“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Hearing that question when I was young, I always felt like I was expected to give a very specific answer like “doctor” or “astronaut.” Eventually, I thought, I’ll find one defining job title and stick with it for the rest of my life.
But career paths are not so linear today. But some people still hold onto outdated career advice.
So if you hear any of these old-school career advice tips when you’re trying to find the right job — you might be better off ignoring them.
1. Company loyalty pays off
Gone are the days when you stayed at the same company for thirty years. Most workers switch jobs several times throughout their lives.
And job hopping usually pays off big. According to Forbes, people who stay in the same company could experience 50 percent lower pay growth than those who move around. And the Resolution Foundation found that annual pay raises aren’t keeping up with inflation. Even if you get a raise every year, you may not see significant income growth by staying at the same company.
Long-term employee loyalty isn’t just less common — it’s a bad idea if you want to grow your paycheck.
2. Decide on your career early and stay the course
According to LinkedIn, the average worker today switches jobs three times within the first five years after college. It’s not unusual for recent college graduates to explore several different fields. Thanks to continuing education programs, it’s never too late to learn new skills.
General Assembly, for instance, provides bootcamp courses in web development, data science, and other lucrative fields. According to its report, 99 percent of graduates get full-time jobs within 180 days of graduation.
You don’t always need an official degree or years of experience to land a job. More and more employers are interested in portfolios as evidence of your achievements, rather than formal work experience.
3. Keep your personal life out of the workplace
There used to be a firm line between your work life and personal life. You had a persona at work that was different from the “real you” on your off hours.
While it’s still important to maintain a professional demeanor, most workplaces don’t ask you to erase your personal life. In fact, many offices encourage you to share your interests and activities. Forward-thinking workplaces aim for a vibrant, inclusive culture. Instead of dividing yourself in two, you can bring your whole self to work.
This merging of your professional and personal life might happen as early as the interview stage. Hiring managers often look for someone who is a “cultural fit.” By sharing your passions, you might make a personal connection that could land you a job.
4. Stick to a reliable 9-to-5 schedule
One of the most in-demand workplace perks today is a flexible schedule. Workers want the chance to control their hours and many even want to work from home part or all of the week.
More and more companies are heeding the call for flexible hours and work-life balance. No longer do you have to grit your teeth and bear the 9-to-5.
Of course, not all companies are open to putting schedules in the hands of workers. But if flexibility is important to you, it’s possible to find progressive companies that are focused on output rather than time.
5. Don’t ask too many questions
You may have gotten the advice to “fake it ’til you make it.” The theory behind it: Don’t ask too many questions or you’ll come off as incompetent.
But the best managers invite questions. They want employees who actively seek out information and fill in gaps in knowledge.
The Minds at Work group, for example, works with managers to help them build deliberately developmental organizations (DDOs). DDOs foster a culture where people discuss their errors and weaknesses as a way to improve themselves and their company.
6. Don’t challenge the boss
You may have grown up learning to keep your head down and defer to authority. But most workplaces today want employees who will push back and express their opinions.
Good managers aren’t looking for blind obedience. Rather, they want open discourse and honest feedback.
Former CEO Margaret Heffernan says that constructive conflict is essential for successful organizations. Colleagues should not work in echo chambers. “[When] we create conflict, we enable ourselves and the people around us to do our very best thinking,” Heffernan says.
7. Make job security your top priority
According to a survey by Bentley University, 67 percent of millennials want to start their own businesses. But only 13 percent aim to climb the corporate ladder.
“Millennials see chaos, distrust of management, breaking of contracts, and bad news associated with business,” says Fred Tuffile, director of Bentley’s Entrepreneurial Studies program. “They’ve watched their relatives get fired and their peers sit in cubicles and they think, ‘There has to be a better way.’”
This kind of entrepreneurship may come off as dangerously risky to older generations, but many workers today are more accepting of that kind of risk.
Besides starting your own business, you might also choose to work in a startup. For many, building a service or product from the ground up means more than the security of working for an established company.
Take career advice with a grain of salt
Even the most well-meaning career advice isn’t necessarily accurate. Technology has transformed the working world and best practices for employees and job hunters have changed along with it.
Even if you’re making unconventional choices today, they may end up being common practice tomorrow. Base your decisions on current realities, rather than on what worked in the past.
And if your employer seems stuck in the old days, it might be time to shake things up. Find out how to make yourself more marketable after you graduate college.
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