path you should take.

Even those who have narrowed their focus to, say, teaching or becoming a doctor, still have important decisions to make. For example, which school district is best? Which grade?

Your loved ones will try to make this decision easier--by offering bad advice and old clichés. Like…

Follow your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life.

Keep your options open.

College prepared you for this.

Start by looking for a job in your chosen field.  

Don’t worry about money.

Just find a way to put food on the table.

All in all, that’s not a whole lot of encouraging, actionable advice.

Why You Should Ignore Their Advice

If you ask more than one person for their advice, you’re bound to receive different messages. And chances are, those messages will be contradictory. And neither option will likely be the best advice.

For example, some people might tell you that you shouldn’t base your decision on how much you’ll earn. “Money can’t buy happiness,” and all that.  

However, establishing financial stability is a responsibility a lot of people struggle with. You should be thinking about your monthly expenses, your emergency fund, your savings, and your retirement — and how much you’ll need to earn to take care of all those things.

On the other hand, people might tell you to just accept any job so you can start earning a living--and probably paying off student loans. But should you really base your decision on which job pays the most? (No!)

At the other end of the spectrum, people might encourage you to choose a job based on emotions instead of finances. What makes you happy? This, unfortunately, isn’t sound advice either.

While it is important to choose a job you enjoy and gives you a sense of purpose, it is foolish to think your career will be the source of your happiness. Want to test this statement? Ask those people who claim they love their job if they’d work for free. The answer is probably no.

The reason for this? Psychologist Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic says it’s because work is a poor vehicle for self-actualization. “Pretending otherwise adds heaps of unfair pressure on the average employee to find their ‘dream job.’ It’s raised career aspirations beyond what it is feasibly achievable for most.”

Yet, settling isn’t the answer either. If you don’t feel a sense of purpose at your job, it could be hard to even get out of bed in the morning.

So what is the advice you should follow?

A Better Strategy

Here’s what you should do instead.

Author Tim Keller encourages job searchers to consider three things:

  1. Ability
  2. Affinity
  3. Opportunity

Determine what you are good at, what you enjoy, and what is available. When these three things align, you’ve found your calling.

Of course, these three things won’t necessarily align immediately. It might take some time to figure out the first two and for the third to emerge. So, start at the top.

What are you good at?

You might have to try a couple of jobs to figure this out, to determine what skills you have and how they relate to the workforce.   

Then, think about how using those abilities could bring you enjoyment and purpose. For example, using your writing skills to keep on writing papers the way you did in college might not seem rewarding, but using those same skills to craft grant proposals for a non-profit might be.

You may stumble upon an opportunity to combine your abilities and affinity, but in all likelihood, you’ll probably have to search a little. Get creative. Think outside the box about how your abilities can be used.

In reality, there are probably way more opportunities than you realize. Remember, striving for the ‘dream job’ will simply raise career aspirations beyond what is feasibly achievable.

That being said, don’t stay at a job just because you found an opportunity. If you discover the first two components are missing — ability and affinity — you still haven’t found the right opportunity.  

Think of your job search as a marathon, not a sprint. The advice others give is bad because it is aimed at creating a short-term solution, but your career is a long-term responsibility. Take your time...you’ll get there eventually.


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