Top ten pieces of old, outdated career advice that you should ignore

Over the last 30 years, the job market has fundamentally changed. The advent of the internet and the ensuing Information Age, along with a complete revision of the postwar employment contract has placed the onus of managing one’s career on the individual, rather than on the company. But with this responsibility comes a heightened degree of freedom—freedom to make choices about our own careers. However—and I see this every day—far too many pieces of archaic or just plain wrong career advice persist. Here is my top ten list of things that you should ignore.

Go drop off your resume/apply for jobs in person. No. Just no. You must follow the application instructions set forth by the employer. No employer wants you to just swing by unannounced. 

Do what you love and make a career out of it. This is disingenuous because too many people take this literally. I love reading novels. It would be very difficult to turn that into a career. There are ways to integrate elements of your personal interests into your career. For example, I recently coached a young woman who was passionate about nail polish. Yes, nail polish! She just accepted an offer with a market research firm, where she will be an entry-level analyst on the cosmetic industry. 

Put an objective and your mailing address on your resume. No.

Get an entry-level job and then work your way up. Although this is still possible, it often does not advance a job seeker’s goal. Sometimes the best course of action is to take an entry-level job for a few years and then parlay that into a better role for better compensation at a different employer.

Don’t ask a recruiter or hiring manager about the compensation package. There remains a pervasive idea that asking about what the job pays is somehow rude or bad form. Utter nonsense. People go to work to earn money. Salary and benefits are critical when discussing a new role. 

If a prospective employer asks for your salary history, you are required to tell them. An employer may want your salary history. But that doesn’t mean that they need it or that you should divulge it. You are not required to disclose your personal financial information to anyone. In fact, in many jurisdictions—including New York City and Massachusetts—it is now illegal for an employer to ask for your salary history.

You should stay in a job for at least five years before taking on a new role. Old rules no longer apply. Short stints where you learn new things are not viewed as job hopping; they’re strategic advancements on your part. 

You should go to grad school/law school/get your MBA. There can be good reasons for furthering your education. But it is a decision that should not be entered into lightly. An advanced degree does not guarantee employment, a certain career path, or a higher salary. And it’s a significant investment in time and money.

The most qualified person gets the job. The candidate who presents himself best is usually the one who gets the job. 

There is no such thing as the wage gap. Exhaustive peer-reviewed, non-partisan scholarship validates the existence of the wage gap among genders and races. It is real. It marginalizes people. Instead of denying the fact of its existence, work to engender wage parity.


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