The workplace is a place of social interaction, complete with power dynamics, cliques, popular kids, and of course, its own mythology. As with any myth, the reason workplace or career myths come to be is due in part to their believability and in part because of their pervasiveness. A concerted effort in critical thinking can help to validate or dispel some common myths. Here are my top ten work/career words of dubious wisdom that you need to get rid of immediately.
Cover letters are passé. Cover letters remain a critical tool in any job search. While they are less likely to be read than ever before, there is still a significant chance that someone will peruse your cover. The cover letter provides you the opportunity to pitch yourself to a recruiter or hiring manager. There’s no good reason not to include one.
A job search should be a full-time job. A job search should be a targeted effort; it should not eat up 40+ hours per week. I advise clients to spend 50% of their time networking, 40% of their time on brand-building, and 10% of their time completing online job applications.
Studying a STEM discipline is the only way to succeed. A liberal arts education can provide skills that are just as much in demand as STEM skills. The key to success with a non-STEM or non-business degree is to do internships and build your professional network.
You must perfectly match all requirements listed in a job description to have a shot at an interview. Job descriptions are pie-in-the-sky wish lists. It is highly unlikely that the hiring manager is going to find someone who meets all of the listed criteria.
Coming in early and staying late are the marks of a dedicated employee. Good managers don’t do bed checks. Good managers care about results. Showing up and existing are not achievements.
There’s a perfect career for you. Nothing is perfect. Obviously.
Self-employment is totally liberating, and you don’t have to answer to anyone. Self-employment can most definitely be liberating, but it comes with its unique challenges. When you’re self-employed, you need to have more self-discipline than the average employee of a company. You also have to answer to clients and customers all the time. Self-employment is a LOT of work. It also doesn’t guarantee a steady income.
Hard work pays off. “Hard work” is subjective. Hard work does not necessarily pay off. Accomplishments pay off. Taking on high-profile projects pays off. Delivering superior results pays off.
You should always be accessible. In an era of smartphones and mobile technology, it can be difficult to disengage from work. But responding to client emails at 11 PM does you no favors. The only thing that does is tell your clients and coworkers that you’re never unavailable. Set some boundaries.
Work/life balance can be achieved. This is an urban myth that is typically pushed on women, but men hear it sometimes too. The problem with this is that it assumes you have two totally separate lives—one personal and one professional. There will be times that work will take priority over your personal life and vice versa. Let go of the guilt and aim for integration. Balance means different things to different people.