This advice has been tested in the real world.
While there are plenty of books, blogs, and podcasts about how to have a great career, but most of us get advice from people in our daily lives. Sometimes this advice is great and sometimes it’s terrible. I asked my readers to share the worst career advice they have received. Follow this advice at your own risk.
- The squeaky wheel gets the grease – if you really want the job: call, call, call! Call every day, then they’ll know who you are. And now, since I hire, I know that they’ll know who you are so they DON’T hire you. Worst advice.
- The worst career advice I have ever gotten was to be passive aggressive towards co-workers. Horrible advice, not to mention super unprofessional!
- “Go along to get along.” If employers really wanted robots working for them, they would use robots. Sometimes, the best interests of both the company and the individual employee require the employee to speak up, to suggest an improvement to a pre-existing process, or even to outrightly oppose something.
- Be a Team Player. Which, as a woman, often means rolling over and going with what the loudest voice says and doing whatever it takes to avoid conflict. I know better now, that if something’s wrong or you think an idea won’t work, speak up!! Contrary views ARE part of teamwork.
- “Keep your head down.” Don’t question people with authority, and don’t make waves. I have no interest in being a drone, so I refused to follow that piece of “advice.” It is possible to question authority without challenging authority, and if you want to get anywhere, you have to make those waves.
- Always say something at a meeting even if you have nothing to contribute.
I have worked with people who believe this and being in meetings with them is awkward. They will loudly interrupt with meaningless information or an off-topic comment. “Does everyone know that Director went to Tulsa last week?” Um, yeah, we just had an hour meeting discussing what Director learned in Tulsa. Thanks for speaking up.
- Pushy marketing advice for how to act at a book signing. I cannot bring myself to use marketing tactics that would make me shrivel in discomfort if someone used them on me.
- Was told I needed self-discipline by a manager who was overweight and chain-smoked.
- It is what it is. I know there are times where you need to accept that policy is policy and deal or move on, but the workplace where this was said constantly was so toxic. No one was willing to try to make any positive changes and everyone was convinced there was nothing that would make the company a better place to work.
- Offer to work for free to demonstrate gumption; come in a week before your official start date to “get the lay of the land.”
- Worst advice I ever got was that it’s normal to be completely miserable at work. That if you’re struggling it’s your fault and a lack of training, unreasonable bosses, toxic environments or just plain bad fits don’t exist and you should just try harder.
- Worst advice: make the coffee or bring some baked goods to show you’re a team player. Really bad advice for a young woman in a professional job!
- The worst career advice I ever got was regarding an upcoming job interview. This person told me to “think like the interviewer and tell them what you’d want to hear”. Not if I want to find a job that is actually a good fit and that I will be happy in long term… Terrible advice. Needless to say, I did NOT ask this person for advice ever again.
- Worst advice- just take the job, any job. You can learn the job and learn to like the people/ culture after.
- Among the worst advice I’ve received is not to take notes during an internal meeting/conversation and only listen. (The person meant well, but I’m not an aural learner, so this advice is terrible for me. Plus, I often refer to my notes, and others were taking notes, so it was certainly socially acceptable.)
- Worst advice: Make your direct reports drink from the fire hose, the good ones will thrive.
- The worst advice I received was from someone who learned that my husband planned to be a stay-at-home parent after we had children, while I returned to work. This person was convinced that I’d be resentful and the marriage would break up. Nope! I adore my daughter, but I am so glad that I get to go hang out with adults all day at a job I love.
- Worst advice: I was doing a taught Masters degree and considering whether I should stop my education afterward or apply for Ph.D. positions. A career adviser told me “that’s enough degrees for a woman”.
- Worst career advice – Lie. One person told me to cover up an employment gap by making up a job. Another person told me that she covered up being fired from jobs by putting her friend’s name and contact info instead of her actual boss’s contact info so that the friend could lie on her behalf. Both people said that HR, recruiters, and managers “expect” people to lie, so it’s not a big deal.
- The worst piece of advice was from an HR Director and I was an entry-level HR Associate. She told me to come to work early and play solitaire on my computer so that when the boss comes in they think you’re dedicated. She also said the same goes for staying late. So regardless of how busy you actually are or efficient you were, or family obligations or social life, or gym workout or anything you should ya know just pretend and waste your life at a screen. I did not follow that advice and am better for it.