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Taking This Job Advice Too Literally Could Kill Your Career

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failure & success keys

During the course of your career, you’ll hear a lot of advice. Sometimes you’ll ask for it, other; times it will come unsolicited. You will get some advice you’ll always remember and plenty you’ll immediately try to forget.

To be truly successful, you need to determine the difference between good and bad advice as it relates to your own career aspirations. That means you’ll need to learn how to keep the useful parts and leave the rest.

Even clichéd advice can be helpful under the right circumstances. In general, most advice should be taken as more of a guideline than a strict rule. Don’t make the mistake of taking every piece of guidance word for word.

What follows is some advice that needs to be interpreted before you put it into practice:

“Don’t be nice or you’ll finish last”

Nice guys (and girls) do not always finish last, so advice to the contrary should be taken with a grain of salt. People who dispense this wisdom are under the mistaken impression that “nice” is synonymous with “weak.”  The truth is that you can be a nice person and a strong person at the same time.

In fact, being well-liked can actually help your career. People are more likely to want to work with someone nice than someone nasty. Leaders who are kind and respectful to their teams help foster a more pleasant work environment, improve loyalty and increase employee engagement.

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”

You can put on a tiara and hold a scepter, but that doesn’t transform you into an actual princess. Dressing properly is a big part of establishing a professional image. However, dressing for the job you want only works if the style still makes sense for the job you have.

If you work in sales and dream of being an artist, you can’t wear paint-splattered overalls to a client meeting. Your job aspirations as well as your company culture should determine the way you dress. One public relations company may appreciate employees who dress trendy while another one prefers simple, classic attire.

You don’t have to look just like everyone else, but you should figure out what’s appropriate for your daily wardrobe. Keep your duties, company and goals in mind. No matter what you wear, looking neat and well-groomed is a must.

“Follow your dreams”

If you were to take “follow your dreams” literally, who knows what sort of crazy shenanigans you would pursue. Sitting on a cloud made of marshmallows that’s floating above your second grade classroom is a dream. Becoming an accountant or owning a business, however, is a goal. Focus on striving for a specific career path and take actionable steps toward making your goals happen.

Some goals are easier to attain than others, which is why it’s important to set action items. If your end goal is to start a nonprofit, begin with figuring out what kind. Then volunteer with successful nonprofits so you can learn more, move on to a paid position, work toward a management position and so on.

These actionable steps will keep you moving forward and allow you to transition from your dreams into something real. Go in the direction of what you love, and then take meticulous action to reach your goals.

“Don’t stress over money; money isn’t everything”

Whether you like it or not, your life does revolve around money. You will always have bills to pay, budgets to manage and people who depend on you. Family, friends and happiness are more important than money, but hugs from your kids and high-fives from your friends will not pay your bills. When it comes to your career, money isn’t the most important factor—but it is an important factor nonetheless.

Your career satisfaction should not rest solely on salary. However, you do need to figure out your worth. You shouldn’t fear salary negotiation, nor should you expect to be making six figures straight out of college. Understanding money and getting the right pay for your work will make it much easier to not stress about finances.

One-size-fits-all advice may be well-meaning, but it isn’t always helpful. Listen to career advice, but learn how to adapt it to suit your needs.

Erin Palmer writes about business schools and finance programs for Business Administration Information. Erin can be reached on Twitter @Erin_E_Palmer.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.yepi8.org/ yepi8

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  • stevevo

    I’ve interviewed hundreds of people in both my current (Track What Matters Fleet Tracking) and former management positions (Verizon). Your first 2 points are essential to a hiring manager at any level. No one wants to work with someone who is unpleasant. That person would disrupt the environment. If you have job requirements you want to ensure, approach them in a kind manner.

    Above all else, what I look for the most, is the ability to solve problems. In every job, something will go wrong. Let me know how you handle adversity. Can you do so quickly with professionalism? In every position, especially technical and sales, I want this quality above all others.

    Best wishes.

  • http://twitter.com/VictoriaCrispo Victoria Crispo

    I love the distinction between having a dream and having a goal, and that “follow your dreams” is not always the absolute best advice if taken literally. It can start as a dream, but sitting down and developing a workable action plan is an important step as well.

  • Razwana

    One size definitely does not fit all, Erin. Advice givers give advice from their experience, and the advice takers must see this context before applying the advice!

    The conflicting advice of ‘stay for a company for a long time’ vs. ‘don’t stay at a company for more than x years’ is one of those generic pieces of advice that does not apply to every situation. Context. people!

    – Razwana

  • http://twitter.com/IAmRichJones Rich Jones

    Just seeing this article. I laughed and got value from it. Way to strike a balance. Also a fan of distinguishing between a dream and a goal. Hadn’t thought of it from this perspective before.

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