Everyone thinks they’re an expert on Career Advice! My favorite career advice folks are the bloggers who haven’t had a real job except for blogging in like a decade! I’m mean, clearly, your career was kicking you in the ass, why should I listen to you about advice in my career!?
But, that’s just one group. Career advice is like bad opinions, everyone has some to give you, even when you don’t want or need it. CNN/Money recently ran an article called, “Career advice you hear all the time that’s actually bunk“, here’s what CNN says is common career advice that is actually pretty bad:
“Follow Your Passion” -“Passion is not something you follow. It’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world,” I completely agree with this, but ‘life style’ bloggers and every person who’s ever made it big love to spout off this crap. My passion is not starving. To make sure I don’t starve I work a job that pays me money. It’s worked out pretty good.
“Stand Out From The Crowd” – No one in corporate America is looking for you to stand out, they’re looking for you to blend in, to be a part of the culture we already created. “Fit in” would be better advice. “Stand out” is the quickest way to get you fired.
“Under-promise and Over-deliver” – Okay, I actually use this one, but it does suck. How about, “Tell me what you’re going to do, and do it!” What happens with under promise, over deliver is people catch on and they expect more than what you say you’re going to do, and they hate playing this game with you.
“Stay at a new job for one year” – How about stay at a job for the amount of time it takes to gain experience, add value to your career and to the organization, and then move to a position that is better for your career. Seeing a resume of a candidate who has spent one year at five jobs makes them look awful as well. If you do want or need to switch, do it early in your career. Switching jobs frequently mid-career, or late career looks awful.
“Build your brand” – This is from CNN, not me. I actually think this is really good career advice if you know how to do with your organizations better interest first. If my personal brand is larger than my work brand, I’m probably on my way out. What I see is too many people spending more time building their personal brand, than giving value to the organization that’s paying them.
Here some of my own:
“It Not About the Title” – This is usually said by CEOs and independently wealthy folks. Titles do matter in corporate structures to a point. Especially when partnered with people who have higher titles and low performance. So, there are many times it is about the title if you want to get things done and be innovative. There are too many high titles in corporations holding great talent back because of fear of losing their current position.
“Tell Those Above You the Truth” – No one really wants to hear the truth. It’s a rare leader who can take the truth, and you better know you work for one before you throw yourself on the sword. I’m not saying you should lie, but don’t be the one trying to save the company by telling a leader something they’ll refuse to hear and then brand you as someone that’s ‘not on board’.
“Find a Mentor” – Screw that, find smart people who know more than you and hang around them. They might be younger than you, older than you, a different sex than you, etc. Mentors think too highly of themselves. Smart peers openly sharing with each other will move you forward faster than anything else you can be a part of.
Totally agree with them all except stand out. The world is full of too much going on at once. Stimulus everywhere. And so you should always have something that you’re “known for”. It starts when you apply for a job. If your resume looks and says what every other says, you have a low probability of getting the job. If you do, you’re never going to get promoted. There is too much competition internally and externally. We all want the brand new shiny car. And when you get to a leadership position, you have to start making stand out decisions. The world is too competitive to stick to average.
Tim – I agree with nearly all of this piece except “Stand Out From The Crowd”.
Hopefully my opinion has some weight given I have the experience mentoring, developing and leading large global teams, even though today I get to advise and write more about it.
Standing out from the crowd in my experience will get you promoted more than it will get your fired. Of course it’s all in the ‘how’ you stand out.
If you’re standing out for the wrong reasons (Not collaborative; overly opinionated and talk more than you listen; etc) then of course this could lesson your tenure.
But, if you are stepping up and volunteering for the hard stuff, or trying to shoot for a BHAG goal, or willing to push back on something that does not make sense with professional courtesy and respect, then I have found in my career, business leaders want more people in their organization like this, not less.
When the world is full of people flying under the radar at work, and just punching the clock from day to day, those individuals who go above and beyond, push themselves and their peers/company further along in a positive direction, by default are going to stand out.
Standing out and being in the top quartile of performers in an organization I have also found has a greater likelihood of getting you promoted or a large piece of the annual bonus pie.
Finally, I also get that there are also many organizations and leaders for many reasons don’t want their employees “standing out”. I have met a few of them in my career. When it’s all said and done though, my advice will always be, sure you need to find a company that matches your similar values and approach to how things get done, but in no way should you fly under the radar.
In my experience more business leaders want and crave people to step up and stand out.