A wise man once said, “Advice, like fruit, is best when it’s fresh.”
That man was Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp, and I think he’s right.
“Advice quickly decays, and 16-year-old advice is bound to be radioactive. Sharing a life experience is one thing (grandparents are great at this — listen to them!), but advice is another thing. Don’t give advice about things you used to know. Just because you did something a long time ago doesn’t mean you’re qualified to talk about it today,” Jason writes.
I’m looking at parents here. How many of you have received career advice from your parents?
I bet all of you.
Hell, my mom still dishes it out daily, and I make more than her.
Some of you, like myself, have already realized it’s best to tune out this caring but often misinformed advice. Others will have to learn the hard way.
Our parents, while awesome, grew up in a completely different time than us, and most have held the same job for decades. That’s just not the way the world works today.
If you want to know how to land a good marketing job, it’s best to speak with someone who recently landed a good marketing job.
If you want to know how to prepare for an interview, it’s best to speak with someone who recently killed an interview and landed a job because of it.
It’s scientifically proven that the longer it’s been since we’ve experienced something, the fuzzier our memories become, leading to “false memories.”
So if you think you’ll get good job hunting advice from your mom, who hasn’t searched for a job in 20+ years, think again.
Fortunately, I’m a twenty-something freelancer who is always on the hunt for gigs, which means I’m still in the game, which means I can give you the best career advice and tell you which advice to just ignore.
So, here’s my two cents. Take it or leave it.
Badvice 1: Hit the pavement.
“My parents still push me hardcore to job search by walking around to buildings with an armload of cookie-cutter résumés that list every job I’ve ever had (even my high school laundromat job from over ten years ago; I’m a VFX artist now), shove it at the receptionist, ask to speak to the hiring manager right then and there and if they tell me s/he’s busy, say ‘no problem, I’ll wait’ and then just awkwardly loiter in their lobby until I am presented with the hiring manager—or much more likely if I ever tried this, forcibly removed.” (source)
This is a parent classic that’s ridiculously outdated, unless you’re hunting for a part-time hospitality or retail gig.
If you’re searching for a big girl job, then it’s best to email, especially because busy professionals hate meetings, which means they definitely won’t take one with a random person off the street.
Don’t believe me? Mark Cuban is a prime example of a busy professional who doesn’t take meetings… ever.
“No meetings or phone calls unless I’m picking up a check. Everything is email.” (source)
Everything is digital today.
If you hand a paper résumé to a secretary, don’t hold your breath that s/he’ll type it into the company’s applicant tracking system (ATS).
To make matters worse, you’ll never be able to know whether your résumé got to the hiring manager because you can’t track it.
So if you’re resourceful, you have direct access to executives of major companies, which means one passionate, well-thought-out email can change your life.
Another great thing about email is that you can work smarter, not harder. It doesn’t cost money to email, and you can personalize every single one for each recipient, including different résumé attachments or links for different people.
Last and certainly not least, you can track these babies, so you can sleep better at night knowing your email/résumé didn’t disappear into a black hole. Also, knowing when someone opens your email allows you to know when to follow-up.
According to Yesware (and my personal experience), if you don’t receive an email back the day they open it, they’re unlikely to respond, which means you should follow-up.
Badvice 2: Put your SAT scores on your résumé.
“When I had just graduated college (mid-recession btw), my parents insisted that I should apply to jobs that required 5+ years experience in a specific field and just put my SAT scores on my résumé. That way they would see that I was smart, and decide to hire me and train me instead of hiring an experienced professional with the skills they needed.” (source)
Take it from a college dropout who has had all of two people in her seven-year career ask her why she doesn’t have education listed on her résumé… Do NOT center your résumé around your education.
A study by The Chronicle of Higher Education asked employers specifically what they were looking for in new college grads. Only one of the top five priorities they listed related to candidates’ academic experience, even though this study was focused solely on new graduates who have yet to take a full-time job.
I always recommend placing your education at the very bottom of your résumé, or if you have a lot of identity capital (i.e. more bullet points), then nix the education section altogether.
Tony Robbins puts it perfectly:
“If you’ve been waiting to turn your tassel to the other side of your cap before you start the process of defining what you really want, it’s time to throw a match in your gas tank. You and I are living in a world where people can compete from anywhere on earth and there’s no age requirement to add value to the marketplace. I’ll guarantee you there’s a hungry 17-year-old on 99 Designs or Freelancer.com or Fiverr who is already doing a job that many 22-year-olds are hoping their entry-level résumé just might qualify them for… an interview.
I’m not diminishing the merits of higher education whatsoever; I just want to make something crystal clear. We hear people say all the time that ‘knowledge is power.’ That’s not true. Knowledge is NOT power. Knowledge of concepts is only of POTENTIAL value to you. The execution of the knowledge you’ve gleaned is where your power lies…”
No one cares about your GPA. They care about your results–specifically the results you can produce for them. Again, Robbins agrees with me:
“We live in a world where there are no limits for those who can create results. The faster you can use what you’ve learned to execute results, the sooner your GPA—no matter how impressive or abysmal—won’t matter. There is no replacement for results.”
Badvice 3: Immediately accept a job offer.
“Recently I had a second interview with a company where I met with the other owner and learned a lot of new information, including salary and schedule. At the end of the interview, I was offered the position and I said I would like a day to think it over and talk about it with my family. They said of course and that they would always expect that. Later, when I was talking with my parents, my dad got mad that I would even think about asking them for a day. He said that nobody should be at an interview if they didn’t already know they want to take the job, and furthermore if anybody he interviewed ever said that to him, he would rescind the offer immediately and show them to the door!” (source)
So you received a job offer! Congratulations, but don’t lose your head.
Would you marry the first Joe Schmoe who asked you on a date? I hope not. You don’t know that much about him—if anything yet.
The job seeker in the above example was only on her second interview. How in the heck could she possibly know beforehand whether or not she wanted the job? That’s what the job interview is for.
Even college career centers say it’s totally normal to take at least a day to consider a job offer.
“Don’t accept the offer immediately. Ask the employer when they need your answer. This should not be a problem with most employers.”
This CNBC article reinforces this advice, reporting that recruiters typically expect a response within three days.
“We don’t want to force people to make a quick decision. We want people to think thoroughly through their decision.”
First and foremost, you want to be excited about the job you’re about to embark on if you want to do good work, so you should ask yourself some key questions, like:
- Do you want to negotiate? If so, what?
- Is there anything about the job [offer] that you don’t understand?
- Do the benefits fit your needs?
- Does this job meet my basic requirements for happiness?
- Do I have a solid understanding of my boss’s expectations of me?
- Am I excited about this job?
- Can I see myself working with my prospective co-workers and manager?
- Does the culture feel right?* (This one is important!)
- Is this job going to help me progress faster in my career?
- Does this feel right?
Additionally, you always want to negotiate—especially your first job—because two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of your career.
When planning for retirement, many Americans think about their pay the way they used to think about the value of real estate or stocks: that it will always go up…
But once people hit midlife, the good times are over. The 40s are the peak earning years for most, when the median income for men working full-time hovers between $52,000 in their early 40s and about $54,000 in their late 40s. After that, median income barely budges — it’s still $54,000 for men aged 50 to 54. In other words, there is a 15-year plateau. (source)
And what if you have competing job offers? Or you’re in the midst of a few interview processes? You need to strategically weigh your options—not just accept the first one that’s dolled out.
Here are a few resources for weighing job offers:
- Job Offer Matrix
- How to Evaluate a Job Offer
- A Scorecard to Help You Compare Two Jobs
- Visualizing a Job Search or: How to Find a Job as a Software Engineer
- Offer Comparison Spreadsheet
Badvice 4: Don’t job hop.
I don’t have a funny example for this one, but I’m quite certain that parents give this awful advice to their kids all too often.
Back in the day, you got a job, and you stayed at the job forever, patiently awaiting and accepting measly .01 percent raises during the annual review process.
This is NOT the way things work today.
As I mentioned earlier, two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of your career, and the fastest way to increase your income is to switch jobs.
According to CNN, a new role often comes with a more elevated title and a substantial pay raise (15 percent or more versus one to three percent by someone staying in their current role).
And to add sprinkles on our hot-fudge sundae, WSJ recently reported that we’re in a “quitters’ economy.”
According to the article, workers are choosing to leave their jobs at the fastest rate since the internet boom 17 years ago and getting rewarded for it with bigger paychecks and more satisfying work.
“Workers tend to get their biggest wage increases when they move from one job to another. Job-switchers saw roughly 30% larger annual pay increases in May than those who stayed put over the past 12 months,” according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Badvice 5: Stay in a “safe” job you hate.
The example for this one is me.
My parents have always valued financial safety above everything.
On one hand, I understand why. It’s extremely important to be financially independent. But on the other hand, you need to take calculated risks if you want a fulfilling career.
Around 2013, I proudly told my father I was quitting my well-paying waitress job to relocate for a full-time, big girl (and also well-paid) job in Boston.
As soon as the words flowed out of my mouth, my dad’s smile disappeared, and he immediately huffed (literally, while rolling his eyes): “You’re going to quit Houston’s?!”
He honestly could not fathom why I would leave such a “safe,” well-paying job, as if I couldn’t make it in a real job—it was just too risky.
Three months later, I was fired with only one month’s severance. I cried so hard that day. I was devastated, but the company culture was a horrible fit for me.
I gave myself one hour to cry in bed. Once the hour was up, I opened my laptop and began emailing everyone I knew and applying to every job I could find.
I found work almost immediately, thanks to my network of weak ties, and when I eventually relocated back to Florida (two years later), I did so because I chose to, not because I was forced to.
I’ve been financially independent ever since, and I’ve never had to work another crappy waitress job again.
Just remember: when someone tells you, “you can’t,” the only logical thing to do is show them you can.
Badvice 6: Work for free.
“I’m being ‘advised’ by my parents that ‘five times as many candidates as job openings be damned!’ and ‘Just go up to an employer (who may or may not even have a job opening advertised), tell them you’ll work for them for free for one week and if they’re happy with the job you’re doing, then they should hire you.’” (source)
Point-blank: It’s really not okay to work for free.
Before my father cut me off, I worked for free as an unpaid intern.
My internship experience was enjoyable. I liked everyone I worked with. I liked the professional environment. And I loved doing real work. So why do I regret working for free then?
Because working for free isn’t fair to all the people who can’t afford the luxury of working for free.
But let’s pretend for a second that I didn’t care about anyone but myself. Now, is it okay to work for free?
My answer is still a resounding no because it’s going to hurt the future me, as I learned the hard way.
Point two: You’re only worth as much as your last job.
After I quit my unpaid internship, I began applying to full-time marketing jobs.
I had all this great experience now; why shouldn’t someone want to hire me? I naively thought to myself. Boy, was I wrong.
Employers didn’t care that I had loads of valuable experience to offer them. All they saw written all over my résumé was “unpaid intern.”
It was so wildly depleting to hear “we don’t think you’re right for this position, but we do have an unpaid internship that we think you would be perfect for,” over and over and over again.
I could not afford an unpaid internship anymore, but they didn’t care.
I quickly learned that I was only worth as much as whatever my last job was willing to pay me.
Point three: People who expect you to work for free will always expect you to work for free.
I didn’t want to quit my unpaid internship because, as I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed what I did and who I worked with, so I decided to pitch my boss on paying me and bringing me on full-time.
To my naive dismay, they said no. They had just brought on a younger unpaid intern, who I had recently trained, so they didn’t need me.
That’s when I learned that just because you work for free doesn’t mean you’ll get anything out of it — ever.
Badvice 7: Avoid this like the plague.
According to Adecco, nearly 40 percent of parents are involved in their child’s job search—some more than others.
The survey found “12 percent of parents research job listings for their kid, while six percent write their child’s résumé or cover letters. Three percent of parents make calls or send emails to prospective employers on their child’s behalf, while the same portion go so far as to write their child’s thank-you notes. Two percent personally follow up with employers after their son or daughter has had an interview.”
Please—I beg you—do NOT be one of these children (or parents, if you’re a parent reading this post).
If your mom or dad is one of these cray cray helicopter parents, limit the amount of information you give them about work.
And in the mortifying instance that your mom or dad crosses the line and takes your career fate into their own hands, have a script ready to send to your boss or potential employer.
“I’m mortified that my mom emailed you! She means well, but of course she shouldn’t be involved in this conversation. Please don’t feel you need to respond to her, and I’ll ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
And that’s how you handle your parents’ bad career advice. Good luck.