Career Advice to Avoid

Life & Career, HR & Leadership

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Let’s take look at the issue of career advice and how to tell a good piece of advice from a bad one.

Zeitgeist is a popular documentary. It critically  looks into the era we are in. I’d recommend it to those who hasn’t seen in yet.

Another meaning of the word Zeitgeist is; the “spirit of the time”, generally accepted ideas of a place at a time.

Our belief that our ideas completely belong to us is an illusion. As social beings, we affect and are affected by the people we interact with. More importantly, the degree of comfort or brutality of the conditions we live in determine our opinions on humanity. Eventually we start taking the truth of the day as our own principles.

This is why it is important to know the time and conditions of an artist when interpreting his work. Knowing the conditions his time brings will open the doors to understand what he was thinking when creating his artwork. For example, when interpreting M. C. Escher’s world, it would be lacking not to take into account the effects of World War 2 in the works he created between 1939-1945.

The Incredible World of M.C. Escher

When evaluating the validity of advice, it is necessary to consider how quickly the area of the advice changes.

Let’s say you’re learning the details of making sushi. It might be correct to listen to the master advising you carefully and apply his advice word by word when needed. All in all, making sushi is not a skill that changes from year to year. There are so many things to learn, and there is no chance of the advice losing validity.

But if you are getting career advice, it is necessary to consider the risk that comments a person does based on personal experience are insufficient, and that they might be misguiding.

Even when we look at the narrow period of the last 100 years, we can see it is not possible to talk about one single career route ultimately valid for different generations. In the first third of the last 100 years, it was the right decision to work as a blue collar or a labourer due to the effects of the industrial revolution. In the second third, it was right to get an average education and work as an officer under the security of the government. Finally, in the last 30-year period, the message given to us was to get a very good education and climb the steps working at private sector.

This message has changed. The advice you’ll get from the zeitgeist of that time might have been valid for then, but not for your time. Now even topics like “How to Find a Quality Job?” have become areas of expertise with their own consultants.

Don’t Take Career Advice based on the Past

With the variety in production technologies, sharing economy’s gaining strength, changing of the ways of consumption, and especially the increase of C2C (Consumer 2 Consumer); it is very difficult to give career advice for the future today. At least it is not possible to do this by looking at the past.

For correct career advice, look at sturdy analyses and not at people’s personal anecdotes and examples.

Here are the most common wrong career advice…

  1. You have to work in the company for 3 years before changing your job.

The dutiful feeling that determines loyalty to a company should be what an employee gains from the job. The time this takes could be 1 or 6 years.

  1. You need to apply to many companies and accept the best offer.

The less of the two offers you are comparing can get you to standards where you’d earn double digit salaries within 3 years. If you end up unhappy with a job that makes you earn 20% more, you will have unnecessarily lost a couple years of your career.

  1. The condition of getting a good job after university is doing internships.

Internships are useful without a doubt. They’re especially valuable in knowing your own skills within the business world. But doing an internship isn’t the only way of spending a summer. The important point is to be doing and producing things that match your own skills and abilities.

  1. You’ve been working in this area for 7 years already, it wouldn’t be right for you to change areas now.

You might be very valuable for the finance departments of companies with your 7 years of experience. But if the qualified-force needs of these companies are changing with automatization, and more importantly if you don’t want to work in this area; you can make a change. The secret to it is to move towards the direction you want through intersecting and paralleling areas instead of trying to jump to a completely new area that has nothing to do with your former qualities. For example, instead of moving from Finance to Management Consultancy, draw routes like Finance -> Sales Analytics –> Analytic Modelling -> Management Consultancy…

  1. You’ll lose your promotion if you leave your job now, be a bit more patient.

Yes, you cannot get a severance payment if you quit a job yourself; but this payment never belongs to the employee anyway. It’s an insurance against a single-sided cancellation of a contract. The alternative of not leaving is worse. There’s an “opportunity cost” for staying in a job that you don’t think is suitable for you, that doesn’t increase your skill-set, and adds you nothing but the pay-check at the beginning of every month. So it is the missed opportunity of what you could have been doing if you had left that job.

  1. You should accept any position to get your foot into a great company.

The security that working in a big multinational company creates is just an illusion. It is more of a status-worry rather than security. When you work at a company that everyone admires, you might gain a higher status in your social environment. If the experience, work knowledge and expertise it uses have no validity outside that company, you’re decreasing your chance of getting another job when you leave this one. Of course the brand values of companies are important. But the priority in 90% of the cases is the area in which the person has work knowledge; the company where you gained this is of secondary importance.

  1. You already have to work to earn money, so you don’t have to look for a job you will enjoy.

A person’s essentially needs to gain benefits for his personal goals from the work he does. This is necessary for a happy life and a good job performance. No, not everyone can have their dream job. But at this point, one shouldn’t think in a perfectionist way. You might not be working at a job you want the most, but the job you have today should be getting you closer to it. For example, if you have the dream of becoming a cook; instead of working in marketing and cleaning chemicals thinking it is impossible to be a cook, you can work at a job that is directly or indirectly food or restaurant related. At the end of the day, even though you might not reach your dream fully; the trial process will be much more enjoyable than a meaningless work life.

  1. You have to focus on your work completely and be the best at it, no matter at what cost.

It’s not a negative situation for a person to set high goals for himself and aim at being the best at what he does. But we’ve historically moved on from the period when everyone had one single job. Now every individual can integrate his own skills into the sharing economy. For example, while you’re busy with corporate purchases in your current job; instead of having the goal of “being the best in purchasing”, you can make the goals here smaller. With the energy you will gain from this, you can work freelance – designing book covers in websites like Behance or DesignCrowd – or working as a voiceover artist.

In summary, the career advice I give is this: Instead of trying to live today based on the truths of the past; take the chance of determining your own rules by discovering the truth of tomorrow. The path for this is wider than ever.

Read more on career advice:

How to Make the Right Career Choice: Design Your Own Career

Secret to Success in Business Life: Build Skills, Not Titles

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