4 Useless Things Career Advisers Tell You

Steve Boese Career Paths, Compensation/Cash Money, Engagement and Satisfaction, HR, Job Seeker Advice, Negotiation, Steve Boese

Over the weekend I caught this kind of interesting piece debunking much of what the investment advice industry tells its clients (that is you and me), The Four Most Useless Things Financial Advisers Tell You, on the Marketwatch site. It was a fun article, and while I don’t really know for sure if it is 100% on the money (bad pun alert), I thought it was at least valuable for reminding us as investors that we can and should sometimes question what is usually passed on as conventional wisdom.

And since I like the idea of questioning assumptions, and it seems like a catchy idea for my spot on FOT this week, I am going to take a crack at my version of the “Four Useless Things” take with “Four Useless Things Career Advisers Tell You.” Please note I don’t actually know how often any of these things are really said by “career adviser” types (HR people, resume experts, the boss, your Mom, etc.), but in case any of them are said, they are, in fact, all useless.

Here goes…

1. Do what you love, follow your passion, find the thing you are best at doing and try to make a living from it, etc.

This is terrible, terrible advice for just about everyone, save heirs to family fortunes, members of a still relevant royal family, or if your last name is Kardashian. Why is it so terrible?

Because for all but the extremely rare and lucky, doing what you love is a fast path to poverty, frustration, and eventual coming-to-hate-the-thing-you-love. Think about—for real—what it is you really, truly love to do. Is it at all reasonable that could sustain you (and family, if needed) in the manner to which you and they have become accustomed? Do you really want to be a starving artist/bowler/bicyclist/TV critic or whatever? And besides, what if you “love” four or five things? I would have a hard time choosing between relief pitcher for the Mets, BBQ Pitmaster, or slow-to-medium speed jogger.

Much better advice is don’t stay in any job that you hate for too long.

2. Never make the first offer in a salary negotiation.

Not as obviously bad as number one, but a pretty common bit of insight that gets thrown around. But studies have shown that the person that gets the first number on the table sets what is known as the “anchor” position, and the ultimate agreement is more likely to end up closer to their ideal ending point than what would be considered ideal for their counterpart. You definitely need to do your homework, understand the role and the market, and not start the negotiations as some crazy, irrational figure… but you do want to control the discussion. It almost seems similar to the advantage the serving player has in a tennis point—every subsequent shot of the rally is influenced and impacted by that first serve. And you want to be the person serving.

3. Any advice related to format, length, font size, paper quality, etc. for resumes.

There definitely used to be a time when the actual, physical appearance and heft (as indicated by fancy, expensive paper stock) of a printed resume actually was important. That time is not 2014, however. Resumes (and resume writers/experts) are not nearly as relevant as they were even as recently as two or three years ago. Plus, about 3,452,987 articles have already been written about this stuff. We (and I am able to speak for all of us on this) do not need any more “resume advice.” NONE of it is original at this point. NONE OF IT.

4. You have to stay in that new job or new position for at least a year (even if you hate it). The corollary to this one is “Don’t burn bridges.”

This is advice probably coming from your Mom or Dad or Uncle Sal who hasn’t had a real job since the 70s when there was still a notion that the Big Corporation actually would take care of you provided you showed up on time and made a decent effort on the job. Obviously that time is long, long gone. Work in 2014 takes up so much more of our lives than it used to that staying any longer than absolutely necessary in a crappy job will make every waking hour of your life miserable. You’re going to have 10 – 15 jobs in your career I bet. You can make a mistake—maybe a couple—along the way. The key is to get out of there once you have made a mistake and you know it. There are very, very few promises or rewards any longer for being a “good team player” in a bad spot. Look out for yourself, because trust me, no one else is.

Ok, that’s it, that is all I have. Feel free to chime in with your favorite useless job/career advice in the comments.