Part of my job as a career coach is to stay up-to-speed on what employers are looking for and to follow the current best practices when it comes to hiring and selecting top candidates. But in a world where anyone with a keyboard and internet connection can proclaim themselves an “expert” and dispense all sorts of advice, I’m finding some of the career guidance being offered and suggested is downright damaging and sometimes irresponsible.
They say the power of the pen is mightier than the sword. Nothing could be truer especially if you follow the plethora of bad career advice out there right now because you’ll most certainly end up falling on your own dagger by default.
So after taking some time to assemble my “Best of the Worst” list, here are 5 all-to-common pieces of bad career advice everyone should avoid:
1- When asked about your weakness in a job interview, spin your answer into a positive.
This outdated tactic may have worked 10-15 years ago but any hiring manager worth their salt can identify it in an instant. Answering with things like “I put too much pressure on myself” or “I’m too detailed oriented” or “I always try to be number one” make you look too scripted and over-rehearsed in addition to all out phony.
When asked about weaknesses, be sincere—in a professional manner. Try something like, “I realize presentation skills are going to be paramount to my career success going forward, so I’ve joined the local Toastmasters chapter. I feel my communication skills are good now, but I want to take myself to the excellent or advanced level.” Or, “I’m currently enrolled in advanced Microsoft Excel and Word classes as I know these programs will be an integral part of my next position including this one.”
2- Leave dates of employment off of your resume to guard against age discrimination.
I’ve seen resumes that have been expertly constructed except for one thing: I couldn’t tell if the candidate was at their last job for one day or ten years. Leaving dates off of a resume is horrible career advice that will almost certainly get you tossed into the discard stack. First, by leaving this vital information off, you are calling even more attention to your age in addition to the fact that you feel your skills and accomplishments are minimal and won’t sell you. You also run the risk of being kicked out of any ATS (resume scanning program) as dates are mandatory pieces of information these programs look for.
Let your experience work for you and list all dates of employment with confidence. You only need to go back 10 years on a resume and leaving off dates of graduation is fine. Companies want people who have been there and done that so show them on paper and tell them in the interview what you’ve accomplished and how your litany of experience will benefit Company X. Plus, the employer will estimate your age once you sit down for the interview anyway. Be comfortable in who and what you are because you cannot be anyone else!
3- The cream always rises to the top.
The cream does always rise to the top from a performance standpoint, but there are other moving parts that determine if a person will be selected for a promotion or a new position within an organization.
I had a supervisor a number of years ago who was one of the smartest people in the company. He did his work in a highly professional and accurate manner and was impeccable on details and execution—all good attributes. I also noticed he was getting passed up for promotions. It wasn’t until I got to work with him more and know him better that I realized he was a real “head down and do your job” kind of a guy. What he was neglecting was the personal or as some would call “political” aspect of one’s career.
We are merely the sum result of people helping us get to where we are to this point. So building strategic relationships within an organization can go a long way when being considered for advancement. Your reputation, good or bad, can make or break you in a professional environment so pay attention to building your internal network and forming alliances with key people at work. Certainly, this needs to be done sincerely or people will sniff out the fact you’re a fake. But offering to help people out when they’re in need, taking people to lunch or coffee, and even joining the company softball team are good ways of promoting your brand and bonding with people on an emotional level.
4- Limit your resume to one page.
Job candidates are often told to keep their resumes to a page and to only go over if they are well into their careers with a lot of experience to share. This advice is still commonly propagated by general staffing agency recruiters. However, as it becomes less common for people to stay with one or two employers throughout their careers and online applications become even more prevalent, that advice is outdated and irrelevant. Recruiters also aren’t the one making the final hiring decision.
In today’s world of electronic applications, ATS systems, SEO-centric resumes and candidates often listing four or five positions on their resume, it is nearly impossible to consolidate the necessary information onto one page without selling yourself short or creating the “dictionary page” effect. Don’t worry if your resume goes two pages. But, it needs to be two full pages. Presentation is just as important as content. Candidates should also begin to take more advantage of online resumes and other digital options such as LinkedIn where resume and experience length is negligible.
5- Do what you love and the money will follow.
If you build it, they will come. Unfortunately, this only happens in the movies. Sure, people have made viable professions out of passions and hobbies but it comes at a tremendous sacrifice. Ask any author, musician, artist, or entrepreneur. This sort of life isn’t for everyone especially if you have moderate to aggressive economic needs. Anyone can—and I strongly suggest should—follow their passion in life. But for most, we do it on the side as a side-business or hobby.
Passion is just one component for finding an ideal career. One must also consider market conditions, competition, skill set, potential pay, and economic needs. Think about all the moving parts in a Rolex watch. This is similar to how any career direction should be evaluated and acted upon. Not utilizing just one component, but a system of components all working together in unison to produce the final product, your ideal career.
The good news
I’ve personally worked with hundreds of clients who’ve found work they’re passionate about, can sustain, and make a decent living out of. The key is to get to know yourself, embrace your natural strengths, and slowly move in the direction of matching these to correlated lines of work. The universe has a way of conspiring in our favor when we know what we want and take the calculated risk of achieving it.