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Common Career Advice That’s Well-Intended, Well-Worn, and Well – Full of It!


Over the course of your life, how much career advice have you given? Received? Acted on?  How much of it was right on the mark?  How much of it well, full of it?

Too frequently well-meaning individuals, in an effort to share their experience and inspire others, offer platitudes rather than meaningful counsel. These phrases sound reasonable on the surface but the deeply-flawed nature of this ‘sound-bite’ advice actually undermines career success and satisfaction.

Do any of these sound familiar?

“Follow your passion.” How can one argue with this? Work is where we spend the bulk of our waking hours. If we aren’t deeply and emotionally involved with it, life will certainly be less full and less satisfying.

But this piece of advice generally sends people off on a myopic journey in search of their bliss.  Rather than ‘following’ one’s passion, what about leading it, mining the marketplace for useful applications, and helping to find it a home within the context of work that provides value to others (and remuneration to the individual)?

“Make yourself indispensable.”  What better way to ensure job security as well as the respect and admiration of others. Right? Wrong! Becoming indispensable requires the hoarding of information, talents, contacts and more. Others quickly recognize this pattern… and resent it. They work around the ‘indispensable’ ones, quickly making them irrelevant.

In today’s environment, the way to distinguish one’s self is to share, mentor, and bring others along. Offer information and insights freely. Teach others to do what you do well. Extend your network to those around you. Being generous with your talents and transferring capacity grows those around you. This sort of ‘dispensability’ makes you genuinely indispensable.

“Give it a year.” How many of us have acted on this erroneous advice? I have; and it was the most miserable year of my professional life. Worried that it would look like I’d made a mistake on my resume, I lived a mistake, wasting twelve months that could have been put to much better use.

Everyone makes mistakes. The hallmark of intelligent and successful people is that they recognize and take swift action to correct them. People can generally tell within a couple of months (maybe less) if they’ve made an appropriate move, if they’re in the right role. And additional time rarely improves the situation.

In today’s job market, short stints are becoming the norm. Trusting one’s experience, recognizing a poor fit, and taking prompt action all demonstrate the kinds of skills and abilities that most organizations want to see in their employees anyway.

“Good work speaks for itself.”  Contributing well is the price of admission in today’s competitive job market. But given the pace of business, the complexity of work processes, and the volume of outputs, good work can be silenced and overlooked.

The solution for this is not brash self-promotion. That can be even more damaging to one’s career. But finding constructive ways to highlight your successes is helpful to the organization and to your busy boss. It can be as easy as:

  • Passing along positive customer comments.
  • Sharing client success stories.
  • Offering to show others how you do something you do well.

Career advice can help point you in the right direction, enabling shortcuts to your career success. But, it can also take you down completely unintended and unproductive paths. Consider carefully the advice you receive from (and give to) others. Successful, happy work lives really do depend upon it!

What about you? What off-base career advice have you heard/taken? What’s the best career advice you’ve received or given?



  1. Julie,
    This is very smart advice. I like your practical applications. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank YOU, Kristen. I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  2. I think the best career advice, is save 20% of your income, and retire early.


    • Or, building on that…. save 20% and find something you love doing for the rest of your life! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great post, Julie. I once received the advice of “give it 6 months.” That one actually turned out to be good advice. In that situation, I was blinded by what I wanted to happen vs new things that were happening. When I let go of my notions about what was bad about the changes, I actually enjoyed it. Despite that, I do agree with you that waiting for “bad” to get better just doesn’t make sense. Maybe the key is to evaluate closely why exactly you view the situation as you do & then make the choice for you. Appreciate your perspective! Thanks for the post.

    • That’s wise counsel, Joy. I think you’re right. The sort of reflection you mention – ‘evaluate closely why exactly you view the situation as you do’ would serve us well in all dimensions of life. Thanks for your contribution to the conversation!

  4. I knew within the first day that the last place I started to work at was not for me. Just hearing another co-worker scream at a customer told me this place was hi-stress and did not value long term customer relationships as long as the product was sold to make that month’s quota.

    • Sounds miserable, Julie. It doesn’t take long to know if there’s a fit or if a new role will serve you in the way you intended. And when that happens, having the clarity and courage to make a change can be the best thing for you personally… and for your career. Hope you were able to quickly extricate yourself from that situation and find something more appropriate for you! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  5. well, Thankyou for this very informative post. It contains great information that I have been searching for a career.


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