10 pieces of bad career advice

By Adam Johnston on 10 May 2018

If you feel like you've reached a crossroads in your career and are not quite sure which way to turn, it makes sense to seek a little guidance.

Asking for career advice might be one of the best things you can do - this can help you get back on track and move in the right direction.

But of course, the advice all depends on who you ask and what you want out of your job. There are plenty of people who will be willing to lend an ear and give guidance on what your next course of action could be for your career - but that's not to say they all know what they're talking about.

If you spend too much time asking for guidance and listening to bad career advice from the wrong people, you can quickly find yourself in a much greater pickle than before.

It's important to differentiate between disastrous career advice with misguided attempts to point you in the wrong direction and good career advice built on sound logic.

View our slideshare on 10 pieces of bad career advice that you should avoid at all costs or continue reading below:


With this in mind, you want to be alert to the common pieces of bad career advice people could offer you.

Follow these tips if you choose, but don't say we didn't warn you!

1. Take a job you don't want

Unless you are destitute and need an income - any income, straight away - it isn't a good idea to settle for the first job that comes along. How long will it be until you're desperate to leave your new job as well? In all likelihood, it won't take much time until you are ready to switch jobs again.

Switching jobs too often will raise concerns among hiring managers - they don't want to choose somebody who will be looking for the exit door in three months' time. Being identified as a job hopper could dissuade employers from taking you on. If you have time, the better advice is to wait for a job you really want to do, this is a much better course of action for your career.

2. Let ability determine your career and job

You're much more likely to have a fulfilling and successful career if you choose a line of work that interests you. Just because you excelled in a particular subject at school, it doesn't mean you have to be pigeon-holed for the rest of your life.

You, and only you alone can choose your career path, so make sure it's for the right reason - because you have a genuine interest or passion rather than listening to bad career advice someone has given you. This will help ensure you look forward to work every morning, rather than dread turning up to work.

3. Go for the highest salary

Similarly, chasing roles only because they offer the highest basic pay is bad career advice. Just because an organisation offers an attractive salary, it doesn't mean they are a good employer to work for and it is a good job. Nor does it mean the role will be interesting or intrinsically rewarding.

If you go for the big bucks, you can expect to be under pressure from minute one and work long hours to get through a demanding workload. This might appeal to some professionals, but it's not for everyone - choose wisely.

To establish what you should be earning, based on the current industry average, consult the Robert Half Salary Guide. Knowing your worth as a professional is important - you don't want to get stuck in a job on less money than your colleagues.

4. Stay in a job for security and ease

If the guidance you are given is to stay in a job simply because it offers long-term security and you can do your work in your sleep, the best years of your career might sail by - so don't listen to these people giving you bad career advice.

This lack of ambition could come back to haunt you later on in your career, when you're getting passed over for promotion and struggling to improve your earnings and workplace status. Unless you invest in your career and attempt to keep moving forwards, you can easily get stuck in a rut.

5. Worry about your limitations

On the one hand, it is beneficial to know your strengths and weaknesses - a degree of self-awareness can be an important quality. But at the same time, there is always a danger that you sell yourself short, and fail to reach your potential.

If you assume you won't be considered for more senior roles and as such, don't apply for them, then what chance have you got of moving up the ladder? Sometimes professionals need to put themselves out there, beyond their comfort zone, and fight for the next opportunity. Let others decide whether you have the necessary skills, qualifications and experience to progress.

6. Sit tight and wait for a pay rise

As the saying goes, 'if you don't ask, you don't get'. So if your strategy for increasing your income is to wait for your employer to come to you, you might be waiting a long time. Professionals need to take the bull by the horns sometimes and demand an improved contract or greater responsibility in the workplace.

If your employer says no, then at least you know where you stand. Any future career decisions can be made with this knowledge in mind.

7. Wait for your turn to progress

In a similar vein, don't assume there is an established 'pecking order' within your business and an orderly queue for promotion. Organisations want to keep their best people onboard and motivated and this means allowing talented professionals to rise through the ranks.

If you're seen as someone who may have leadership potential, you may be able to secure a promotion before your ‘natural turn’. Ways to achieve this include volunteering for extra responsibilities, finding a way to increase efficiencies and boosting revenue for your organisation.

8. Suck up to senior people

Honesty and integrity go a long way, so you want to be wary of doing too much brown-nosing. Firstly, your colleagues will be on to you from the start and secondly, so will your bosses - they'll have seen it all before.

It's easy enough to tell when people are not being genuine and you'll struggle to develop your career if you're viewed as a 'snake in the grass'. Being authentic is the best way to build strong relationships in the workplace and impress senior people within your organisation.

9. Work to live, don't live to work

OK, we all enjoy our days off and leisure/family time in the evenings after work. But if all you care about is your social life, then it's likely you're going to have an unfulfilling career. Working full-time, you could spend 40 hours a week in the office, so the last thing you want to do is end up in a dead-end job you hate.

The way to avoid this nightmare scenario - and get more out of life as a whole - is to aim for a career that appeals to you and to achieve a better work-life balance.

10. Know when to give up

It could take a number of attempts to land a new job or promotion, with plenty of disappointment along the way. You need to brush off the setbacks and keep going, however long it takes.

If you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and have put in the necessary groundwork - in terms of building your CV - somebody will take a chance on you eventually. You just have to stick at it until the opportunity comes your way - now that is not bad career advice.

Learn from Robert Half’s expert recruiters so you can build a talented team of employees or advance your career. Operating in over 300 locations worldwide and as one of the best recruitment agencies in Hong Kong, Robert Half can provide you with assistance where and when you need it.

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