Beware: A lot of the most common, and popular, career advice you hear may not be as good as it sounds.
A lot of the career advice you hear is pretty good. Some is surprisingly not so good. For example:
Work hard and you’ll be rewarded. It’s surprising, but your employers don’t care how hard you work. They care about what value you bring to the product or service the company provides.
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Take this job for now, even if you don’t really want it. Forcing yourself down a path that’s not a good match can waste years of your working life. It’s also not fair to employers. You will resent them and yourself, and — if your indifference results in poor performance — possibly even do real harm to your career.
You’re good at X, you should do X. The first problem with this is that you’re most likely good at more than one thing. The second problem is that just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you enjoy doing it. You may do a bang-up job washing dishes, but does this mean you should be a dishwasher for a living? Maybe not.
Your bosses have your best interests at heart. Don’t get me wrong. Your bosses could be wonderful human beings, but their chief concern, and the company’s, is the bottom line. No one will care about your career the way you do.
When an interviewer asks you about your greatest weakness, say it’s that you work too hard. Interviewers don’t ask this question to trip you up, or even to get a list of your failings. They are trying to get a sense of how self-aware you are. Even more important, they want to know how you approach problems. The ideal answer to this question is to name a (real) weakness and then describe what you have done to overcome it.
Offer to work a week for free to prove yourself. Not only may this be illegal (violating minimum wage laws), you are in essence asking a potential employer to take on financial risk. After all, new hires are expensive. The first week in particular is almost always a loss for employers. This offer doesn’t sound as irresistible as you might think it does.
The takeaway? Take all advice (even this!) with a grain of salt.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at email@example.com.