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20 Most Contradictory Pieces of Career Advice (And What You Should Do)

by Yvette McKenzie
Posted: January 13, 2015

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Career advice can be confusing, ambiguous and contradictory. There’s so much advice out there on the net. Have you heard these? 

Here are 20 common career tips and the opinions of the experts who are for and against them. We’ll leave the deciding up to you!

Have you heard these?

1. Stay at Least a Year

FOR: Should you worry about leaving one job to go to another after only a few months? Some experts say that there can be benefits in staying where you are for a year or more, building up a solid and stable resume. Some professionals believe that job hopping can have its drawbacks.

“If you’ve got too many jobs on your resume, you could end up getting pegged as unstable, disloyal, or unable to work as part of a team, especially if these jobs are typically for terms of six months or less.”  Michael Page

AGAINST: Others say the world has changed and it’s more common for people to spend less than a year in any given role. Some industry experts believe that your chance of promotion and/or a pay rise increase significantly if you’re willing to search out other industries.

“Not only has the stigma associated with job hopping disappeared, recruiters say, but executives who have executed logical shifts in recent years are considered savvy careerists.”Career Cast

2. Multitask

FOR: Using your phone while surfing multiple pages and writing that report? Maybe it’s OK after all!

“Those who frequently use different types of media at the same time appear to be better at integrating information from multiple senses when asked to perform a specific task.” Forbes website. Some research is saying that it’s OK to do more than one thing at a time. Phew!

AGAINST: Or not? People do not have the attention spans that they used to and this is harming productivity, and in many cases, quality of turnout. Focus on one task wholeheartedly and you will see better results.

“All these tools have made our lives easier in many ways. But they’re also stirring deep unease. Some are concerned that the need for speed is shrinking our attention spans,” says David Levy, a professor in the University of Washington’s School of Information.

Multitasking-career advice

3. Work Late and on Your Days Off

FOR: Some professionals believe that if you’re really inspired, you feel passionate enough to go the extra mile.

“If you have the right mindset, working on your days off is one of the best times to be productive, especially on Sundays when most people aren’t working. You won’t receive many emails, and even when you do, no one expects you to answer straight-away. So you can work on your fun projects guilt-free, without interruptions or distractions.” Under 30 CEO

AGAINST: Others suggest that you should strive to get ahead but you should also make sure you take time to actively participate in your life outside work. Australians are the 3rdworst in the world for taking their annual leave, with 44% of us not taking time off.

A person who doesn’t take time to recover can become stressed and unfocused and ultimately less productive. “When I take a day off, I actually have a day to rest and relax. I normally take Sundays off so when Monday comes, I am refreshed and energized for the week.” Christopher Scott.

4. You Have to Start Somewhere

FOR: Starting at the bottom? Working your way up the corporate ladder can be a smart way to get into the industry you love. “Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard started out as a secretary even though she had a degree from Stanford University. Her advice for success?

“Do the best you can at any job and be willing to work your way up.”” Fox News

AGAINST: Other experts say that people who start at the bottom tend to end up in a job that they are not suited for. Try having some non-negotiable terms that you stick with, like salary, experience, or chance for promotion.

Or investigate freelancing to get closer to a career you enjoy. “Never take on the thought that being successful requires you to start at the bottom. (Promote) your work in the best way possible. Always stay at the top of your game, gaining new resources as necessary,” says Karmali Abid from Get a Coder

5. Get a Degree

FOR: A university degree can set you apart from those without, and learning as an adult can teach you valuable skills you can use in the workplace. “With a better qualification degree in hand, one increases one’s chances of getting better earning opportunities in the form of a broader range of work jobs.” The Lifestyle Lounge

AGAINST: Some say that sadly a degree or even a master’s is no guarantee of a job these days. “The media circuit is ablaze with discussion about the alarming level of jobless graduates and the true value of university,” says entrepreneur Simon Dolan, owner of SJD Accountancy.

Many of the world’s most successful people do not have tertiary education including Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Coco Chanel and Sir Alan Sugar.

6. Leave if You’re Not Passionate

FOR: There are some that say if you don’t love your job, you should let it go and pursue something that you are more passionate about.

Some experts advise people to be brave to get onto a career path that will make them more fulfilled: “Quitting your job to follow your passion can have a lot of advantages especially if you put fear of the unknown aside.” Addicted to Success

AGAINST: Be realistic. Put a plan into action. Most people have to make compromises at work, and it’s only the very few that feel passion about every single part of their job. “When your job gets you down, it helps to put things in perspective. Sure, there are things about your job that make you miserable, but every job will have some elements that aren’t ideal.

The important thing to do is separate those things out from the things that make you happy.” Life Hacker If you can compartmentalize your life, you can use your other activities to provide passion and use your job as a means of paying your bills.

7. Apply for as Many Jobs as You Can When You’re Job Seeking

FOR: When job seeking, often strength in numbers can be the deciding factor, so send your resume far and wide.

“It’s not surprising therefore that job application has become somewhat of a numbers game. You need to get your resume to a lot of recruiters and employers by properly keywording your resume and then distributing that resume into as many databases as possible.”

AGAINST: Some experts say perhaps not! Be strategic. Don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s better to send out 5 targeted resumes than 30 generic ones.

“Make sure to target your resume to the specific job you are applying for.” Research the companies you are applying to, make a couple of phone calls and ask sensible questions. Tailor your resume and cover letter to the role you are applying for. Dear Sir/Madam died years ago. Find out the recruiter’s/Manager’s name and use it!

8. Listen to Your Parents and Friends

FOR: Some career experts suggest that your next role could come via someone you already know.

“The best way to find these opportunities is not through online job boards – it’s by talking to people around you. Your network of friends, relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances is a valuable job search resource.” Helpguide org

AGAINST: Others say, “the typical ‘go-to’ people in our lives—trusted friends, family members, spouses, professional colleagues—often give us bad career advice.” When we are confused about which direction to go in we sometimes get advice from the wrong people.

Consult far and wide, research, but don’t let others’ opinions on what they think you should be doing guide you exclusively. Your career is too important to leave it in the hands of others.

9. Take Risks

FOR: Do risk takers make better employees? Some experts tell us to be more flexible and to allow ourselves to take risks in our career, “Leadership always requires some level of risk taking. Risks are necessary to make changes happen.

Anyone who is too afraid to step outside their comfort zone is also too afraid to take the risks that are often needed as a leader.” Learn This

AGAINST: Others say that your risks need to have a clear motivation to succeed. “The assumption is that all risk taking is equal,” said Nathan T. Washburn, Ph.D., “But there are different types of risk taking, and not all risk taking is going to improve the performance of the organisation.”Thunderbird Global Management.

Do your research and get a clear picture in your head of what you are trying to achieve, particularly if you are at the beginning of a new career path.

10. Follow Your Passion!

FOR: It sounds like solid career advice and many experts believe that passion can lead to happiness at work. “Ensuring we are passionate about our work will not only provide us with a meaningful career, but it will also give us a good chance of being paid well.

The passion we have for our work can be the difference between making a living or making a killing.” Investopedia

AGAINST: Some experts totally disagree. “The intersection of your rare skills and what interests you is what should start your job hunt, not introspection about what you’re ‘meant to do,’” says author, Cal Newport. “I agree that few people have one driving passion, so finding your ‘one true love’ can create needless anxiety and frustration,” says Nancy Collamer, Blogger at Next Avenue. “That’s also true for the myth that we only have one soul mate.”

11. Quit Your Dead End Job

FOR: Some advice says that if you’re not happy in a job with no future, then you should quit.

“For the love of whatever it is you love, LEAVE! Quit! Go find something meaningful for you…and when you find yourself in a dead-end job with nowhere to go and grow, and a job that brings you less fulfillment and more misery, then you need to move out of that position and into a place where you can thrive.” Prolific Living

AGAINST: “Some employment experts suggest that there is no such thing as a dead end job, only a dead end worker. Even the most menial or mind-numbing job can serve a vital function in society, and these lowly positions should be viewed as stepping stones to better work, not stumbling blocks.” Wise Geek.

We are in tough economic times and the only thing worse than having a dead-end job is no job at all. We all want a job where we can thrive, but check your attitude first; maybe that’s what needs improvement!

12. It Doesn’t Matter if Your Salary is Low; You’re Just Starting Out

FOR: Most of us begin our careers in low paying jobs, and often when we career-change we will accept lower remuneration.

“When a job change forces you to take your expertise to a new industry, you may have to accept a lower salary. The same applies when you take your industry knowledge to a different company area.” Career Advice Monster

AGAINST: “If you do not believe in your worth — in the value you will bring to the job — why should the employer? Most employers are not looking for the cheapest hire, but the best hire for the job. By requesting a lower salary for yourself, you set yourself up for failure,” Quintessential Careers.

Some say that asking for a lower salary will not improve your chances of being hired in many cases. You need to believe in your worth, and if you don’t, why would your employer?

13. Be Loyal to Your Boss/Company

FOR: Loyalty is an important employee quality; some experts believe that it should be encouraged and rewarded.

“Employers are reluctant to invest money in people that seem likely to leave them within a short period. They want employees to be loyal at work for their company and grow with them as their business grows.” CV Tips website

AGAINST: The workplace has changed, employees are less loyal and companies have no issue with moving on unproductive or redundant workers.

“If the organisation no longer has interesting or challenging work for the individual to do, or if the individual is no longer willing or able to engage in the work — to invest the levels of discretionary effort required for excellent results — it is in everyone’s best interest to part ways,” says Workforce consultant Tammy Erickson. 

14. Do What You Love!

FOR: We’ve all heard it, and many experts swear by it, and have built successful careers around doing what they love.

“Possibly the greatest advice I ever received when I was trying to make a career decision, was “do what you love, the money will follow.” I determined that it didn’t matter when the money would show up, cause if I was doing what I loved, then that in and of itself, was enjoyment. Your desires are trying to tell you something. Honour the things you want.” Self Creation

AGAINST: We all have things that we love, but sometimes making them your career can spoil the fun. “I love acting. I did extra work for a while and it was great. But I knew that there were other parts of me that wouldn’t be fulfilled by a career in acting,” says Ronnie Ann from Work Coach Cafe.

Love gardening, cooking, crochet or dancing? Just because you love something does not mean that it should (or even could) translate into a pay cheque. Focus on your more in-demand skills as a primary marketing factor. There are always plenty of actors waiting tables and plenty of musicians painting walls.

 15. Learn to Use Corporate Speak

FOR: Although no one suggests blindly using jargon, some experts tell us that it’s important to be right across your industry, including the language and buzz words that people are using:

“Subscribe to industry e-blasts. If there’s a niche there are websites, publications, and professional organizations built around it. Subscribe to three or four, and you’ll see patterns emerging. These are your new buzzwords—at least for the year or two, when those buzzwords will change. Have patience. You aren’t going to learn a specialised language overnight” Talent Zoo

AGAINST: It’s important to not cross the line between using current industry terms and sounding like a try-hard. “Jargon masks real meaning,” says Jennifer Chatman, management professor at University of California-Berkeley “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”

It actually drives people crazy; the more competent and intelligent you are, the more likely you are to be able to get across your point in simple, succinct tones.

16. Never Send Out a Paper Resume

FOR: Who would send out a paper resume these days? Jaime from The Prepary blog still finds people asking the question!

“I often get asked, “should I send a hard copy of my resume by mail?” or “should I drop off a hard copy of my resume at the office?” Today, recruiting usually doesn’t happen that way… and receiving or reviewing resumes in hard copy is pretty “old school”. So no, don’t bother sending a hard copy of your resume.”

AGAINST: There are experts out there who actually suggest this now, saying that the response rate is higher, and the approach is friendlier. “A well-presented physical resume printed on decent paper can seem professional and smart,” says Creative Bloq.

Email is easy to file away or lose and can accidentally (or deliberately) end up as spam. It may not be suitable in all cases but it may be worth a shot, particularly in creative industries where you could experiment with including things on your resume that wouldn’t work in an email format, such as photographs you’ve taken, artwork you’ve created or campaigns you were involved with.

 17. Don’t Burn Bridges

FOR: It’s career advice that we’ve always known; don’t slash and burn your way through your career – it’s obvious right? “Make sure you treat everyone you meet on your way up the ladder with respect and kindness, and don’t forget them … because you’ll meet those same exact people on your way back down on the other side. Never burn bridges!” Michael Spiro

AGAINST: Interestingly, not everyone agrees! Rebecca Thorman from Kontrary has a different take on things, and she raises some interesting points! Rebecca says that you can start over again, and that your boss is not really likely to help you much if they’ve let you go.

“You shouldn’t just walk out. You should give notice and finish your projects and be polite (if for no other reason than your own sense of pride and accomplishment). But there’s no point in continuing a negative relationship once you’re out the door. The advice to not burn bridges is outdated.”

 18. Make Yourself Indispensible

FOR: If you’re needed, your job is going to be more secure, so learn to make yourself not just valuable, but indispensible to your company. “Becoming indispensable doesn’t require a fancy degree, a senior management title, or a huge income. It’s a mind-set available to anyone, figure out what’s really holding you back, and take smart actions to achieve your highest goals.”Mark Samuel, Making Yourself Indispensible

AGAINST: We’ve all worked with control freaks. The best managers and employees know how to delegate. “Half a century ago, this kind of behaviour might have guaranteed one’s lifelong employment. Today, it will harm their career. Worse still, the knock-on effect can undermine the company and even the industry,” says Rob Ousbey. He believes that if you can make some tasks within your position more efficient you can free up time and brain space to do more, and your boss will notice.

19. Don’t Close Any Doors!

FOR: Again, this is an old but much-repeated piece of career advice. Keep all those doors open, because you never know what or who might be valuable to you at a later date. “Having no choice is bad for us. But the benefit of choice is not limitless. The optimal strategy is pretty obvious. Never close a door. The amounts behind the doors are random, and the best way to give yourself the most return is to get open doors. A significant number… figured this out early on.” Living Life Without a Net

AGAINST: You can, and should, close doors. Too many options can be crippling and they can lead to confusion. Don’t be afraid to let go of something or someone that is holding you back, or that you’ve outgrown. “Expectations have been inflated to such an extent that people think the perfect choice exists,” says The Economist, but it doesn’t. We all do this naturally throughout our careers and there may be no point in keeping up connections that are no longer serving your current purpose. Move on.

20. Never Have a Plan B

FOR: Is your plan B keeping you from putting all your energy into plan A? Some people believe that your focus should be on your main goal, and it’s worked for lots of experts. “I’ve since learned that you stand the best chance of success by having noPlan B, but by engaging in a relentless pursuit of Plan A.” Ali Velshi, chief business correspondent at CNN.

AGAINST: Some say, you always need a plan B. I know of so many people who claim that they have no plan B, but even if you are a success at what you love, life can change. “We’re not guaranteed anything. And that’s part of the wisdom of being an entrepreneur: You take advantage of your opportunities for as long as you can, but they’re on loan. So as an entrepreneur, you maximize Plan A to the fullest extent that you can, but from a standpoint of prudence, you always have a Plan B.” Strategic Coach. There is nothing wrong with having a backup plan. Martha Stewart started life as a stockbroker, and Governor Schwarzenegger used to be an actor… who knew?

Like anything you find online, you need to form your own opinion and do your research. There are no blanket rights and wrongs, and plenty of advice out there is contradictory. These great articles and websites all provide interesting expert advice on a range of topics. Read up – assess and let common sense and inspiration be your guide when it comes to getting the best advice on your career.



Yvette has over a decade of professional experience at some of Australia’s largest media corporations, including Southern Cross Austereo and the Macquarie Media Network. With a degree in Communications (majoring in Journalism), she covers stories on education, new knowledge technologies and independent learning.

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