what’s the worst career advice you ever received?

There is a lot of bad career advice out there, being dispensed from parents, friends, coworkers, campus career centers, and even professional advice givers. From suggestions that you lie to get a job to being told that there’s nothing wrong with not eating a business lunch, bad advice abounds … and I want to hear your most egregious examples of it.

You recently shared the best career advice you ever received, and now it’s time for the worst. So — what’s the worst career advice you ever received, and who gave it to you? And you’ll get bonus points if it’s not about job searching, since that’s such an easy target.

{ 469 comments… read them below }

  1. Mary Sue*

    Take a receptionist job and work your way up.

    I had a bachelor’s degree, three years in the industry, and was well on my way to a master’s, and this was the advice I got.

    From a hiring manager who was interviewing me for a mid level position in line with my career goals and skills.

    1. businesslady*

      heh, that’s actually what I did to land my current role! but I wasn’t in grad school, & I’d only been out of undergrad two years when I took the receptionist job.

      on a related note, when I leveled up out of the admin world, my soon-to-be new boss told me I’d have to name a number first during the salary negotiation (it was an internal promotion). I did some research & realized a big pay bump would be warranted, so I prepared to name a number slightly higher than what I thought was actually fair (as you do)–about a 50% increase. my parents were ADAMANT that I was being ridiculous & that I should ask for closer to 10% to avoid alienating them.

      …I didn’t listen (figuring that my coworkers knew me well enough to make an informed hiring decision &, as a corollary, knew that I’d negotiated pretty hardball when I was hired & when I received an earlier, smaller promotion).

      as a result of sticking to my guns, I ended up with a 40% raise. I was pretty proud of myself for a variety of reasons when that happened, but the ability to tell my parents “I told you so” (nicely, of course) was an added bonus. :)

      1. EmPowerMe*

        Good for you! I love to hear about a female successfully playing “hardball” and not being afraid to ask for what we deserve!

        1. ITPuffNStuff*

          Definite high fives to Businesslady for negotiating what she deserves, but not sure I understand how gender is relevant?


          1. Melissa*

            Because women often do not negotiate their salaries up or ask for raises, because we are socialized to be nice ladies and not ask for what we think we deserve.

      2. Chinook*

        I had the same discussion with my grandmother who thought I was too pushy when it came to negotiating wages. I don’t know what she thought would happen when I pushed back and ask for more money or a waiving of a probationary period for benefits. She just thought it wasn’t very “lady-like.”

        1. businesslady*

          I know, it’s one of my greatest frustrations as a feminist. I’ve spent a whole lot of time deprogramming myself from all the “be nice & accommodating!” messages I inadvertently internalized while growing up (which often would lead me to stay in friendships, relationships, jobs, etc. longer than was actually productive for my well-being), & I imagine I’m not alone in that.

          the thing is, I don’t think ANYone feels comfortable in a salary discussion–or at least, not most people. but for men that discomfort seems to register as “ugh, this is unpleasant/awkward for ME” but women tend to add a layer of “ugh, I’m making things unpleasant/awkward for THEM & if that means they don’t LIKE ME anymore then ALL IS LOST.”

          which is unfortunate. because I’ve said before–here, on other boards when this has come up, & in real life to anyone who’ll listen–it’s extraordinarily rare to have things go sour during the negotiation process. & as my dad always says (ironically enough, given his advice above)–“if ya don’t ask, ya don’t get.”

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I have a BA from a top university and took the advice that you disdained. I’m now making 6 figures and my company paid for my masters. Not sure why this advice was so terrible to hear unless you thought you were “too good” for that type of work.

      1. Anon*

        It’s probably because she was already well – established in her career so going back to an entry-level job probably didn’t make that much sense to her (but it makes sense if you’re just starting out like you were)

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I wasn’t just starting out. I already had 4 years of non-admin experience.

      2. Michelle*

        I read that advice as the kind of sexist rhetoric that would only get directed at a female candidate– there’s nothing wrong with being a receptionist, of course, but if you are interviewing for a higher-level position that you are qualified to do, it’s insulting (doubly so if she wasn’t interviewing for anything related to admin/reception work).

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I was in the same exact situation as the OP. I already had experience and it was definitely a step down for me to accept a receptionist position. But I took the risk and ended up getting promoted twice in 5 years. I was given that advice not because the person was being sexist, but because they knew there was a good chance I’d get promoted once I got my foot in the door. I could have interpreted the remark as sexist, but I chose not to and it worked out well for me.

          1. Penny*

            But why did you have to start at the bottom to move up if you already had the experience for the job? Do you think a man would have been told to start as a receptionist with 4 years experience under his belt?

      3. Tinker*

        While it does work out for some people and is advisable in certain scenarios to take a job that’s substantially below one’s qualifications, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to consider that advice to be mis-targeted in the general case of a person who has a degree and work experience that qualifies them for higher-level work.

        It’s not “thinking above one’s station” to be looking for positions that are appropriate for one’s qualifications.

      4. Kou*

        Well, in what way is it good advice? Say you work there in an totally unrelated position (reception, something clerical and entry-level) when you want to do specialized work much higher on the food chain. What are the odds they’ll promote you repeatedly toward what you want when you have no related experience vs an outside candidate who does have the related experience? Because they know you and like you? That doesn’t get the work done.

        Granted, a few employers work this way. A few. You should never go in expecting this to happen.

      5. Cosima*

        Because all too often, it’s once a receptionist, always a receptionist. Being “too good” has nothing to do with it; it’s all about understanding how easy it is to be trapped by low-level jobs.

      6. Xay*

        Because for every supervisor who sees potential in a receptionist to branch out to other work, there is one who thinks that admin/receptionist skills could never translate to a professional position. I’ve worked for both.

    3. Jane*

      I think that’s the only way to do it in certain industries. Not sure if it’s a universal thing though.

    4. Kelly O*

      This is very, very subjective.

      There are lots of individuals who started off as the receptionist, or in the mail room, who’ve moved up the ladder. I think it depends on so many variables you can’t really discount it. (And it depends a lot on your company too. And potentially includes lateral moves, which some people are not okay with.)

      1. Tinker*

        It does depend a lot on individual circumstances.

        That said, one of my worst career blunders so far was based on a similar notion — not to work as a receptionist specifically, but to take a step back in pay and position in order to “pay my dues” for another opportunity. As it turned out, the offer was indicative of larger truths of working in that industry, it caused me substantial financial strain, and in addition I was not a very good fit. I bailed for grad school seven months later, having seen that the boot was coming, I was so situationally depressed that an employed job search was infeasible, and the economy was in the shit.

        Were it not for that I came up with that awesome idea alllll on my own, it’d be the frontrunner for my “worst advice” prize.

    5. Amy*

      That worked for me. I took a receptionist/AA position at a small nonprofit, and I left three years later as a researcher. I was then able to get a program director job at another organization, and my career progressed from there exactly as I wanted it to. It was a great way to get into an organization I really wanted to work for, but that didn’t have a good opening at the time I was looking.

    6. Forrest*

      I think more people should take receptionist-type jobs. Simply because I feel like being an administrative assistant helped me become more organized and develop time management skills.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Good point Forrest. I think it also causes people to treat admins better – sort of like how former waitstaff are usually really good tippers.

    7. Meg*

      Why is this bad advice again? Taking a job as a receptionist allowed me to transition into another role at the same company, which allowed me to start my career. If I hadn’t taken that job, there’s a very good chance I’d still be waiting tables full-time (which is not my career goal).

      Granted, working as a receptionist might have been a little below your skill level at that point in your life, but this is really good advise for plenty of people who are just starting out and/or don’t have a specific career in mind.

      1. Anon*

        She didn’t say it was generally bad advice – she just said it was bad advice for her!

    8. Chinook*

      Mary Sue, I would agree that, since you already had industry experience, taking a receptionist job to work your way up would be a bad idea. But, count me among those that have worked her way out of the receptionist/admin assistant world. My newest job, which I got through a temp agency, through me for a loop on the first day when the admin assistant told me to call her if the copier is giving me issues or if I needed supplies. I always thought that would be me. Turns out that my accounting, oilfield knowledge (from just living in Alberta) and excel skills were enough to get me into something different. Who knew?

      On a side note, it is weird not being the AA after doing it for so long. I am spending this week wrapping my head around the fact that I don’t need to check with others to see if they have something else for me to do for them.

    9. Angie*

      I am curious what your response was when she said that to you! Did you politely thank her for the advice or did you point out to her that a receptionist position wasnt really in line with your experience and career goals. Not that there is anything wrong with being a receptionist (I did that while I was in college).

    10. Kou*

      I know this has worked for a lot of people, but I always picture all the people who write letters to AAM upset that they were passed over for an internal promotion that they had been banking on for an outside candidate who’d been doing more focused work already.

      1. Leslie Yep*

        Yes. I’m one of those who this worked well for–really well, in fact. But I wasn’t promoted as a matter of course. I was promoted because I aggressively sought new opportunities and professional development, and much more importantly, because I had unwavering advocates in my managers and mentors. I started at about the same time as several other AAs in my division. All of the rest of them are still AAs, despite wanting new roles.

        I really firmly believe that admin support positions can be an incredible proving ground and springboard to other roles, but it is foolish to think that this is certain to be the case. You need to be mindful and purposeful about it.

        1. April*

          Hi Leslie, your testimony is one I really admire. I’m currently an AA/receptionist wanting to move up in a small nonprofit organization but I’m not sure how to balance wanting to move up in the org with not wanting to be perceived as dissatisfied with my current role. How did you go about balancing this? What advice would you give for how you were mindful and purposeful about your growth through the org?

    11. Anonymous*

      Every person who has worked at the front desk in my office has stayed for a year or two and used the position to build networks and transition to a full-time career in the field they want. They do it by getting a receptionist job in an office directly related to their career interests, expressing interest in learning more about the field and taking on new responsibilities, and impressing everyone by being awesome at their job. We’ve even hired 2 student employees directly out of undergrad (over people with more work experience and master’s degrees) because we knew the student workers and they had a whole year to impress us with their abilities and work ethic, rather than just 1-2 hours during an interview. Of course, I suppose it all depends on what your eventual career goals are – if you want to be a nurse or an engineer, then starting out as a receptionist is probably not going to help a lot.

      1. JCC*

        Some companies make a very sharp divide between management and non-management career paths, sort of like the officer/non-officer divide in the military. This has been true since the 1950s, when Vance Packard wrote about it in “The Status Seekers”; in those types of companies, “starting at the bottom” only works if you’re on the appropriate ladder.

  2. Anonymous*

    Probably the grad school career adviser who told me that for every 10 applications, I would get 5 call-backs, 2 interviews, and 1 offer. This was in 2009. Not so much career “advice”, but it certainly gave me false expectations about what it was like to look for a Grown Up Job.

      1. Anon*

        The numbers will vary depending on the market conditions and the demand in the field – I graduated with 5 offers out of 8 interviews in 2000 in finance.

    1. SevenSixOne*


      I got about 5 callbacks, 2 interviews, and one offer… in the span of 6 months in which I sent out an average of ten apps a week. No doubt your hit ratio varies wildly depending on all kinds of things, but implying that any given app has a 10% chance of ending with an offer is absurd.

  3. full-time underemployed*

    In looking to change companies (not career fields), it’s OK to lateral for less money or take a lower-ranking position.

    1. EnnVeeEl*

      Yeah, this is bad. Once you take that paycut…Good luck seeing that money for a while.

    2. K-Anon*

      Agreed, a good friend was pushing for me to leave my current role to join his company, I would have given up a lot of seniority, including PTO and the reputation I built for what i’d see as a slightly lesser job and no real benifit. He assured me I’d have better opportunity. 4 months later I finally got the promotion I’d been hoping for, a big raise and a great bonus. I would have lost a lot of money and set my career back a ways if I had done that.

      I don’t disagree that it can be a good move if you are in a bad situation, but never jump just because the grass may be greener!

    3. Arla*

      Ugh, this. My father constantly insisted that I consider pay cuts (and I’m not talking small ones, I’m talking 30-40% pay cuts) and lower-ranking work when I got laid off. Which did not help me find a job faster. I could not make him understand that being way, way overqualified for something was not a plus.

    4. Former Usher*

      Agreed. Don’t do this. More specifically, don’t leave a stable job at megacorp for a lateral move and paycut at a small company because you think it might be interesting. Sigh.

      1. Larsen*

        A total winner! I nearly went to law school in 2005, which meant that would have graduated in 2008, deeply in debt as the economy hit the skids. I feel like I dodged a bullet.

    1. Helen*

      Ha! I graduated from law school last May and am still searching for a job, so yea… ;-) Basically.

    2. Sophie*


      I am a junior lawyer, but whenever I meet someone who wants to go to law school, I try to convince them out of it. Especially the young and impressionable types who think that they’re going to become empowered to save the world.

  4. Sara*

    “You can type, you can speak English and you have a HS diploma, you can EASILY get a job as a receptionist/secretary!”

    While I was in college.

    1. JamieG*

      I’m still getting “But you’re really good with computers! And you speak English, so that’s got to count for something.”

      (In this case, “really good with computers” translates to “taught me how to change the font in MS Word”, basically.)

      1. Anonymous*

        Years ago, one of my bosses passed the word around the office that I was a computer genius — because I knew you had to double click the “setup.exe” icon to install a program.

        It was really awkward.

        1. Jamie*

          Hee. Ages ago I was told I was good at computers because I could follow directions on the phone when IT needed someone on site to reboot the server.

          I ran with it. :)

  5. full-time underemployed*

    Oh, and “Go to law school, because it’ll open so many doors.”

    1. also full-time underemployed*

      This. My law degree is currently useless in my low-to-mid level administrative job.

    2. Anna*

      Exactly. I can’t tell you how many people told me that I didn’t have to worry about wanting to be a lawyer in order to go to law school.

    3. Cruciatus*

      My friend graduated from law school in 2008 and still hasn’t found a job in that field. He even had a recommendation from someone holding a high office in his state. For a long while he was refusing to work in any other field but law. He’s now getting his Master’s in some sort of engineering field (though he already has a B.A. in another engineering field). The time and effort of law school, law school loan payments, and lack of ANY job prospects in ANY field has made him severely depressed. And he can’t defer his loan payments forever (but he can temporarily…hence the Master’s degree he’s studying for). I really hope something comes his way soon….

    4. Natalie*

      Despite all the press attention the lawyer glut is getting, people are literally still telling me this on a somewhat regular basis.

      1. Larsen*

        The glut is very real. Unless it’s for your own intellectual satisfaction and you have an assured income, give law school a miss for a few years.

    5. EM*

      This. If you don’t believe it, lurk on the comments on Corporette. Many, many law school grads can’t get a job as a lawyer (or even paralegal), and those that do have jobs seem to be uniformly miserable at soul-sucking jobs.

    6. littlemoose*

      Oh Lord yes. I graduated from law school in 2008 and passed the bar right after the bottom dropped out of the economy. I was underemployed for a year and a half before moving across the state for a job (which I still have and love). I was very fortunate to get my job, and had difficulty securing employment despite having good grades and passing the bar exam. I know several other lawyers who have struggled to find permanent employment. My friend’s first legal job paid less than a starting school teacher in our area. I wouldn’t tell anyone to give up on law school if they know, for sure, that they want to be a lawyer. But absolutely do not go to law school just because you can’t figure out what else to do career-wise, or because you think there will always be well-paying jobs available. There is a glut of lawyers that likely will not abate anytime soon. A lot of people also discover that practicing law isn’t anything like what they expected and change careers – something like 40% of people with law degrees are not practicing law. It’s generally a demanding profession time-wise, with higher-than-average rates of divorce, depression, and substance abuse. So, if you really want to be a lawyer, go to law school but be realistic about your prospects. If you aren’t sure whether you want to be a lawyer or you can’t think of anything better to do, well, law school is probably not a good option.

      Also, in my admittedly limited personal experience, a law degree is not nearly as “transferable” as people will lead you to believe. If you already have a specialized niche or career (e.g., business or science), yes, a law degree can make you even more marketable and open up some opportunities, but those tend to be higher-level, more experienced positions (I’m thinking corporate counsel, which is basically never entry-level). So don’t fall prey to this line of argument either.

    7. Helen*

      This! I replied to the previous poster who mentioned going to law school. But yea, count me in as part of the unemployed with a J.D. crowd. There are times I think the J.D. closes more doors than it actually opens.

      1. littlemoose*

        Yeah. I am pretty sure that I was deemed “overqualified” for a lot of jobs for which I applied, even in roles where it could have been beneficial (e.g., compliance/regulatory officer).

      2. tcookson*

        Yeah . . . around 2009 or so we advertised a receptionist position, and we had Ph. D applicants, J.D. applicants, etc. and they did not stand one single chance of getting that job . . .

  6. Erika Kerekes*

    “Say whatever you need to say to close the sale. Then we can worry about resetting expectations.” This from a seasoned sales manager. I wasn’t in sales, so he wasn’t saying it directly to me, but this is what he was telling his sales reps to do re: the professional services I was responsible for managing.

    1. E.R*

      As a sales rep myself, that makes me cringe! For the rep, the company, and the profession, that’s all bad news.

    2. EM*

      Ugh. A lot of large companies in my field do this. They underbid projects and then request change orders later. Not cool.

    3. Julie*

      I think the sales people in the training company I used to work for must have done this. Fairly often I (or another trainer) would be assigned to teach a class that was virtually impossible to deliver. For example: a few introductory topics and several advanced topics in the same class (very bad idea) or 10 hours’ worth of topics in a six hour class… you get the idea. :( Or the manager of a team would decide on the course agenda, but it wasn’t what the students really needed to learn (and the manager wasn’t in the class to explain his/her choice of topics). At least I learned to think on my feet and change course on a moment’s notice! :)

  7. Rebecca*

    My brother-in-law is in his first job out of college. My mother-in-law loves to give him career advice; she has been a stay at home mom/wife most of her life. Not that a stay at home mom would necessarily give bad advice… but this one does. One of her gems that I remember had to do with deadlines.

    “If you finish your project early, still wait until the due date to turn it in. You don’t want them to know you can finish your work faster than that.”

    Oh, and working extra when you’re salaried: “Don’t ever stay past the end of your shift, they’re not paying you for that.”

    Thankfully, he’s generally figured out not to listen to her advice.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Actually, I’m with your mother-in-law on that first piece of advice…sometimes. Sometimes you have to bust your ass and hand something in early because there really is an emergency. But I’ve found that clients and coworkers don’t understand the difference between “went above and beyond to deliver” and “can work this fast all the time.”

      Sometimes padding timelines is necessary because you’re never working on just one project at a time — so you might be able to finish something in three days when you have five days to do it, but WHICH three days you use depends on the rest of your workload. And if you use the first three days, and then turn the project in early, you better believe the next time you get handed a timeline, you’ll have three days to do the same work. And if you say, “This time I can’t do it, because I also have XYZ on my plate,” you hear back, “But you did it in three days last time! And I already promised the client you would!”

      Can you tell I’ve been burned by this one a few times? My advice would be “Be judicious about when you turn in work early, and make sure you only do it with people who won’t abuse your extra effort.”

      1. Jazzy Red*

        I agree with this a million times over!

        And if the boss is asking when you’ll have it done, you say “I promise it will be done on time, even if I have to work all night!” You don’t mention that you’ll be finished a day early.

        1. Anonymous*

          Really depends on what it is. If your boss knows it’s something that usually takes (say) a day to do, they might question your competence if you worked all night.

    2. Brandy*

      Ugh, my career stay-at-home mom doles out advice like this to my recently-graduated-college baby sister. I do damage control on almost a weekly basis. Latest example: sister is quitting. Mom says she should give employer 6+ weeks notice to be nice. I let my sister know that unless she was sure it wouldn’t harm her job, 2 weeks is plenty, 3 weeks is great. (she’s in a totally replaceable role).

    3. Yup*

      I got similar advice from a coworker when I was a data entry temp. “You’re going too fast. Slow down so the work lasts.” Um, OK. Why don’t we go veeeeeeeery slooooooooowly to finish every single task, and then we’ll have employment here forever! Because that’s totally how this works! We should make a bunch of mistakes too, to prove to them that the work is really hard.

      1. patchinko*

        when i was a temp, i definitely slowed myself down. i didn’t do it to an absurd degree, but you know, when you’re paid hourly, you have a set task, and someone else takes 2 hours longer to do something than you do, your reward for your efficiency is less money.

        if i was hoping to get a permanent job at the place i was temping, i might work at full efficiency. but if not, if it takes the average person an 8 hour day to finish something i am NOT shortchanging myself by doing it in 6. there is no reward for that, and i am super cynical about temping.

        oh and even slowing myself down, i was constantly complimented on my efficiency so……

        1. Chinook*

          I had the opposite experience as a temp. I don’t have a “slow” mode and, if I finished something ahead of schedule, the employer often had more things for me to do (which were often either more interesting or more complicated but they knew by then that they could trust me) and they would specifically ask for me in the future and/or find room for me in their organization as a permanent employee.

          1. patchinko*

            when i finished early (and i did not go so fast that i made mistakes), i got sent home, so i responded accordingly.

        2. Anonymous*

          To some extent, slowing down can be good, because you’re giving yourself enough mental space to avoid silly mistakes. A huge part of efficiency is getting it right the first time.

          1. -X-*

            Never done temp work but have worked in some small factories as an hourly worker. It’s bad to deliberately slow down, but at the same time you have to generally work at a pace that is sustainable for you. If there is an emergency, pick it up, but don’t feel you have to be killing yourself to rush all the time.

            I sometimes have interns (office environment) who work too fast. They make mistakes and/or are stressing themselves. Do good work, on time if possible, or a little faster if you can without too much stress. Not intentionally slow, not unsustainably fast. In the long-run that will serve you well.

        3. Rana*

          Temping – and then working hourly – ruined my efficiency for awhile. My preferred mode is to go all-out and streamline as much as possible so that I can have the time for other things. This doesn’t work so well if you don’t get paid for that saved time, or, worse, end up pushing things around your already very clean and organized office trying not to go insane from boredom.

          And that was with taking on extra work – which, yes, made clients love me – there still wasn’t enough to keep me busy for a full 8 hours unless I slowed myself down.

          It took several years for me to remember how to work intensively and efficiently, after that.

          1. Jessa*

            This, a lot of companies have no real sense for how long x takes to do. Which with proper temps (read really efficient self starters who learn new stuff on the fly,) this produces a problem. We’re told it’s a 4 week job, get there and it’s like no a normal person could do this in a week maybe 10 days.

            I had one job nobody told me they expected to take a week or more and I literally did it in a day and a half (it was a typing/data entry thing.)

            1. Jessa*

              Oh and I also forgot to say, this also impacts the agency, because they might charge a little less for a longer term than for a short one, and they get stiffed out of the difference between 1.5 weeks and 4 weeks fees as well.

    4. Anonymous*

      Perhaps it’s because I’m cynical or because I’ve been working for over 20 years, but I agree with both pieces of advice.

    5. Manda*

      Ugh! Bad advice from my stay-at-home mom drives me nuts. Like she has a clue? When the store I worked at closed, she asked if I got reference letters from anyone and I told her I got phone numbers but she tried to tell me that a letter is better. *facepalm* How is that going to help me when (a) no one wants to read it, and (b) I’m trying to get out of retail and a letter might be irrelevant anyway? And hell, I doubt the supervisors wanted to waste their time writing piles of letters for everybody. Then she tells me I should check the local lottery corporation’s website since I studied math and stats. Well for one thing, I don’t have to go to their website because any openings will likely get posted to some job board, or if they’re posted to their site, they’ll show up in an Indeed search or something. Aside from that, I’m pretty damn sure they would rather hire someone with a graduate degree in stats and not just a handful of courses to do any consulting. And, I’m also pretty damn sure there are well established theories that model all the games for casinos, VLT’s, scratch tickets, etc. And it’s hard to even explain why her suggestion is pointless.

      As for my dad, he works in construction and doesn’t have a clue how things work outside of that world. He seems to think I can just walk into a government building with a resume. *rolls eyes*

  8. Lisa*

    Smile … I told my boss that he shouldn’t say things to me that he wouldn’t say to Joe (golden boy in the office). That included telling me 6 times in 3 hours how lovely I looked one day. Client meeting day so I dressed up in a skirt. Told the boss that I was ready to smack him for his gender comments (obv not the best way, but it got my point across and led me to also bring up instances where he shakes my chair when passing my cube, playfully throwing pens at only women during meetings, comments on female clients and how hot they are. I was sick of it, but basically being told to smile is the worst because he never tells grumpy (director who is never happy / always stressed) to smile, but I am busy and don’t talk for a few hours and suddenly I am called into his office cause he is concerned over my attitude cause I am looking stressed / not smiling. I end up spending hours defending that I am working and busy all over him passing my cube and not seeing me smile.

    Best advice ever on how to deal with this boss. All interactions must be positive, smile, laugh at his jokes, and fake it. Act like you are riding a unicorn over rainbows if you have to. Cause his perception of me = whether I get a raise. The rainbow unicorns imagery is invoked whenever we get frustrated by this stuff.

    1. EmPowerMe*

      Ugh. I guess it’s all “sub-threshold” harassment i.e., nothing you can file a complaint about?

      It’s such a shame that misogyny remains so ingrained :(

    2. EM*

      Ugh. Really unacceptable. I think some men just don’t know how to relate to women in a non-flirting context. This is quite a bit different as this is a coworker who is about 10 years younger than me and junior to me, but he also will occasionally throw pens at me. He’s learning the hard way that I have very good aim when I throw the pen back. :)

      1. LPBB*

        Who throws pens at people?! Even when I was working in a close-knit cube farm we didn’t do that — notes, maybe, but not pens.

      2. crookedfinger*

        People at my office throw candy. Not very effective as office warfare ammo, as I will eat it or stash it away in my desk for later.

        1. Lisa*

          One co-worker has a cube catapult that throws nerf balls. It takes like 3 tries to actually hit someone, and that’s with that person well aware he is trying and sitting very still watching the nerf ball get nowhere near them. That kind of office play is fun, and we have several zombie dolls where you can rip off the head since the body parts are velcroed. I am deaf in one ear, so people throwing things (zombie heads) at my cube is pretty standard to get my attention, what I don’t like is the pen throwing in meetings and BS ‘i don’t know how to treat female employees’ flirting that the guys don’t get.

  9. Liz in the City*

    “Major in whatever you want and then figure it out later.” What was helpful when I was having panic attacks at 18 wasn’t so helpful when I was having panic attacks about what I’d do post-graduation at age 21. So then I went to grad school because it seemed like the safe, familiar choice, for a major that (turns out) needs a doctorate to do anything with it. And I don’t want a doctorate. Plus, I took out student loans that I’ll be paying back till my yet-to-be-born kids go to college. (I fully recognize these are my own choices; just wish someone had slapped me upside the head and said, “No!”)

    If I were to do it all over again, I might still pick my undergrad major, but I’d get my act together more about what I’d do post-college BEFORE the spring semester of my senior year and seriously consider what KIND of life I wanted post-college rather than my at-the-time “dream job,” which has a lifestyle that, turns out, I really don’t like or ever want.

    Also, every piece of advice I ever received from my campus employment office was horrific. But Alison said it was too easy to include that.

    1. mirror*

      I came here to same the same thing. I enrolled in my university as an undecided/undeclared, and we had to go to lots of special seminars hosted by the university’s career counselors to help us figure out what we wanted to major in.

      “It doesnt matter what you major in, you can get a job anywhere as long as you have a degree!” Stated loud and proud, with numerous examples using themselves and other famous personalities.

      Yeah…I graduated in June of 2008. With a Psych & Social Behavior degree that pretty much requires you to go to grad school if you want any sort of career in the field. And…I decidedly did NOT want a career in my field, but figured it could relate well to many other jobs like the counselors said.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        That’s crappy, generic advice you got, Mirror. What college career counselors should be telling students that the degree is

        a) an entry-level credential that allows you to COMPETE for jobs requiring a BA
        b) a signal to prospective employers that you have certain skills
        c) that you’ve spent time learning a particular body of knowledge
        d) no longer the ticket to a guaranteed job

        While many employers state that they look for liberal arts majors, or that the degree is less important than the skills/training/education it signifies (http://www.aacu.org/leap/presidentstrust/compact/2013SurveySummary.cfm), I would argue that candidates still need experience in the form of a practicum, internship, community-based learning, volunteer work, summer job, etc. This is the 2nd component necessary to be a competitive applicant (ie, industry-specific experience, demonstrated interest in/passion for the field). You’ve no doubt long since moved on, but there are entry-level opportunities for psych/social behavior BA grads. But, if those were not of interest to you, it’s harder to sell that educational background.

        TL;DR: Majors without practical work context are not interchangeable to employers. Take the time to figure out what skills/abilities your major demonstrates, get experience in the area(s) of interest you have (regardless of your major), and learn how to articulate that effectively to prospective employers.

        1. Kim (Career Advisor)*

          I really like and plan to steal your list when I advise students. Thanks!

        2. mirror*

          I am now happily working as a wedding photographer :) So, I can still use my degree a little bit in dealing with anxious and stressed families!

          My school is listed in the top 50 public universities, part of a major system, and I still cant believe they gave that advice. And a required part of the major was an internship. I really liked learning about Psych and Social Behavior, but knew I would never want to be a therapist, psychologist, counselor, etc. I know I was naive to think any degree=job, but I really trusted those counselors.

      2. A.K.A John Smith*

        That a college degree = a good job hasn’t been true for 20 years, if it ever was.

        1. Jessa*

          I don’t think it ever was unless it was a particular thing for a particular job, IE to get a job in this science you need this degree.

      3. Marina*

        I graduated with a generic Psych degree… and an honors thesis in employee motivation, complete with internship at a local nonprofit. The BA got my resume looked at, my actual experience got me a job.

      4. Melissa*

        I gradual in 2008, too, with a psychology degree. The problem is that up until 2008 that advice was kind of true. I had friends with majors in history and philosophy going to work for Wall Street.

    2. FD*

      Amen. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have gone to college at all, or would only have done a practical two year associates degree.

      1. Mira*

        This was the advice I got to: The major doesn’t matter, an English major is great because it relates to so many things and gives you skills like how to write and research, a BA will make it easier to get a job, an MA will make it even easier to get a job.


        Yeah, but no one really told me about the importance of internships and looking for specific jobs, not just taking what was available.

        I think I’d still advise people to major in what they want, but to think critically about the future and make sure to get lots of good intern and job experience.

      2. pidgeonpenelope*

        I have an AA and it gets me no where. No one considers this a valuable degree. I’ve gone back to college to get my bachelor’s so that more doors will open. The big thing, though, is that people thing the bachelor’s alone, will get you well-paid jobs. I have a crap-ton of work experience to go along with my soon-to-be bachelor’s. The BA will allow me to compete but my work experience gets me noticed.

  10. Christine*

    After being laid off, I worked with a coach to help me with my job search. I wanted to move away from direct client contact to behind-the-scenes type work. For my resume, she suggested I leave off my Masters degree, I think so that prospective employers won’t think I’m too “expensive” (maybe not that exact word, but I think that was the idea). Really?!? I earned that degree fair and square and did not feel it was right to dumb myself down like that.

    1. Jane*

      I’ve heard of this advice being given before. What I always wonder about leaving off a degree is how to explain the gap in your resume. I can’t imagine that there are any degrees that take less than a year to earn. While some people may take on term-time interships, I’m not sure if that would work to fill in the gap. Also, you might be mentioned somewhere on the university’s website (I’ve found this to be the case for myself and many others) because of some activity or project you were involved in. If the prospective employers find out about the omitted degree, they are likely to wonder about you, and not in a good way.

      1. Christine*


        I’ll admit that, in hindsight, maybe the Masters wasn’t the best decision for me (long story), but I did gain a lot of knowledge and skills, and met some amazing people. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

      2. A Different Christine*

        I actually went to grad school part-time to get my MLIS and worked full-time, so leaving it off would be something that wouldn’t raise any flags on my resume. But I’d still never do it. The other Christine up there is right. I earned it and will be paying for it for another 20 years! I am damn well advertising it!

        1. LPBB*

          I went to library school part-time as well, but I got laid off from my full-time jobe part way through. I very very serendipitously found a paid 32 hr wk library internship that lasted until I graduated. I can’t leave the MLIS off, because that means I’d have to leave the Library Intern job off, which would create a year long gap.

          I just applied for a survival job that I am very qualified for, but the MLIS definitely throws up a red flag and makes me seem overeducated and unlikely to stick around. In fact, the recruiter that I did the phone screen with yesterday was coaching me on how to deal with it if I do end up getting an interview. I really wish I could leave it off for some applications.

          1. Lizzie B.*

            That’s actually a good question for AAM. Do you have disclose everything on a resume? I’d never say I had a degree when I didn’t, but do you have to admit to every accomplishment when that might kick you out of the running for a job you might need?

      3. FormerManager*

        I also worked part-time to get my master’s and when I was laid off in 2009, only kept it on my resume for a few specific jobs. When I needed a survival job, I left it off. I did get the job but often felt like I was hiding something (the survival job turned into a three year stint including management-level promotion).

        1. Lindsay*

          I left off my MLIS when I needed a survival job (having also earned it part-time while working full-time). I really wanted a job but totally agree that it felt like I was hiding something.

          And then I quit abruptly after two months when I got a job offer from a university : / sorrrrryyy…

      4. Rana*

        A doctorate is worse. Bigger gap, bigger assumptions about the kind of person you must be if you have one. It sucks if you’re not working in an area where it is a specific asset.

    2. Chinook*

      I have heard the same advice about removing your Master’s degree, etc., but in the places where it does make you more expensive (i.e. a union environment with a grid that basis salary partially on education), it could be considered fraud by my teacher’s union because I do have that credential and they want to make sure we are all paid what they negotiated (i.e. no gaming the system just so you can be employed).

      That is the only reason I stopped at a 4 year degree even though there is a Master’s program I want to take and will probably do when I am retired.

    3. Mira*

      I’ve been given this advice, too. However, my last 7 years of employment are all jobs that obviously require an MA or higher. So leaving off the degree doesn’t do any good unless I only list jobs from 2006 or earlier. I think a 7 year gap would be more problematic than a Master’s. . . .

  11. Cruciatus*

    “Go to college and you’ll get a good job.” –from my mom and basically what we learned in high school (in the late ’90s). It’s not that the advice was bad, it’s more that once we did those things, the economy started to tank and the advice quickly became outdated. But I was frustrated for so long because I had even gone to graduate school and still no one wanted me like I was told they would (I realize how entitled that makes me sound. I guess maybe I was.) I thought my Master’s gave me an “in.” I now have a steady (low-paying) job I don’t love…but I’m very grateful for it because at least now I can build up my work experience and hopefully expand to something in the future that utilizes my potential. . Once upon a time it was as easy as going to college to get a good job because it showed employers you were smart and trainable (within many different fields). But now…well, we all know how it is now.

    1. Sue*

      If I had a penny for every time I heard while growing up “Go to college and you’ll get a good job” I would be very, very rich.

      1. Emma*

        +1. And I thought it was only immigrant parents who harped on this long-dead “truth.”

    2. Sara*

      Yup! I metnioned this upthread and even wrote about it in the LinkedIn group after I became so frustrated with this advice being given out for the umpteenth time. I get that things were different back then, but if anyone in the last few years has gone to school or done a serious job search, wouldn’t dare to say this. Also, I’d probably throw invisible ice cubes at em.

    3. Lindsay*

      I was told the same thing in the late ’90s. College is very much not the magic ticket promised, ha. If I were to do it again I would not go to college, I’d join the air force and get my priorities straight before going to college.

    4. Anonymous*

      I also wish I hadn’t bothered with college. No one really explained to me what college is for. College is for connecting with people and networking so that once you graduate you’ll have a great network of people. That is not something I know how to do, or even knew that I was supposed to be doing. I made one or two friends in college. I didn’t know how to interact with other people. If I had to do it over, I wouldn’t have bothered. And I live in a country that had free university education at the time I went.

  12. Wilton Businessman*

    Worst advice I ever got was writing a formal letter to a family member.

    It was 1989 and my older cousin was working at Digital Equipment Corp (DEC) which was one of the premier computer companies. I was just graduating from college with a BS Computer Science and wanted to work at DEC. My school sponsored “career counselor” insisted that I write a formal cover letter to my cousin and address them as “Ms. so-and-so” and send it to their work address.

    Two weeks later I got a call and my cousin said that was the weirdest letter they ever received and should have been a hand written note to her at her home address. She would have walked the resume through the various departments. Instead, HR intercepted the resume and letter and told her that I was not qualified.

    That door was closed.

  13. kdizzle*

    Every time I leave a job for a better job (more responsibility, more money), I excitedly call my mother who says, without fail, “Why would you want a new job!? You know that job! You like it! Is it too late to call your boss and rescind your resignation?”

    Sorry, Mom…please don’t ever comment on my career.

    “Hold the football like you would hold a baby.”

    …Ok, so that’s not exactly “career” advice, but that gem was dispensed to me at a company picnic by a VP. I was a young 20-something female who had held way many more footballs than babies. I smiled politely and then juked him out of his socks.

    1. Lisa*

      yeah , what is with parents and their ‘keep your head down’ mentality? My dad tells me all the time to just barely do more than co-workers cause if I over-achieve, I will be expected to always beat my own numbers. Enough to get a incremental raise but not a huge one where I will be the first one fired for making too much money.

      1. Not the same Lisa*

        Actually, this happened to me. I had a very supportive supervisor who kept giving me the maximum raises possible. When he retired, the company did a review of all his employees, and let three of us go – the top three earners, also the top three perfomers. Chaos ensued.

      2. BW*

        That definitely does happen. At my current job, a co-worker and I routinely exceed our monthly quotas a lot and would get a monthly bonus accordingly. Then lo and behold, our goals went up, I’m not kidding, by 66.7%. So now I struggle to meet my goals and no bonus. They did increase my base salary because I pointed out that you have literally made it impossible for me to make a bonus now, but still it’s a de facto pay cut.

        Another person at another branch office does the same job we do, and he does the “only do barely more than co-workers” thing and he’s still happily working there after 20 years. So yeah, maybe this is bad advice if you work for great managers with reasonable, or at least LOGICAL, expectations. But how often does that happen?

    2. Anonymous*

      I’m a 20 something (married!) female that’s never held a baby in her life…

      1. Natalie*

        I have held a few babies and I’m not sure how it translates to holding a football. Should I be propping the football on my hip and supporting it’s neck with on hand?

            1. Aimless*

              The funny thing is, when I was meeting with the lactation consultant after my first baby was born, she counseled me to “hold the baby like I would hold a football” to achieve the optimum nursing position. I was equally clueless! So the metaphor works – poorly – both ways.

              1. Tiff*

                Ah, the infamous “football hold”. I had 2 footballs to nurse at the same time. What someone should have told me was, “Breastfeeding 2 babies at the same time will make you feel like livestock. Don’t be deterred.”

                1. Kelly O*

                  Breastfeeding one baby made me feel like that. I can’t imagine two. You have my sympathies.

        1. Jamie*

          I have held a few babies and I’m not sure how it translates to holding a football.

          It doesn’t translate. You should NEVER spike a baby – no matter what anyone tells you!

    3. Still another Lisa*

      Yep, every time I mention to my mother that I’m either unhappy at work, or that I’m thinking of looking for something else she practically starts hyperventilating. “You have a good job with benefits, why risk it?” she says. This is usually coupled with her classic “You know you should just be thankful you even have a job these days, why are you being so selfish, you have a family to support, it’s not about your happiness anymore”
      I don’t bother telling her anymore.

      1. kdizzle*

        We must have the same mother! I had to laugh at your comment because I could hear my mother’s voice in your words. …except, she would add in her heavy Chicago accent, “you make a good buck! …why risk it?

      2. Malissa*

        I got this advice from so many directions on my last job search. Coworkers, a former boss, various relatives who thought I had one of the best jobs in the county. I offered to let each and everyone of them to work a week at my job to see if they still thought the same afterwards.

      3. Gallerina*

        Hah, my Mum’s favourite is “Why don’t you just settle for a nice little job?” often used in tandem with “There’s no point in you being ambitious, you’re never going to get anywhere.”

        Not sure if that’s bad advice exactly – Irony is, every job I’ve held since graduating has been a pay rise and seniority rise, but she still insists on advising me to go and find a “nice little job”.


      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Is it weird that reading this made me kind of want a mom like that? My mom is very, very careful never to give unsolicited advice (I think because her own parents were pretty overbearing), and while I appreciate the benefits of that, I sometimes think it would be fun to have a parent who would dispense opinionated, sometimes weird advice. Especially in a heavy Chicago accent.

        1. Gallerina*

          Can we swap? My parents give me unsolicited advice all the time,.I’ve been ignoring it for the last 15 years, because it’s uniformly terrible advice, but my Mum particularly perseveres in dishing it out. It comes in a posh and vague British accent.

          1. Jamie*

            Your mom sounds like Nigella Lawson in my head.

            I had it both ways. My mom was good at the abstract advice – but when it came down to X or Y, this or that she was a big believer in us making our own choices.

            My father on the other hand had a right and a wrong way to do everything and you never had to ask for advice because every conversation was instructions on what to do and how to improve and the right thing to do. Did you know there is a right side and a wrong side of the sink for the scrubby thing when not in use? It’s not a matter of preference and you can’t just mix it up because you’re feeling all wild and crazy. It goes on the left side – always. In every home, for every sink, forever more. Anything else is wrong. Also alphabetized soups in the cupboard leads anarchy.

            He was a very regimented man. But as awful as I just made him sound I loved him because you could blow off his advice and he’d just roll his eyes and still bail you out when it blew up in your face.

            And he never said I told you so. Even when he SO did and he was SO right.

            They’ve been gone for 19 years and sometimes I still wish he was around to tell me what to do…so I could ignore it and do what I want anyway…but just having someone give direction made me feel loved. I miss that – apparently I’m supposed to think for myself now.

            1. Jamie*

              Also alphabetized soups in the cupboard leads anarchy.

              Sorry. Alphabetized soups in the cupboard is the sign of a civilized society. Alphabetized soup leads to anarchy.

              You won’t see wisdom like that on inspirational coffee mugs.

  14. Sue*

    When I was trying to get a teaching job (no longer, gave up and went a different direction) they said substitute teaching is a great way for School Principles to get to know you. This advice I would literally get this from everyone when I mentioned I am looking for a teaching position. Most of the time when I was subbing I would never meet the School Principle and if I am luckily I might catch a glimpse of them in the hall, running off somewhere and I can say a quick hi. And this is all assuming I was luckily enough to get a call, for the first time they had to many subs because of school budget cuts. Needless to say subbing did not help at all and I had to catch myself from getting snappy at people always giving me this same job advice over and over again. Maybe it would have made a difference in a smaller school district…

    1. Former Teacher*

      This can work. It’s not that you network with the principal, it’s that you get a good reputation with the teachers you’re subbing for, they start requesting you when they’re out, and they help you get hired full-time when there’s an opening. This works particularly well if (a) you sub primarily in one or two schools, (b) you are qualified to teach in a high-need position (e.g. math, science, SPED, bilingual), and (c) you are an unusually good substitute.

      I am sorry, though, that it didn’t work out for you. It sounds like it was a hard time and place to be looking for a teaching gig. I’m just commenting so that people reading this know that substitute teaching can still be a good route to teaching. I know two people who have successfully done this in the past year.

      1. Chinook*

        Ditto on that subbing can get you a job, if the market is right. Before my career change, I would have sub jobs that changed into short term or long term contracts because I was available and aknown quantity. If I had stayed in one town (DH got transferred), the principal there would have defintiely hired me on permanent and said so in his letter of recommendation.

        On the plus side, subbing is like temping in that it is a good place to learn new skills, especially when it comes to classroom management. After all, we all know what we did to the subs we had ;)

      2. Anonymously Anonymous*

        +1 cant stress the reputation with the teachers. I cant count the number of subs that don’t take it seriously (they play on their ipads and act uninterested because we have a lot of support in our room)…recently we had a long term sub (which pretty much gives you both feet in the door) mess up her chance by not understanding the culture. She was ok but she started making enemies with various teachers.

        I have seen it work out too, my son’s first grade long term sub became permanent the following year…not only because she had a good reputation with teachers but the parents as well.

      1. the gold digger*

        The only way I ever remember the difference between “principal” and “principle” is from an Archie comic that showed the school principal telling Archie that he was “a prince of a pal.”

        1. -X-*

          Yeah, was annoying me too. I make many (!!MANY!!) typos, but consistently misusing or misspelling a word disturbs me.

              1. Manyla*

                Yes! misspellings are a huge pet peeve of mine. Another one is saying “I should of said” instead of “I should’ve/have said”

    2. Anonymous*

      I’m sorry Sue, but you may have had difficulty getting a teaching job because you don’t seem to know the difference between principle and principal, or between to and too. Less forgivable in education than in other fields.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is a blog comment section. People often make typos or mistakes here that they wouldn’t make in weightier correspondence. I’d like it if we could all stop correcting other people’s typos here; it’s unwarranted.

  15. Kelly O*

    “Do what you love, and never settle for less!”

    Set me off on a long stretch of hopping from thing to thing, looking for something that I just loved. Short-term, it was also fiscally beneficial, but after 2008? Nope.

    Now, stuck trying to explain why I took really bad advice in my late 20’s and am trying to rebuild a better working reputation.

    1. nyxalinth*

      Same, and I’m twice your age. I also was advised “You’re X years old, you’ve done xyz, don’t bother with entry level stuff, at your age you should mid career at least.”

      I gave up looking for work I love. I’m satisfied now with “Doesn’t eat my soul every day and gives me enough time and money for things I do like.”

      1. Esra*

        See that would be much better advice. Kids, do what you love as a hobby and find a job that doesn’t erode your soul and gives you enough money to both eat and do things you like.

        1. Julia duMais*

          This is pretty much exactly my mother’s advice: “Don’t look for a job you love, just look for a job you don’t hate.” Similarly, “No place is the Garden of Eden.” Great advice not least because I’ve found that the jobs I ~love~ at the beginning tend to be the worst later, once the honeymoon is over and I realize that I’m putting up with terrible treatment and low pay because I was all starry-eyed over how I would ~love~ it at the beginning.

          Perhaps ironically, the jobs where I’ve gone in more clear-eyed, knowing that no matter how much I like it there are always going to be days when I don’t want to get out of bed because my cat is curled up next to me purring and it’s cold and rainy and there’s a massive traffic jam are the ones where I’ve been happiest. Including my current job, which is by far the best job I’ve ever actually been paid to do (I had an internship in college that was wonderful, but it became clear that it wasn’t an option for me, career-wise).

          (She also says “Leave me alone, I got my own problems,” but that’s not the best advice in terms of trying to foster teamwork. Though having needed to learn how to say no and not take on more than I can responsibly handle because I want to help everyone all the time, it was probably good for me, personally, to hear!)

  16. Anonymous*

    “If all else fails, you can always freelance. Anyone can freelance. Just make sure to set your prices well below the average and the work will come pouring in.”

    1. EnnVeeEl*

      This is another “good” one. You might – MIGHT – get some assignments. Good luck actually getting PAID.

      Tried this while laid off, and swore I would also seek to get a paycheck from someone else. I have no desire to freelance. People think I am crazy.

      1. Jamie*

        This a thousand times. I freelanced out of necessity years ago. I was miserable because I absolutely hated the drumming up business and marking myself aspect…and was always broke because of the same reasons.

        I still get a version of this all the time. You could make so much more money if you went out on your own. Sure, per hour…when I had work. I do not do uncertainty well and I’m rather fond of security and not hating 90% of what I do.

    2. Christine*

      I’ve had people giving me similar advice. Ummm…not everyone is cut out to start their own business. Plus, I would think you need a solid background of knowledge and experience, which I don’t think I’ve built enough of.

      1. EnnVeeEl*

        But people make it out like something is wrong with you if you don’t have this burning desire to strike out on your own.

        I think this is one of the many reasons why people start freelancing or their own businesses and end up failing. Because if they had thought about it clearly without people yammering in their ears that this is something they are supposed to WANT to do, they wouldn’t do it.

        1. Mike C.*

          Seriously, I’ve had people that look down on your for not pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps and inventing a completely new industry.

          Then they brag about how they do everything themselves while outsourcing work and relying on small business loans. Good times. :)

          1. EnnVeeEl*

            That’s not MAKING MONEY. That’s borrowing money to float. That is taking or borrowing money from Peter to pay Paul and then keeping the rotation going. Ugh.

    3. Emma*

      Can I add “just go into business for yourself” or “become an entrepeneur” to this advice? Because it’s that easy and always profitable and never risky or anything negative at all, right?

      1. Tax Nerd*

        +1, Emma. Starting your own business has its own startup costs, even if you’re in professional services (such as software to do the job, website, work phone, computer, some kind of office space if you want to meet clients outside your home, licenses, etc.). Nevermind that it can take a good long while to build up a clientele that is enough to live on, but in the meantime, there are still bills to pay.

        Add in all the sales skills needed, and the administrative work of billing and collecting. Ugghh.

    4. Rana*

      Ahahahahaha…. no.

      Really, people have no idea what’s involved in self-employment, do they?

      1. EnnVeeEl*

        Because I think the type of folks that scorn those who don’t want to freelance or offer this type of advice because it’s so easy are the types that might be prone to not paying people. They think writing and design and web stuff is “easy” and they don’t see the value of it.

        Changing my name to: “Bitter Freelancer Owed Money by Deadbeats.” Or “Laid Off from Job As A Result of Deadbeat Clients Not Paying Former Employer.”

    5. Nicky*

      Oh God, this a thousand times. I’m a recently-made-redundant graphic designer, and the number of well-meaning but ultimately clueless people who advised me to ‘just go freelance’ was ridiculous. It was particularly bizarre when colleagues would suggest it – I was an in-house designer for a large accounting firm which officially prohibited employees from working second jobs. The policy was really aimed at preventing fee-earners from sneakily consulting with competitors, so it wasn’t actually enforced on, for example, part-time admins with second jobs but they would have been expected to at least be discreet about it. If I had been openly touting for freelance design clients, that would have been considered weird and unprofessional, so where my colleagues thought I was going to get a client base from after six years in-house was a mystery.

  17. Lexy*

    Not to me. But my mother-in-law to my sister-in-law.

    She told her to keep her HIGH SCHOOL references on her reference list after she graduated from college. Her reference list was like 12 people long. I told her to get rid of everyone from high school and most of college (she did have the man her school was named after, you know, “the XYZ School of Business at Big University”, I figured that one was impressive enough to keep).

    My mother-in-law (who hasn’t worked in 35 years, and her husband works for himself as does her son [my husband] none of these people have even interviewed for a professional job in at least a decade, let alone hired anyone) said “Oh, but [whoever] liked you so much, he’d say such nice things about you”. WTF mom… it’s not a popularity contest… it’s business references. Shut up. Stop talking about things you don’t know anything about.

    1. Lexy*

      I just realized that between my name and the details in there this comment is totally identifiable as me if any of them were reading it. whatever.

      1. badger_doc*

        haha your reply made me laugh :-) I always wondered if my coworker I complained about on here would ever read this blog and know it was me who posted. Whatever is right :-)

          1. Jessa*

            Yes exactly. People who read this blog are more likely not to say this stuff to other people.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          “I am so glad you brought that up, Coworker! Once we resolve our issue, I can write in and let the readers know how it all landed! I am so excited. I have never been involved in blogging before…. this is such a great experience…”

    2. Anon*

      Urgh. I feel your pain. My mother worked for her dad and gave up work before I was born! I’m 42! And have a well paid professional job. She couldn’t name the company I work for, has no idea what the niche area I work in entails (actually its totally understandable but she has never asked) and I’ve been broadly working in it for 12 years. Still I get pontificating. It really is “stop talking about stuff you don’t understand” or “hey, mum, why don’t we spend an hour talking about what I do”. I do neither of course. It’s a strange gap though in relationships.

  18. Just Jane*

    “Print and bind a copy of your Master’s thesis and bring it to job interviews so that they can see your research.” From my MA thesis advisor, on my search for (non-academic, non-research-focused) NGO jobs. Best advice I ever ignored.

    1. A Teacher*

      I had a job that actually wanted me to bring a binded copy of my thesis to an interview–in a non-academic field (at a physical therapy company)…took the job realized how bad it was after 4 years and moved into full time high school teaching with athletic training on the side.

    2. LIZ*

      he he. sounds like advice from someone who has never worked outside of academia. My thesis was the worst thing I have ever written! Thank goodness no one cares about it!!!

  19. Lily in NYC*

    My best friend’s mother’s advice to her: You better make sure to learn how to do hair because you are too ugly to be a secretary. Friend is now a consultant at a top firm and makes great money. Her mom is such a jerk.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Her terrible mom also offered her two choices for her 16th bday present – a nose job or boob implants. She had asked for neither. Her dad is just as bad.

    1. Anonymous*

      Nevermind how disgusting the advice is, it’s also incorrect! The less-attractive stylists seem to end up at Great Clips and don’t exactly rake in the big money. I never thought I could make it in that industry because I just do not care enough about how I look.

      1. Jessa*

        Weird, I don’t care if my stylist is good looking, but I do care if their hair is well taken care of (even if I think their cut is weird, if they like it, that’s fine.) I do not however get why someone in hair or makeup or nails would ever show up to work with messy hair, makeup or nails.

        Even if you don’t do your own, I’d expect you to take pride in that particular element of your appearance.

  20. Lynn*

    I was a Senior Software Engineer, and my whole division was laid off. The first words out of my parents’ mouths when I told them the bad news? “You should deliver pizzas!” I tried to explain that pizza delivery didn’t fit with my career goals (stay in software development) or financial responsibilities (primary breadwinner for a family of five), so I was going to focus on software jobs for the time being. They accused me of thinking I was too good for honest work.

    1. kdizzle*

      Sad face. I have a master’s in economics and it took 3 or 4 months to find a job out of grad school. “Deliver pizzas!” was the exact advice my parents gave. …I think they just wanted me to bring home the pizzas that were fake delivery orders.

      1. Lynn*

        I think my parents saw a help wanted sign in the window of their local pizza joint and got themselves all in a lather about “how can people say there’s a RECESSION when there are PERFECTLY GOOD jobs going begging? People just think they’re TOO GOOD FOR HONEST WORK, is what!” And my snobbish insistence on at least trying to find a job in my field that would allow me to pay my bills fit into their narrative.

        I found such a job, that paid $30k more than my old job, before the severance check was even mailed to me. So neener.

        1. Anonymous*

          Stress of unemployment aside, from the sound of things that layoff was really a blessing in disguise for you!

  21. Cindylouwho*

    Mom and Dad said “show up, try hard, do your best and you will go places.” Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

    In contrast, I will teach my son to work hard but also learn to suck up just a little, manage up, and spend time learning how office politics work where you are. Can’t get ahead if someone in power doesn’t like you.

    1. Jane*

      It sounds like that advice is not so much bad as it is incomplete. Although, it does seem like some people who work very little are able to get ahead (that always amazes me). I think for most people, they need to do all this and more (including understanding hte politics and building good working relationships with the right people).

      1. Charlotte*

        Oh, they do. “The critical thinking skills will be very transferrable.”

        1. Lindsay*

          They totally say the same thing about English degrees, which I got, and now I feel super cynical whenever I see ads promoting English degrees or meet students majoring in it.

        2. -X-*

          I went to one of the top schools in the world, and think that there is a fair amount of truth in that for a philosophy degree from a school like that in a good economy. Or at least that it’s at least as strong as most social science degrees, and stronger than most humanities degrees.

          English degrees — no.

          1. Cat*

            English majors from good schools do just fine. English majors from less good schools who make career-minded choices (e.g., internships) do as well as anyone else. It’s bad out there for everyone right now; and that includes plenty of people in STEM fields.

        3. Anonymous Accountant*

          I’ve heard same thing said to students before after completing a gen ed philosophy class by the professor. “With a philosophy degree you have the critical thinking skills that companies want and you will have many career options”.

        4. Marie*

          I DID transfer the critical thinking skills from philosophy – first to teaching maths, then to law. Mind you, my country’s economy remains such that getting a degree nearly guarantees you a job, as long as you get some experience and market yourself right.

      2. Anne*

        College career counselors. They have to tell you something, when that’s your major. And the thing is, it’s true, but you’re going to have a hell of a time convincing any hiring manager of that unless they have a “useless” humanities degree themselves.

        However, I was in it because I liked philosophy, not because I though it would lead to a great job philosophizing, luckily…

        1. Kelly O*

          Everyone who started singing the Philosopher’s Beer Drinking Song can come sit with me. “And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart, I drink therefore I am!”

          1. Anne*

            Ohhhhhh Immanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable! Heidegger? Heidegger was a boozy beggar who could drink you under the table… David Hume, could out-consume Schopenhaur and Hegel, and Rene Descartes was a drunken fart who was just as sloshed as Schlegel!

            There’s nuthin’ Neitzshe couldn’t teachya but the raising of the wrist…. Socrates himself was perrrrmanenetlyyyy piiiissed…

    1. A Different Christine*

      I got the same thing from school about my history degree. From everyone else, I got, “So, you’re going to what…teach?” (For the record, I would be a terrible teacher.)

      But then I went to library school and got a LOT of incredulous looks and, “You need a master’s degree for that? Really?”

      1. Library anon*

        I have a library degree too. Right up there with “You need a master’s degree for that?” is “What do you do all day, shelve books?” Also, when I explained to a friend what archival processing is, she said, “So basically, you’re a glorified secretary.” Not that there’s anything wrong with admin. work, but archival work is different in a lot of ways.

        1. Jessa*

          As a former secretary I want to throw things at people who say “glorified secretary.” Geez Louise.

      2. Rana*

        Oh, god, the “What are you going to do… teach?” question.

        The irony is that I went on to grad school specifically so I could focus on research and not teaching… and what did I end up doing after I graduated? Adjunct teaching. ARGH.

    2. Corporate Drone*

      Well. . .I don’t know that this is necessarily untrue. I mean, if you have a B.A. in philosophy, chances are you aren’t going to become an engineer at Oracle, but you might wind up working in Oracle’s marketing group, especially if your B.A. is from an ivy league school.

      I think the problem with this advice is that it’s dispensed without any further elaboration on how the young grad can effectively market the liberal arts degree to employers. I have an M.A. in English (from a very second rate program, I might add), and my first job was as a receptionist in a biotech firm. My boss hired me because I could write a proper sentence, a skill which, once you’ve been out in the working world for a while, you will realize is in rare supply. I’ve worked in the publishing industry since the 90s.

      The “are you going to teach” comments and references to operating the fryer at McD’s still piss me off, some 20 years after graduation.

      1. MentalEngineer*

        Basically this. I have a B.A. in philosophy, and it’s
        a) helped me kick ass at my ‘pay the bills’ job at a call center, because I actually think through the customers’ issue, figure out how to help them and see how the other areas of the company can align to get the complicated problems handled. I asked a TON of questions my first few months, and thinking through what I heard enabled me to understand how everything fit together so I could do my specific job much better.
        b) landed me an internship (and a non-receptionist job offer) at a software company, because I was lucky enough to go to a school that actually has ‘real-world’ support for its liberal arts graduates. I would have started in a generalist role, but would have had opportunities to specialize in any number of areas within the company – my manager laid out a number of possible directions and was confident I could excel at any of them.When done right, these programs really are win-win for everyone involved. The graduates get work experience that actually counts for something and the companies get to pick their interns from some of the smartest, most trainable students at the university.

        Of course, I still turned down the job offer to pursue academia instead, so (assuming I’m actually smart) I’m definitely insane…

        1. JC*

          I also have a liberal arts degree – even less practical than the usual, I created an interdisciplinary major that combined English and Classics. My school was great in many ways, but they unfortunately did not think to push students toward internships or offer the type of “real-world” support that yours did. I wish they had!

          Yes, a liberal arts degree can be applicable to many things, but the internship experience (and subsequent references) is critical to convincing employers that you’re worth hiring. Why haven’t schools figured this out by now?

          1. Kim (Career Advisor)*

            I, too, studied a dead language for 3 years of college. I feel like us classics folk win the “Most Useless Degree” contest hands down.

            (And I wouldn’t change my Classical & Medieval Studies and English double major for a THING, although it did cause me some grief immediately after graduation.)

          2. College Career Counselor*

            They’re starting to, but admittedly they’re late. Part of the issue is that it’s the faculty’s job to determine curriculum, not alumni/administration/employers, etc.

            Another challenge, even among interested faculty, is how to incorporate practical work into the curriculum in a way that’s effective. And certainly, there has been a great deal of historically entrenched resistance to “vocational” or specific industry-based skill training by faculty.

            At one of my previous jobs, I couldn’t get approval for a career development-related mini-course, even with the participation and blessing of a highly-placed faculty member. “We don’t give credit for things students can do on their own,” was the given reason. Unfortunately, that has applied to internships and other experiential learning, with the exception of some co-operative programs in business, engineering and other technical fields.

            Again, it’s changing, but it’s not a fast process.

            1. JohnQPublic*

              It’s like they don’t want their alumni to make money and give back to their alma mater…

      2. Anne*

        Oh, yes, it actually is true! I’m now working at a CRM company, and my critical thinking and writing skills have been immensely useful. And they’re training me up as the accountant, which I’ve found is a natural fit – logic, y’know?

        The thing is, once I’m in the job, it’s useful. But good luck convincing anyone of it in this economy.

    3. Liz in a Library*

      Yep. Those were the same people who told me a graduate degree in literature would be totally flexible. Businesses love people who can write and who have critical thinking skills! ;)

      1. Anonymous*

        For the record, smart businesses actually do love those qualities in their employees.

      2. Corporate Drone*

        Anon is correct. Smart employers do love people who can interpret what they’ve read, speak properly, and write clearly. The problem with this generic advice is that it is not accompanied by an actual strategy for marketing your degree, when the degree is all you have (as is the case of a new grad).

        What you don’t do is go into an interview and start talking about your academic background, the Boer War, Goethe, or gender-based poetics, because no one cares about this stuff. Don’t discuss your thesis. Yes, it’s your opus, but your thesis isn’t going to help the company make money. Talk about your ability to research and to analyze information from disparate sources, your strong writing abilities, and your ability to take complex concepts and explain them in clear language. It can be done.

        BTW, my finance business partner has a B.A. in history. That’s right–no finance or accounting degree. It happens all the time.

  22. AdAgencyChick*

    From my parents: “Get a master’s degree.”

    I didn’t listen. I love learning but hate school. I read books like crazy but the minute you tell me it’s an ASSIGNMENT, hell will freeze over before I read that book.

    I thank my lucky stars my field doesn’t require an advanced degree!

    1. E.R*

      My mom is still brokenhearted that I haven’t gone to grad school ! (I’m 29) She keeps saying, “but it can only help you!” and nothing I say changes her mind on that. Granted, when she was my age, it was true.

      1. Sascha*

        Mine too. If she’s not pressuring me to have kids, she’s pressuring me to get a master’s degree. Of course then she says I have to get a master’s before having kids, and I tell her she can’t have it both ways, so which does she want: grandkids, or a daughter with an MA? That sends her into a feedback loop.

      2. Jessa*

        If it’ll help me so much, will you pay for it in it’s entirety? I cannot afford another student loan? Usually makes them back off a lot.

  23. nyxalinth*

    Also, recently:

    “Start a blog/get a job blogging, people make money from blogging.”

    Not really terrible, but they seem convinced that you can just waltz into a job blogging (everything I’ve looked at so far wants prior experience and writing samples) and yes, personal blogging can make money, but it isn’t “Poof! Instant income.” the way my room mate’s well-meaning friend seems to think. Not to mention that while I love to write I’m pretty sure that the love will evaporate if I had to do it all the time.

    1. EnnVeeEl*

      Or they position blogging as a way to get yourself a job.

      I like to write and I’m good at it, but I couldn’t keep up with a blog. It was fine when I wasn’t working, but once I found a job and both kids were in school…Poof, blog was gone.

      The Internet is littered with dead blogs.

    2. Kat M*

      This worked for me, but I blogged for free for a full year before I ever made a cent off of it. People don’t realize that blogs don’t develop an audience overnight.

  24. W.W.A.*

    “The only way you’ll be satisfied in this career is if you’re doing it in [insert city].” A variation on “your job is much more important than the place you live.”

    I have learned that living in a place you want to live is much more important.

  25. Glad I didn't listen!*

    The summer after I graduated from college in 1984, I said something to my father about needing to borrow a type writer to prepare cover letters. He decided I was just stalling the job application process and said that I could use a crayon and a paper bag because it would show an employer I would do anything to get a job.

    It would certainly show a prospective employer something, but probably not anything I would want anybody to know!! My brother and I found it particularly strange since our father was the president of a small company and would never have considered a cover letter written in crayon on a paper bag.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      LOL, I remember hearing a lot of similar (and bad) advice in the 80s – like “handcuff yourself to a piece of furniture in the company’s reception area so they know you really want the job.” One friend was told she should write her resume so it would look like a recipe. Crazy.

      1. Anonymous Accountant*

        That would really make a candidate memorable! “Well, we hired Jane because she handcuffed herself to a chair in the lobby. This showed she really wanted the job.”

        And I’m laughing at the writing your resume on a paper bag in crayon. Wow!

      2. Emma*

        I didn’t realize the common tactics of college-aged protesters were transferrable to the job market.

          1. Natalie*

            Where do kindergartners get handcuffs? Hopefully their parents would keep anything… *ahem* personal… out of the little ones’ reach.

        1. Emma*

          I was thinking more along the lines of university sit-ins, marches, human chains, etc.

  26. Janelle*

    Advice my sister’s husband gave to her when she had been accepted to university (she had always had trouble with school and was so super proud when she was accepted): “Don’t bother with a degree, you’ll learn way more about business working with me.”

    Cut to 18 years later: she’s a widow in her mid-40s with no education credentials, no computer skills, and no prospects. Great advice, dead husband!

    1. Anonymous*

      I had a professor that liked to tell us girls in the class that we didn’t have any reason to be in school because we won’t make as much money as men, because we will need to take time off to raise our children (instead of letting minimum wage workers do it instead, as he said)… as GOOD christian women do.

      My favorite professor at that same school told me that you have to prepare yourself for anything, because you never know when God’s going to tell you to take care of yourself! Turns out her husband died tragically when they were young, and she’s been supporting herself on her OWN education ever since. ;)

      I’m thankful for my education at this private university, and the first professor was the only one i encountered of his kind. but I’m very glad for the second one that encouraged strong women!

  27. Hlx Hlx*

    “Major in one of the biological sciences. Scientists make lots of money!”

    Er, no….

    1. EM*

      Ha! I got a degree in Biology because I love Biology, and I knew it wouldn’t make me rich. I think I make decent money as a consultant, though.

      1. Anonymous*

        And after you get that bio degree, the advice is “go work for one of the drug companies, they’re always hiring!” Umm no they’re not, a lot of companies are being bought out or merged, and there are actually less scientists working for drug companies then there used to be.

  28. Jubilance*

    “Learn to do that 1 essential job at your company/dept, then they’ll never get rid of you”.

    Yeah, no. Plus it sucks being the only person that knows how to run the process/access the database/assemble teapots so you’ll never be able to gain new skills. And if they want to lay you off, they will.

    1. Kelly O*

      And when you inevitably move on to something else, you will get an email six months after you left asking if you remember where you ordered the sugar from, because now they need to order it and someone lost the binder you put together, or they’re on the third Replacement You and no one remembers.

      And then you don’t remember because you have Awesome New Job and have promptly deleted every non-necessary piece of information in your head (except for all the words to “Alice’s Restaurant”.)

  29. Seal*

    The worst career advice I ever got was “listen to your parents.” When I graduated from HS some 30 years ago, I planned to major in music in college with the intent of becoming a HS band director. My parents pressured me into not doing so because “you won’t get a job”. So I double majored in psychology and sociology (which were somehow more acceptable/useful to them than music), with the intent of going to law school. My parents told me I that because I was a woman I should consider becoming a paralegal instead. I ultimately wound up taking a low-paying paraprofessional position in a university library, which made my parents happy because they thought I had job security.

    After 15 years of misery in my “secure” job, I finally went to graduate school and got my MLIS. As a professional, I have had a great deal of success in my chosen career and ultimately moved into management, something that would NEVER have happened had I continued to play it “safe”. Ironically, once I got my degree, my mother kept pestering me to become a music librarian or law librarian. She flat-out refuses to believe that you have to have degrees in music or law – degrees I may well have possessed had I not listened to her – in addition to an MLIS to be considered for those types of positions.

    Moral of the story – don’t listen to your parents, especially when it comes to career advice. They just don’t seem to understand that the world has changed since they went to college and started their careers.

    1. Liz in the City*

      +1 Not that my parents were actively trying to give me bad advice, but yeah, the world has changed. My mom is a nurse and has been supremely fortunate to have her choice of employers throughout her career. So the idea that a job search for me in a non-medical field would take months is just so foreign to her.

      1. the gold digger*

        My sister is a nurse practitioner and it astounds her that I would apply for a job without knowing the salary. She has always been able to tell employers, “I’ll work for you and you may pay me X.”

        1. Liz in the City*

          Exactly! My mom’s gotten signing bonuses and raises every year (unlike at my OldJob, which had a 4+ salary freeze) AND overtime (usually) or PTO.

      2. Seal*

        So was my mother! In fact, she consistently made more money than my father did as a statistician, and never had trouble finding a job. But they were both children of the Depression, and have never been able to understand why their children resisted “safe” careers or scoffed at the idea that it’s better to stay in a job you hate rather than take a chance on a “less secure” position.

      3. Kelly O*

        My mom still is convinced I should do some sort of medical office administration, and I cannot convince her that I have zero desire to be in a medical setting because you will probably eventually get in contact with bodily fluids, and I am so not down with that. I know there are some roles that technically don’t have patient contact, but I also know my general luck.

        Well, that and the only class I ever made a D in was Anatomy/Physiology. Zero interest.

  30. E.R*

    Whenever I vent to my parents or my boyfriend (an entrepreneur) about things that frustrate me about my job, their advice always falls along the line of “you need to talk to your boss about this”. My experience tells me, however, you need to pick your battles.Learn what absolutely needs to change, and what you can suck up if you change your mindset.

  31. VictoriaHR*

    My dad: “head out on foot, go door-to-door, and ask if they’re hiring and if you can drop off a resume.”

    Soap customer: “you need to make dog shampoo, that’ll sell like hotcakes!”

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Or, you should make hotcakes–they’ll sell like dog shampoo…

          1. Nutella Nutterson*

            I would totally buy that, but then I think my dog would try to eat his fur off.

  32. Tinker*

    I’ve been fairly fortunate as far as bad advice goes — most of it has been more of mixed quality. The worst I recall (at least that I registered as advice) was when I was job searching to move to my present city. My mother got on a kick about the Sunday paper and its central importance in looking for jobs, and how I absolutely had to have it. Much talking about this, and over the course of a couple weeks much inquiring about whether I had the Sunday paper and worrying over the fact that I did not have it, etc.

    Finally culminated in her calling on a Sunday afternoon while I was spending time with some friends, and absolutely insisting that it was Sunday, that I needed the Sunday paper NOW NOW NOW otherwise any progress in my job search would be delayed for an entire week. She was upset over this. I had not yet learned boundaries and was not so good with the strategic untruth, so I actually physically went to the convenience store and actually acquired the totem item. Left it on the basement floor and went on with what I was doing. I had the Sunday paper, so she was satisfied.

    The thing stayed on the floor until it turned yellow and I threw it out. Ultimately got a job from an ad on Craigslist, naturally.

    1. EM*

      Lol! This sounds like my mother (and her mother, too). The funny thing is that she actually gave me advice on what she would say when her mother would give her advice. She said she would say to her mother, “That’s a really good idea! Thanks for the tip!” and then ignore it. :)

  33. Louis*

    Bad advice : Just do your job hard and you will get promoted.

    What the advice should be : Doing your job and working hard is necessary to get promoted, but you also need to constantly work on your reputation and become a decent player at office politics.

  34. Anonymous Accountant*

    From my mother, who has been a homemaker for 30 years:

    “Who cares they want you to wear a suit? Just wear a t-shirt, khakis and nice jewelry! That’s nice enough for work”.

    At my 2nd salaried position: “Why are you working so many extra hours”? My response: “It’s tax season so there’s more work to be done”. Her response: “I’d make sure everyone else in that office was working extra hours, too or I’d give it back to them to work on”.

    Extended family: “Get any degree because employers will be impressed you have a degree and create a position for you”.

    1. Jane Doe*

      Wow. I’ve heard the last one before too. I think employers are really only going to “create a position” if they think you have some extraordinary skills/experience that they don’t want to miss out on and a compelling business reason to hire you – like they were eventually going to hire someone but would rather move up the timeline and hire you now instead of waiting 6 months and finding out you’ve got another job.

      1. Sascha*

        And even when they fully intend to do that…sometimes it falls through. Happened to me. An employer really wanted me and tried to get a position created, and it fell through. So glad I didn’t say anything to my current job – I was holding out for the written, formal offer!

    2. Lexy*

      lol… I’m an accountant too. My first busy season in public accounting I had to do A LOT of expectation setting with my family.

      1. Lynn*

        My mom is an accountant in tax prep, and has been since I was very small. As long as I can remember, our family operated pretty much as if she didn’t exist from March 1st to April 15th (the trade-off is short and flexible hours the rest of the year.) We’re just used to it. I was SHOCKED when my fiance suggested a wedding date of April 10th, because who plans anything during tax season? (People who don’t work in tax prep, that’s who.)

        1. Anonymous Accountant*

          Absolutely! It’s a big shock to many who aren’t familiar with tax season demands and there’s a lot of expectation setting with family at first.

  35. Anonymous Accountant*

    And another gem- “Go through the phone book and send out resumes to every business listed. Don’t spend so much time applying for jobs online. The way to get hired is by mailing a nice cover letter and resume to as many places as you can”.

    In the 3 professional post-collegiate jobs I’ve been hired for, each 1 was via online job posting or via networking.

    1. Lynn*

      My dad actually made me do this! Fortunately my podunk hometown didn’t have a lot of tech employers, so at least it didn’t take *too* much time.

    2. Malissa*

      I’ll admit I did that 9 years ago and actually managed to land a job that way. A job that was actually created for me. But this was in a very small town where the concept of on-line applications hadn’t caught on just yet.
      It was an act of pure desperation and not something I’ll ever repeat again.

    3. Felicia*

      I live in a city of 3.5 million people with a whole lot of businesses, so something like that would take years! And i’m pretty sure i wouldn’t be qualified for and or interested in most of the available jobs.

  36. VictoriaHR*

    I live in a small Midwestern city. Right out of college, I applied for a receptionist position at a large hospital in my city. It was entry level and I was perfectly qualified for it. The hiring manager told me that I needed to move to Chicago and get experience in a “big city” and then move back and then he’d talk to me about a job. Ass!

    1. EnnVeeEl*

      And right after that, he probably hired a complete nightmare.

      Hiring managers like this eventually get what they ask for.

    2. Anonymous*

      He does sound like an ass, but I hear a variation of the “go see the world while you’re young” advice every so often, and it’s really not bad advice in itself. Not that guy’s place to comment though.

  37. My Old Boss Was Funny*

    From my old boss when we all got laid-off, “You’re pretty, honey. You don’t have anything to worry about you can just get married to a rich man.”

  38. CathVWXYNot?*

    From my Dad: “why would you study genetics and do research? You should become a pharmacist instead. It’s all science!”

    Um, yeah, just because it’s “all science” doesn’t make it the same… especially when the advice is coming from someone who hadn’t taken a science class in >30 years!

    1. CathVWXYNot?*

      Similarly, high school career advice:

      Them: “Oh so I see you like science! Have you considered becoming an engineer?”

      Me: “No, I want to study genetics”

      Them: “Engineering’s a really good career!”

      Me: “Yes it is, but not for me. I have no interest in engineering. I want to do research in a genetics lab”

      Them: “Here are some brochures on engineering careers. Please sign this form to say that you have completed your career guidance session”

      1. Tinker*

        Oh lordy, this reminds me of follies from high school that I’d completely forgotten about.

        Most prominently, when I was a senior my school drank ALL the Kool-Aid regarding what was basically a standardized test for job readiness. Everyone was required to take it, no exceptions, dire consequences promised for anyone who was absent, et cetera. I was told personally that it was crucial to my future career, and that I would never get hired in Reno County if I did not take this test.

        So I took the test. In the usual demographic information section, it asked for you to code what sort of job you had and what sort you wanted to have. For my then-present job (geological technician), the section where the code was noted something along the lines of “you need to have a realistic perspective about whether you can really get these jobs, as they require a lot of education and mathematical ability and may be too much for such as you”. I had to code my desired job as “engineering – other” because “engineer” was not listed at all. The test itself was for things like basic arithmetic and the ability to comprehend directions for mopping floors.

        I was still never hired in Reno County again. Maybe this is because of my dismal score on “taking phone messages”, or maybe it had something to do with the two engineering degrees and abiding affection for the state of Colorado that I acquired subsequently.

        1. Kelly O*

          I hated those tests in high school.

          For some reason mine came back “lawyer/judge” – a profession I had zero interest in. So no matter how many times I would say “I really want to teach, or be an engineer (or whatever it was that week)” I would get “but you scored so high on this section of the test!”

          1. Jamie*

            I remember one coming back and the recommendations were social worker or doctor.

            What the hell kind of answers did I give to skew to the people professions? Can you imagine anyone more horrifying if you have a serious problem and your social worker or doctor really has a low tolerance for personal problems…and don’t want to discuss anything icky.

            To this day I swear the guidance counselor was looking at someone else’s sheet and some loving, caring future doctor or social worker was told she’d be happiest as a professional hermit.

        1. CathVWXYNot?*

          Yup. And I took one of those computerised career aptitude tests, too. My top match was to be a woodwork teacher, even though I hadn’t listed woodwork as one of the subjects I was studying.

          This was in the UK in the mid-90s. Hopefully the career matching algorithms have improved since then – I don’t hold out much hope for the career advisors.

          1. Anonymous*

            Ohhhh, career aptitude tests. The worst! They always used to tell me to be a “writer” or an “artist” (seriously). Thanks, career aptitude tests, for the specific and realistic advice.

          2. Laurie*

            One of those career aptitude tests told me in all seriousness that the best and most satisfying career for me would be a Funeral Director.

            Nothing wrong with that particular profession, but I feel like the aptitude test should be something like the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter. It sorts you based on your aptitude AND your interest.

          3. Tasha*

            My career aptitude test told me that I’d make a good truck driver. I’m graduating with Honors in Chemistry this spring, then moving to a major metropolitan area where nobody has to drive.

            1. Anonymous*

              Mine said Priest, Interior Decorator, or Military Officer. That combination still makes me wonder.

              1. Chinook*

                That’s easy – you could be a military padre/chaplain with an awesomely organized and decorated foot locker ;)

                1. Felicia*

                  My career aptitude test said I would make a good vending machine restocker or truck driver. And this was a part of a mandatory class in highschool where i had to do a project on one of those two careers (I picked truck driver for the project, I currently don’t have a driver’s license.)

                2. Anonymous*

                  Ha! Chinook, that’s the best solution I’ve heard for that combination. Thanks for the chuckle. :)

          4. Kaz*

            The top match on mine came back as one of those people who hands out leis to tourists getting off the boat on tropical islands. How was that even in the database?

      2. Rob (Bacon) Bird*

        They asked you questions? Really? All my career guidance consisted of was them handing me pamphlets for the Military and sending me back to Study Hall.

  39. FormerManager*

    During my last spell of unemployment, all my family, knowing I live in the DC area said “oh, just get a government job.”

    Yeah, like that wasn’t something tens of millions of others were thinking. Plus, the application process (though I hear it’s changed) is much more involved than sending in a resume and cover letter.

    Ultimately, I ended up at a start-up which worked out because I realized I cannot handle bureaucracy.

  40. Lindsay*

    In library school (graduated 2011) we were told CONSTANTLY that the profession was “graying” and a HUGE wave of librarians was going to retire any minute, thus libraries would need thousands of library school graduates to replace them.

    Even in the midst of the recession.

    1. E*

      I got the same thing in graduate school (for a related field, public history)! I call it “the myth of the retiring baby boomer.” It would make sense, except for, as you said, the recession. Many boomers are delaying retirement, and those that do retire, well, their positions just aren’t filled.

    2. Anonymous*

      So, this is off-topic, but I’m totally surprised by the number of librarians who read this site. What’s the connection?

      1. Lindsay*

        Probably just that we like to read. And we all have a hard time getting jobs so we need all the advice we can get, haha

          1. Anonymous*


            Like to read.

            Good at finding quality info.

            And what Lindsay said in her second sentence…

        1. Shinyobjects*

          This is the truth. The job market is flush with MSIs, who are also getting all of the bad advice such as “keep a blog. Get your name out there on the internet” and “get a job with government”

          1. Lucy*

            I keep on reading Ask a Manager because I’m hoping one day there will be some helpful advice about how to explain to the rest of the world that just because I have a degree with “library” in the title does not mean I can ONLY work in a library. Or that I WANT to.

            My library degree means that I can organize things, follow and/or design policies, learn new subject matter very quickly, research the hell out of anything, and I can do that at 70 wpm.

            The sad fact is that the reception and admin assistant jobs I’m applying for (and not hearing back from) pay more than what I ever earned as an archivist in charge of multi-million dollar collections.

            1. LPBB*

              That’s exactly why I keep reading this blog, too! If someone does share that secret on a day when I don’t visit AAM, can you please let me know?

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              “My library degree means that I can organize things, follow and/or design policies, learn new subject matter very quickly, research the hell out of anything, and I can do that at 70 wpm.”

              This would be a great line to put in a cover letter, seriously.

      2. Rob (Bacon) Bird*

        They are all trying to figure out how to classify this in the Dewey Decimal System…..

    3. Emma*

      The public health field has been saying that for years, too! It’s all I heard throughout undergraduate and even nowadays in my first real public health job. Yet the futility of my job search tells me differently. :-/

      1. Xay*

        Well, it is true that the baby boomers are retiring from public health. The problem is that they are coming back to the same jobs or similar ones as contractors.

    4. Anonymous*

      Academia has been saying this since at least the early 1990s. At least they’ve kind of admitted by now that it isn’t really the case. Didn’t help the folks who started PhDs during that haze of anticipation….

      Relatedly, some career advice I’ve regretted taking was “it doesn’t matter which library school you go to! You just need the credential!” I knew better, but all the librarians I knew seemed so sure that this was the case, so I didn’t go with my gut.

    5. Kangaroo Sue*

      Yup! Did a Public History & an MLS while working full time in museums & libraries thinking all the jobs the grey and blue-haired librarians/curators/registrars were leaving would be MINE. Because that is what everyone who was in the field was telling me. Then I realized people either weren’t retiring or they weren’t being replaced. At least, not replaced at a sustainable pay-rate.

      1. Anonymous*

        The “graying of the profession opening up jobs” thing is a lie perpetuated by the ALA and marketing efforts for library schools.

        BUT I still think library school is a decent investment for go-getters, if you either have other strong related experience (to help with library jobs) or for using the skills in other fields. But people looking for a relatively “easy” gig – not so much.

        1. LPBB*

          I went to library school thinking that my customer service background would help me get a position in a library and then I could start gaining more skills, esp tech skills, and perhaps more education so I could transition into other LIS related roles. I refused to pay attention to how overcrowded the field already is, how technical it is and woefully unexperienced in that I was, and how few of these alleged retirees are actually replaced.

          I have been casting my net much broader than just traditional library work, but what I’m struggling with right now is explaining how my MLIS might prepare me for other information related roles. (Thanks to Lucy, though, now I have a tweakable sentence to use if she doesn’t mind!) I think part of the problem, besides me not explaining it well, is that too many people see “library” or “librarian” and assume that you’re just a fusty old maid who spends all day putting books on a shelf and telling people to shush.

          I mean, I was just at a talk given by Deb Hunt, President of SLA, where she admitted that she often doesn’t identify herself as a librarian or explain what MLIS stands for to her consulting clients until midway through the project. It’s not that she hides or denies it, but too many of her clients have pre-conceived notions about what librarians can and can’t do. It’s one way to avoid prematurely poisoning the well.

          I wish that library schools and especially library associations would spend a small fraction of the time they spend telling library students that we have all these valuable transferrable skills on telling the larger world that we are a hell of a lot more relevant than the old stereotypes. [/self-indulgent rant]

    6. Jubilance*

      That story is floating around in engineering/sciences as well. I drank the Koolaid in my first job, when I was told I’d be taking over for the current lab manager so I took on most of his duties while he surfed the Internet all day. And then the housing bubble burst & he got stuck with some condos he wanted to flip (this was in Orlando) and he decided he wasn’t retiring after all. So I was expected to just “wait my turn” until he decided he didn’t want to be in the job anymore.

      Yeah…no. Found a new job & hightailed it out of there.

    7. W.W.A.*

      This was common advice to all academics in the 80s and 90s. In fact there was a famous paper published about the “coming wave of retirements” that would lead to a hot job market in the 90s. Needless to say, the opposite occurred. When people retired, their tenure lines went with them, and a whole new model developed of taking advantage of grad students and “adjuncts.”

    8. Rana*

      Yup. We were hearing that one back in 1999, when I graduated, too.

      Instead of a bunch of retirements, and open tenure-track spots, instead what we got was lots and lots of part-time adjunct positions with no benefits. Nifty.

    1. littlemoose*

      If the career advice would suit Elle Woods, it is not good career advice.

    2. Jamie*

      I wish this wasn’t bad advice – I would be much happier in a world with more pink.

    3. Forrest*

      Ha, this came from my mom’s Mary Kay lady who also works with unemployed people (mostly blue collar).

      I fear for the advice she’s giving them.

  41. PJ*

    “Be loyal to your company and they’ll take care of you.”

    “If you work hard and keep your head down, you’ll always have a job.”

    This from my dad, who never in his entire life had ANY job that was not military or civil service. And several generations ago, at that.

    1. Kangaroo Sue*

      This is maybe the one piece of bad advice I didn’t get from my dad once he saw his friends who hadn’t worked quite long enough (ie 1 or 2 years short) to take early retirement get screwed over by his old company.

    2. OolonColuphid*

      That first one *should* be good advice. Loyalty should be rewarded with loyalty. Unfortunately, it’s not.

  42. Jess*

    Many, many, many people throughout my teens: “You don’t know what you want to be? No problem, just be an elementary school teacher! Kids love you, you’re really good at reading and writing, you’ll be great!”


    Not sure whether these folks’ advice was rooted in the 1950s (‘teaching! that’s a lovely career for a woman! any woman!’) or the 1980s (‘teaching! that’s a low-paying, unglamorous job, so it must be easy to get!’). Either way, they could not have been more wrong about my being suited to the constant chaos of an elementary school classroom or the 24-7 nature of a teaching job. Maybe these are the same folks who think teachers only work from 8 to 3 and get summers off.

    I’m now a college financial aid administrator–a job most of these people probably didn’t even realize existed. I have a nice quiet office and a nice clean desk. My undergraduate students (who, thanks to helicopter parenting, are emotionally still kids) love me. I have plenty of time in the evenings and on weekends for reading and writing. And, according to my colleagues, I am great.

    1. Sascha*

      My grandfather is always trying to convince me to get a teaching certificate, to “fall back on.” I find it really insulting to teachers. Also, I don’t like kids that much and I’m horrible at teaching people things.

      1. Marina*

        My mom kept telling me the same thing. This was when I was working at a nonprofit that ran afterschool programs, and I was seeing first hand just how much overcrowding was going on at elementary schools because teachers were getting fired, not hired. Plus half my coworkers had their Masters and still couldn’t get teaching jobs. Not a good plan. I mean, ok, if I was willing to get one Masters in Education and another in mathematics, I could probably get a job pretty quick… and earn barely more than minimum wage and never pay back my loans. Terrific.

    2. Anonymous*

      Ooof, telling someone to go into teaching as a back-up or career placeholder is a huge pet peeve of mine. The school system is littered with bitter teachers who not only hate their work or unsuited for the work, but also didn’t realize the kind of crappy bureaucracy they’d be up against. No good at all.

      1. A Teacher*

        Thank you for not taking that advice! I’ve got one colleauge that couldn’t find a job as a biologist so she went and got her teaching certificate. The first day she walked in and told her classes “she never wanted to be a teacher but since she couldn’t find a job, this is what she’s doing. If everyone could just be nice, they’d be friends.” She’s had desk flipping contests in her room, spit ball contests, games of tag in the hall, and they once sang Old Mcdonald and moved on every 4th word to a different desk among other things…

  43. EnnVeeEl*

    Ooo, I have one – “Government jobs ENSURE security, they never do layoffs and the benefits are great!”

    Maybe 30 years ago.

  44. Amanda*

    1) “The only way you will get a job is through networking.” I know networking is an important part of the job search, but all my interviews (and eventual offer) came from applying online to postings. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but networking has thus far not helped me one iota.

    2) “If the jobs you want are in a different city, just relocate without a job.” Decent advice if you have people to stay with indefinitely, but no place is going to rent an apartment to someone unemployed.

    3) “Why don’t you just work at McDonalds?” Because I’m sure McDs is chomping at the bit to hire college graduates with a few years of professional experience that have never worked a day of food service in their life.

    1. EnnVeeEl*

      +1 on the networking. I’m not saying people haven’t helped me, because they have. But not one job lead as a result of my NETWORK has ever panned out, not even an interview. I ALWAYS get interviews and jobs applying myself.

    2. Lindsay*

      I got my job through networking…I still had to apply online in response to the job posting, but when it came to sorting through applications, they knew me and we already had that connection. So I considered it helpful.

      And I actually did move to a different city without a job and got an apartment. I had a lot of savings, though, and good credit. It has worked out very well, though I was unemployed for three months at first and that was stressful.

      Prior to moving, I was living in the middle of nowhere and not getting a lot of bites in my job search. I think proximity helps a LOT – especially when you just need that foot in the door. But moving for kicks probably doesn’t make sense for a lot of people.

    3. anon-2*

      Depends. My IS/IT specialty has had a lot of flux, a lot of turnover — and nearly everyone who was affected and landed on their feet, did so through the networking route.

      My company had a huge layoff a few weeks ago. Five people at other companies called me within two days to inquire of my status.

      I would call that “networking”.

    4. Amanda*

      Just to clarify, I certainly see the value in networking! And I’m going to continue doing it. But plenty of people told me that applying to internet ads when I didn’t know someone inside was completely useless-if I had taken that advice, I would not have gotten the job with my dream organization that I’m going to start in a few weeks.

      I don’t want anyone to think networking isn’t important though. It’s very important. However, it’s not futile to try getting a job when you don’t have a personal connection at the organization.

      1. FormerManager*

        I agree. I have my current job through networking but it took years. All three of my post-college jobs came through applying online.

    5. Erin*

      I agree. I’ve always had exceptionally good results by simply seeking out opportunities that appeal to me and that would benefit from my skill set and applying for them. And honestly, I hate the idea of networking my way into a job, especially if the result will be working with someone I know in “real life.” I very much prefer to keep my personal life and my professional life separate and on the one occasion that I took a job with a company where a friend worked, it was just SO, SO awkward.

    6. Meganly*

      #3! I always was torn on whether to be pissed off or amused at the people who told me before college that I “should get a college degree or I’ll end up flipping burgers,” and after getting that college degree that I was acting spoiled for not wanting to flip burgers!

  45. Lindsay*

    Ooo I have one more. While I was getting my MLIS, and even after I graduated, my mom insisted that I’d make a great security guard. NOT detective or police officer, a security guard. Thanks, Mom!

  46. anon*

    “Write a letter to the president about how bad [your boss] is.” In retrospect, I’m sure that was awesome to receive from an early twentysomething. Argh.

      1. littlemoose*

        Yes! “Dear Mr. President, My boss is a terrible jerk who can’t stop micromanaging. Please issue an executive order mandating his immediate termination. Sincerely, anon.”

        1. Lynn*

          Unless *maybe* if you reported directly to a Cabinet member, what strange advice!

  47. Sascha*

    “You should get two master’s degrees, you will be more marketable.” – from the mother

    “Call every single day until they give you the job.” – from a friend’s crazy father (who this worked for in 1969).

    “Just quit and start your own business.” – from the mother, in response to any complaint I make about my current job

  48. Joey*

    My blue collar parents-Don’t be a kiss ass at work. Say what you’re thinking because others are probably thinking it too, but are too scared to say anything. And if they don’t like what you say that’s their problem, not yours.

    My high school guidance counselor. Are you sure you want to go to college? Your type does much better going to trade school. (This was in the 90’s)

    My first professional boss- if the law doesn’t say we can’t do it there’s no reason not to if it makes the company money.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I totally hear you on the advice from blue collar parents. My dad really frustrates me sometimes with the things he comes out with. He worked in a steel company for 40 years and was the union steward. He thinks the working world still works the way it did in the 1950s. And he still has that frame of mind that the employees run the place and if management doesn’t like something, too bad.

      He doesn’t get the whole salaried exempt thing. So when I say that I logged in remotely at 8 PM or have to keep my cell phone on in case there’s a computer issue, he goes on about how I’m doing too much and that my boss is going to expect that all the time, they’re taking advantage of me, yada yada yada. If I have to stay late for something he tells me I should just leave because no one else would do it if they were me. Or if I want a day off, but can’t because it leaves a skeleton crew, he says just take it anyway, who cares what they say. I have to explain that for my role and what I’m paid (and I’m happy with it), it’s expected of me and part of the job. I’m not just starting out. I’m almost 40, established, and in a senior management role. I have a lot of responsibility and can’t just “leave” or take a day off without regard for coverage (tiny company).

    2. Anonymous*

      “My first professional boss- if the law doesn’t say we can’t do it there’s no reason not to if it makes the company money.”

      Well, the “ethical = legal” approach does keep one out of jail, so it’s not too terrible.

    3. -X-*

      “My blue collar parents-Don’t be a kiss ass at work. Say what you’re thinking because others are probably thinking it too, but are too scared to say anything. And if they don’t like what you say that’s their problem, not yours.”

      There’s some truth in this. It may be risky in this bad economy, but in the long run it’s decent advice. And there are high-performing environments (some forms of software development, some forms of consulting) where it is everyone’s responsibility to be blunt. It’s not just a blue collar thing.

      But this is being blunt about the substance of the work, not necessarily about work hours, etc.

  49. Sascha*

    One more: “Whatever you do, get a teaching certificate, so you can teach school as a back-up plan.” – from the grandfather

    Even if I decided to become a biologist or a mechanic or project manager. Y’know, just in case.

  50. Frank*

    From my current boss, “I never saw the need for any certificate. I had an employee with a CPA certificate and he was awful. The only reason I have my Master’s degree is that it was required for me to become a manager.”
    Then I found out that the company requires either completion or working toward a CPA or CMA certificate for higher level accounting jobs.
    No advancement or new internal job for me until I go against my boss’ preference… :o (I decided to go back to school and change careers!)

  51. Greg*

    I wouldn’t call it the absolute worst, but when I left a job at a Fortune 500 company with lots of vacation days to go to a later-stage startup with a much smaller number, my dad advised me not to negotiate for more days, since that would make me look like I didn’t want to be there. I later found out others had been able to negotiate more days as part of their packages. Meanwhile, after spending six years there, I still wasn’t able to make it back to the level I had been at for my previous job.

    I wouldn’t say it’s terrible advice because who knows what would have happened if I had tried to negotiate (after all, I did get the salary I was looking for). Still, I’ve made a vow to really hold the line on PTO for future jobs, and never give up days again.

  52. Frank*

    Oh yes, the other job advice from my mother to my son. “It’s okay, you will figure out what you want to do eventually. As long as you can pay your bills, your current job is just fine and you don’t need to look for a new one. He is 25 years old and delivers pizzas part time!”

    They help pay his bills and she doesn’t understand why I keep pushing him to get a full time job with benefits! Or any job with benefits!

  53. Jazzy Red*

    “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

    I love to read murder mysteries. Not review them, not edit them, not sell them, not shelve them – just read them.

    Oh, and not commit them, either!

    1. Thomas*

      I know you meant “commit murder,” but I’m know picturing what it would look like to commit a murder mystery.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Or one of those murder mystery events, where a few actors mingle with the people and stage a murder for people to solve.

        I was unwittingly involved in one. I attended a dinner for a professional association that I was considering joining. When I went in the bar to get a drink, there were two men having a loud argument which turned into a fight, and one guy slugged the other. I wondered what the heck I had gotten myself into, and decided to not join the association. Fortunately, someone came over to talk to me and said “isn’t this fun? Someone’s going to be ‘killed’ and we get to try to solve it.” It was fun, the dinner was good, and I joined the association.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        My dream (not reality based at all) was to own a bookstore that carried only mysteries. Lots of the old stuff, Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner, even earlier Mabel Seeley and Mary Roberts Rinehart, as well as newer authors. I’d organize book clubs in the store, and have my well-behaved dog with me all day. Even though it will never happen, it’s a fun dream for me.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          If you add Rex Stout and you allow me to make and serve the tea, may I and my well behaved cat join you? (As soon as I find a well behaved cat, of course.)

          1. Jessa*

            All good Mystery shops and bookstores must have a “Library Cat.” Cats just go with books you see.

        2. Jessa*

          Spenser’s Books in Boston is still open, maybe they have an opening. Murder Ink in NY has, regrettably, closed.

          To ThursdaysGeek I say of this terrible event, “Pfui.” or if you prefer Archie, “Phooey.”

          To JazzyRed, also please add Rita Mae Brown, Lilian Braun and possibly PD James. Thank you. I’d come shop there.

        3. Suz*

          Minneapolis has two of these. Once Upon a Crime and Uncle Edgar’s. We also have Uncle Hugo’s sci-fi bookstore.

  54. Bryce*

    From my dad: “Most jobs are never advertised: you have to network your way in.” Fact: All the jobs I’ve had I’ve gotten by responding to postings.

    From my grandfather (a veteran): “You can’t go wrong if you join the service.” Fact: My uncle (also a veteran) advised me not to. Turns out, many people I know who are veterans are struggling career-wise. (This is nothing against the military; it’s that it’s not always the best option for everyone.)

  55. anon-2*

    Oh boy where do I begin…

    Worst advice – accepting a raise to refuse a promotion within a company.

    Second worst advice – when out of work – “take ANYTHING and you can work your way up the ladder!” (Fail)

  56. ThursdaysGeek*

    Go to college and don’t worry about the debt you’re incurring.

    Ok, that’s bad life advice, not necessarily bad career advice. But debt is a form of slavery, and it holds you down. You have to take a job, any job, so you can pay on it.

    1. Tax Nerd*

      I got this one, too. “Student debt is good debt”. Mortgages were also considered “good debt”. (Early 2000’s.)

      1. -X-*

        A small amount of debt is good debt. It’s reasonable and even necessary – we tend to make more money later in life and it’s worth spreading the benefits out. Reasonable debt for education, that will help earn more money, is an example. It’s an investment.

        Too much debt that is an ongoing burden, or is such that you can’t make it through a few years of rough times, is not good. But a small amount is good.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          A small amount of debt can be a good debt in some cases. I wouldn’t say that it is always good.

          Of course, I say that from the happy position of gotten a degree without debt, and having already paid off the house. I like the freedom of no debt.

          1. -X-*

            The question is not if you like being debt free now, but if knowing what you know now you think it would have been better to, say, not have bought your house until you could have paid in full.

      2. WorkIt*

        Yeah, my husband told me this before we got married. He’s sure regretting it now!

    2. littlemoose*

      Yes. I heard that about law school – that you’d make so much money practicing law that the student loan debt was no big deal. Well, I was underemployed for a year and a half before finally getting a lawyer job, and while it’s a great job with good benefits that I enjoy, I certainly do not make enough to make the student loans negligible. In total, they still constitute the largest monthly expense for me, and will for a long time. I’m not saying that everyone should forego higher education if they would have to take on loans to cover it – just be realistic about your future salary prospects and the burden of student loan debt. I would surely go back and do some things differently if I could.

  57. Chinook*

    “Everybody is set to retire soon and there will be a shortage of teachers. You will be able to teach whereever you want.”

    That was back in the 90’s and those same teachers seem to be still working or retired and subbing/temping. I am still waiting for the great retirement bubble to burst.

  58. Ali*

    One a friend gave me a couple weeks ago (somewhat paraphrased): “Don’t change careers because it makes you look bored. It’s OK in your early 20s, but not later on.”

    So people who are leaving fields with little to no opportunity or improving their skills are just bored? I used to have a boss who transitioned from hospitality management to marketing, not to mention that my mom got her nursing license when she was 43, and none of them have suffered or been accused of being bored. Bad advice from my lovely yet kind of clueless friend.

    1. Corporate Drone*

      Maybe some people are leaving because they ARE bored. So what? They should stay in mind numbingly dull positions because they don’t want to “look bad”? To whom? Asinine comment.

  59. JoAnna*

    After reading this post and the comments, I have a strange urge to crack open my copy of Harry Potter #5 and reread Harry’s career counseling scene with McGonagall.

  60. Corporate Drone*

    The recurrent theme here of “go to college and you will be set” is faulty and irresponsible. When my pipes froze this winter, I paid handsomely to have that problem fixed. Residential plumbing can’t be offshored, it is a valuable and marketable skill, and most of these guys have been working/saving since they were 19 or 20 and get paid mostly in cash. The plumber’s wife drives an S class Mercedes.

    1. Lucy*

      My dad was a plumber, and I am always confused by people assuming I was wealthy growing up. Uhhhhh, no. My parents are in their 70s now, and still struggling. Bad investments.

      There is no one right answer: blue collar, white collar, pink collar… there are no guarantees, and assuming someone in the trades is well off is, to quote you, Corporate Drone, “asinine”. Nice assumptions based on your one experience, Drone.

    2. Anne*

      Yeah – there was about two months after I finished my Philosophy degree where I was seriously looking at my options for training up as a plumber. My OH was going to get me a tacky “Thinker on the toilet” sculpture to stick on the top of my van.

  61. Anonymous this time*

    My mother repeatedly suggests that my brother, who has an MBA and a JD and makes ~$400k a year, should go be a physics or math professor at his alma mater. (Because they’d love to hire someone without a PhD…?)

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Sure, I _guess_ he could do that. But I have to wonder if he would he love the 75% paycut, completely different working conditions and tenure uncertainty (assuming he could get a tenure track job), along with the challenges of teaching college students.

      (Although, if he’s at all interested in that, his best bet is to do a “retirement career” teaching math in high school–there are programs available for people to get the training/credentials they need. Or to do some case study stuff/guest lecturing or be an “expert-in-residence” for the alma mater, assuming there’s a department willing to bring him on..)

  62. Kat M*

    “He doesn’t pay us enough, so adding hours to your timesheet isn’t stealing, it’s getting what you deserve.” – a coworker at a job I held for only three months before walking out.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      It’s amazing how some people can justify any illegal/immoral/unethical behavior if they want to.

  63. Kou*

    I was once told I was never going to find a job if I was limiting myself to America. I was being short-sighted and stupid to not consider “another country,” wherever that may be.

    And no, I’m not in a field where international moves are common AT ALL. Though I actually would really like to move overseas, I was not/still am not prepared for that in any way.

    1. Jane Doe*

      Can’t it be pretty hard to get a job in many foreign countries unless you have a specific skill that is in short supply and high demand in that country?

      1. Marie*

        Well, you can come to my country (South Africa). Everything skilled is in short supply and high demand.

      2. Kou*

        Depends on the country, obviously, but generally yes. Though for a lot of places, the work that’s in-demand enough to get you a visa/residency might surprise you.

        And then you also have to speak the language, which is probably the biggest barrier in most cases, because it doesn’t matter how skilled you are in anything if you can’t talk to people.

  64. Anonymously Anonymous*

    Around 2001, I had started taking courses in IST at a community college in the south. Well I had one professor tell us (the whole class) “you should consider getting your cdl’s because all those receptionist jobs at x company are going to be gone so that certificate/degree is useless. First, I do not see nor trust my self driving a friggin 18 wheeler… I couldn’t get out of her class fast enough. Second are you kidding. Im not knocking truck drivers im sure they make money. Matter fact at one hotel i worked for they were over 50% of our business accounts. Heck, im even fan of Ice Road Trucking and all those shows but that’s a job I really cant see myself doing.

  65. Tinker*

    Ooh, I did think of a gem…

    “You need to wear a dress to work sometimes, otherwise people will think you’re a you-know.”

    Actually quite a relevant concern for women pursuing careers in the ’60s and ’70s. Less so now. Particularly for someone who is out as a you-know.

      1. Tinker*

        This was the dread Parental Advice, fortunately. Or possibly unfortunately, depending. Better in that at least it wasn’t a coworker — worse in that, well, let’s just say that sort of “advice” doesn’t come in singular incidents.

        I think my response was pretty much indignant sputtering to the effect of “I don’t think that’s likely to be necessary”, followed by filing the advice in the appropriate orifice. My job at the time involved occasionally crawling under railcars, so even leaving aside my preferences (something I was far too willing to do back then) there was just no way that idea could work.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Actually, it’s not a bad idea to wear a dress or suit to work occasionally, if you work in an office. That way, when you have a job interview and wear your suit to work, no one thinks twice about it.

      1. Tinker*

        It wasn’t that I was supposed to dress formally (as regards that particular statement; there were also issues about formality level), it was that I was supposed to project femininity lest I become the subject of office gossip regarding my sexual orientation. An informal dress would have done just as well — actually better, since from what I’ve seen those tend to be more girly.

    1. Evan the College Student*

      Especially horrid if you’re a software developer… well, okay, about sixty years ago developing software was considered an offshoot of being a secretary…

  66. Kelley*

    “If you’re struggling to find a job in museums, just create your own museum.” Somehow this gem keeps popping up on discussion boards for museum professional groups.

    1. Kit*

      Egad, I hadn’t heard that one. “If you’re struggling to find a way to make money, do something that will cost you a lot of money!”

      Right up there with “starting your own business” as a solution for unemployment.

    2. Jamie*

      There is a museum of barometers (Barometer World) in Devon England.

      I love when I can offload some of the weird trivia in my head…I keep hoping if I can get rid of enough trivia I’ll free up room in my brain for useful info.

    3. Rana*

      You’ll probably appreciate the humor, then, of several people suggesting that I look into museum jobs as a “safe alternative” when I couldn’t find tenure-track academic jobs. Uh, no.

  67. Erin*

    “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

    Or….you’ll work EVERY day of your life and wake up one day hating something you once loved.

    1. yep*

      “Or….you’ll work EVERY day of your life and wake up one day hating something you once loved.”

      I tried that for about a year and came to hate it. Over 20 years later, I still cannot stand it.

  68. Nicole*

    Not necessarily advice, but my mother-in-law (who has not worked since ~1980) loves to ask me about my job and then share how she feels. I’ve been at my current job for a year and recently had to work a weekend for the second time since I started. Totally not a big deal, and I’m hourly, so I was getting paid for it. My MIL was just horrified and couldn’t believe I had to work *gasp* a WEEKEND! I also have to travel for work quite a bit this time of year – not far or for long durations, but I’m frequently taking one- or two-day trips no farther than three hours from where I live. She thinks that’s practically abuse and doesn’t understand how I still like my job. Also, when we go shopping, she also points out all these things she says would be perfect for me for work. They’re always, without fail, very short, girly sundresses that are in no way appropriate for work. I think she would be horrified if she knew I wear pants 99% of the time and the vast majority of my outfits are neutrals.

  69. Caffeine Queen*

    I’ve been told that I’m crazy for working in non-profits and that I’m “wasting my time” on poverty (which really hurt, given that a lot of my extended family has struggled significantly with poverty-in fact, that was my motivation). I was not amused.

    Also, that I shouldn’t temp but use my time to find my “dream job”, never mind that I’m in my mid-twenties and have maybe two years of professional work experience under my belt. Or that I need to work for the UN-even though that’s not my field at all. Or, if I don’t go into an interview with nearly flawless hair and makeup, I’ll lose out to a candidate who looks better than I do (funny because both offices I’ve worked in have a very lax dress code and I haven’t seen a single woman wear a significant amount of makeup).

    And then there’s the time where, while still in college, I was told to get my JD and my Ph.D. because it would make me “more marketable.” Yeah, there was no way I was committing to ten years of grad school and some of my coworkers at my minimum wage college job were lawyers themselves who couldn’t find legal work. Plus, my professors told me the Ph.D. job market was very competitive and I never saw myself in academia anyway.

    Thankfully, I knew to take all this with a grain of salt because none of the people who gave me this advice are part of my field or have been in a capacity to hire anyone. I only take advice from my contacts and this blog.

  70. Rana*

    My parents are generally pretty good about not giving crappy advice, but I do still remember rolling my eyes (over the phone – I’m not that rude) when they kept reassuring me that if I did a good job during my part-time sabbatical leave replacement positions (basically the academic equivalent of contract temping for someone on leave) they’d like me enough to create a tenure-track position for me.

    Alas, no, it doesn’t work like that. And even if they were able to create such a position, most institutions have the requirement that they be opened to national competition, so even that wouldn’t be a sure thing. Sorry, Mom and Dad. I wish it worked that way, I really do.

    1. Anonymous*

      I think many of us get the well-meaning, bad advice from people who love us and think we are great at what we do. They just don’t realize how many tens of thousands of other people are out there who are just as good as we are. When I remember that our country has over twice the population it did when my dad started his professional life around 1950, (he worked for one company for 40 years) I am more sympathetic to his advice. He has no idea who I’m competing against, or how harsh the job market has gotten.

      1. Anonymous*

        This, absolutely. My mother told me she was contemplating cold-calling the Gates Foundation for me. My father thinks if I just opened my own consulting shop the contracts would come pouring in because I’m just so bright. This in a field where I’m uncompetitive for unpaid internships right now because my masters is generalist and I only have three years paid experience in the area. It is so kind, and so unhelpful at the same time.

  71. Rana*

    The funniest bit of bad advice I got, though, was when I was seeking advice from my graduate institution’s career center about alternative careers that could make use of the skills associated with my history doctorate so I didn’t have to begin again from scratch. Their suggested alternative? Captain of a nuclear submarine. Truly.

    1. Kerr*

      Hey – I got that, too! Only from an online aptitude test thing. Connected with the CA unemployment office. (Helpful, not so much.) Seriously, test? I guess I have to give them points for including unconventional careers in their results.

      Ooh – I know! We could start our own business, operating a nuclear sub on a freelance basis! We’ll be rich!

  72. Sophie*

    “We have connections with lawyers, you’ll get a job easily”- said by my aunty and uncle (accountants) to their son (law student).

    Flaws in this:
    > Being a client of a lawyer does not mean that the lawyer likes you or will bring your kid in for work experience.
    > A connection will get you an introduction and work experience at his age, but not a job. He will need to prove himself, demonstrate solid work ethic and quality work, and then MAYBE he’ll get a job.
    > Law firms will accept work experience kids without any capacity to hire them on if they like them (they might just not have room for another junior lawyer).

    They don’t ever mention the working hard part to him, and he is fundamentally lazy and fails subjects because he can’t be bothered studying. I try to point out he needs to work hard, but it falls on deaf ears.

  73. Anonymous*

    I’ve given out bad advice, but’s it bad because it means the same situation keeps repeating, and not because it doesn’t work.

    The IT person where I work is 65+, doesn’t really run the network efficiently, and hates giving people access (I’m sure there are other issues as the IT dept. hates him, but since he doesn’t actually work for the IT dept. they can’t fire or suggest he be fired). My advice to other women is ‘act like you don’t know anything and he’ll do it for you’. It works, usually quicker than my (female) manager’s position which is ‘this is your job do it, and to it in a timely fashion so I can do mine’. The older men where I work have no problem with getting him to do the same things that other people ask for and can’t get, or can’t get in a reasonable time frame. So it’s bad advice because the IT person still has a job, but for the people I’m giving advice to their problem is fixed, at least for the short term.

  74. Helen*

    AIways bring cookies or other snacks to any meeting you hold, otherwise your coworkers will not be able to focus for an hour long meeting. This advice from my female boss to myself and other female coworkers only.

  75. Q*

    “If you don’t get a degree in science or math, you won’t be able to find a job, so you won’t be able to pay your bills, so you’ll be a single mom and you’ll have to become a stripper in order to feed your kids.”

    Told to me by my dad when I was 8 years old. I get that he and my mom wanted to teach the importance of not relying on a man/husband for financial security, but given my predisposition to anxiety issues, the single-mom-stripper bit was kind of overkill.

    Also, now that I have one, the assumption that a STEM degree = automatic employment forever is laughable at best.

  76. K from Canada*

    “Lie about having a skill and then learn it on the job”

    Told to my class by a chef instructor, followed by a story about how he got a job on a cruise ship making ice sculptures. His first one being little more than a weird geometric shape and improving with each one he did. Worked out for him, but I doubt it’s good advice to dole out to everyone. Plus, I’m pretty sure any employer nowadays looking for someone to do ice sculpting would be asking to see a portfolio of work first.

    1. Anonymously Anonymous*

      Sounds like the common advice ‘fake it ’til you make it’ . Some fields my lend itself and some not so much. I’d be really pissed if I hired an ice sculptor and he made a weird geometric shape. IMO, those things should always look some amazing feat not just a chunk of ice in a shape.

      1. EnnVeeEl*

        I hate “Fake it ’til you make it” – some of the worst advice out there. It encourages the mediocre to sell false promises to folks on what they can accomplish and let folks down, in the process of “getting to where they need to be.” Forget everyone else your burning along the way, I guess.

    2. Kerr*

      Wow. I came here to add my story about receiving exactly the same advice – minus the ice sculptures. :) Same thing: college instructor told us to tell an employer we could do whatever it was they were asking, and then learn the skill later/on the job. Supposedly, it was what they had done, years ago.

      That sounds like a recipe for setting yourself up to fail. Dramatically.

      Perhaps not coincidentally, this teacher was one of the worst instructors I had in college.

  77. N*

    When I was in my first management job I had inherited a staff with a lot of problems. People weren’t doing good work and there were definite work ethic problems on the team. A coworker told me that I needed to focus on getting them to like me and improve their morale before I’d be able to do anything about the problems, and that I should take them out for team dinners and try to cultivate a fun atmosphere in the department. I had no idea what I was doing, so I listened to her, and no surprise, the problems got worse. They assumed I was more of a friend than a manager and that there was no accountability for their performance, and it was nearly impossible for me to establish any authority or consequences after that. In management jobs since then, I’ve been careful to make it clear from the beginning that while I want them to enjoy their jobs, we’re there first and foremost to work, and I don’t have any problem calling people out on bad work – whether it makes them “not like me” or not! As a result I’ve ended up overseeing teams that are highly productive (and where most people are pretty happy to boot)…

  78. jesicka309*

    My boyfriend has some doozies.

    “You’re so smart, why aren’t you a doctor, or an engineer, or something?” (errr because I don’t want to?)

    “You should be a professional, like a physio, or a doctor, or a laywer. None of this media fingerpainting crap,”

    (after I’ve had a vent about my current role “Become a stripper! Seriously, they make hepas of money!”

    Also, according to him, if I bomb out of my current field of choice (media, followed by marketing), HE gets to decide what my next option is. Seeing as I’ve made such ‘poor’ decisions thus far. Ugh.

    I love him, but he’s walked straight from uni into a cushy job as an Osteopath. He doesn’t get the corporate world.

    1. MJ*

      “Also, according to him, if I bomb out of my current field of choice (media, followed by marketing), HE gets to decide what my next option is. Seeing as I’ve made such ‘poor’ decisions thus far.”

      This is… kind of concerning, actually =|

      1. Anne*

        The “media fingerpainting crap” and “be a stripper” were concerning enough already, before that…

        1. Jazzy Red*

          You love him. Would you say such things to him, or anyone else you love?

          You might want to re-think a few things.

    2. Kaz*

      It doesn’t sound like he loves YOU very much. He seems to be taking every opportunity to belittle and degrade your choices.

    3. jesicka309*

      Oh no, he loves me and wants to me to be happy, and right he’s seeing me be unhappy, and he wants to ‘fix’ it. It’s the standard venting disconnect, where I come home and vent about how awful my job is/job search/industry etc., and he will sit there coming up with solutions, instead of just listening. And because he thinks he’s a comedian, he always throws in ‘wisecracks’ about being a stripper.
      And to be fair, while in uni he was doing 12 hour days of study 5 days a week and writing a 10,000 word thesis, while I was editing films, playing on photoshop, and taking classes like “popular music” 2.5 days a week. I don’t mind his ribbing about my media degree because in comparison it really WAS like a ‘university LITE’ version of tertiary education.
      I see where he’s coming from (and no, he won’t be choosing my next profession, because I will make this one work, and I will not allow it! It’s just easier to nod now and say,sure, whatever) and he supports me allthe way. He just likes to be funny as well, and luckily I know him well enough to know the difference.

  79. Kou*

    My personal favorite of all time: “No college education guarantees anything… Except STEM degrees, those will get you somewhere! Those are the safest money makers!”


    1. Suz*

      I got this one too. Followed by “If you can’t find a job you can freelance.” Sure. I’ve got $500,000 in lab equipment in my basement. The only freelancing a bench chemist can do is make meth. lol

  80. Manda*

    Worst career advice I ever got was to take up engineering. A number of people made this suggestion. It seemed like a good idea but it was never my idea, so it didn’t work out. I always enjoyed math and science – physics in particular. I liked playing games like SimCity and RollerCoaster Tycoon so I thought designing things in the real world would be neat. But once I got into it, it was so not for me. My first year was basically all science courses so that wasn’t enough to really see what it was all about. In my second year I got into more actual engineering courses and I was frustrated and not happy at all. For starters, it was more work than I could handle. Also, I’m very introverted and I couldn’t stand all the group projects. I did not want a career of constant collaboration with other people. Lastly, the potential for liability issues really freaked me out. A minor error can result in major problems. In one class we had to keep journals of everything we did for the class – write in them every day whether any work was done or not, write in ink, no blank space so nothing can be changed. Apparently this is normal in the field so that if there’s ever a lawsuit you have a written log of what happened. No thanks. The only course I was enjoying that year was stats so I took it as a hint that I was in the wrong place. I decided to major in math instead and switched into a program in applied math and statistics. Glad I did. I was much more interested in my courses after that. People had that “what are you going to do with that” attitude, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to force myself to keep doing something I didn’t like just to please everybody else. I haven’t found a decent job yet, but there are other reasons for that and I’m not blaming my degree. There are jobs out there where a math major is an asset. It’s not a useless degree. I think I know what I’d like to do eventually anyway. I don’t regret my decision to study what I wanted.

    1. Emma*

      In public health, there are quite a few data analyst and biostatistician jobs (biostatistician pretty much requires a master’s or MPH in the subject, though). I can see an undergrad math degree (with a strong stats background) being very marketable in the field, though. Good luck!

      1. Manda*

        That’s pretty much what I was getting at. I’d love to become a data analyst eventually. (Or something along those lines. There are similar jobs with different titles.) I’m not sure I want to get into public health though. Biology isn’t really my thing. But data analysts are needed in other fields too. I just need some other work experience first because a degree itself isn’t enough. I’m not an Excel expert yet and I may have to pick up a little more programming.

        1. Emma*

          There are plenty of nice, FREE programming modules available online – CodeAcademy, Coursera, Edx – come to mind. I’m using Coursera to learn Python at the moment and using CodeAcademy for HTML.

          Public health isn’t just about biology – there are opportunities for public health work in chronic disease research, injury prevention (everything from traffic accident prevention to sports injury prevention), environmental health, occupational health, emergency preparedness and so much more. OK, I’ll stop trying to recruit you :).

          1. Manda*

            Thanks. Good to know. I really don’t know what sort of industry I’m going to end up in. I just want to crunch numbers. For now, I’m probably just going find some sort of admin job, just to get some work experience. I’m trying to get better with Excel and I intend to take some time on my own to learn more programming.

            1. Alanna*

              What about insurance – actuary or other insurance industry job? My extended family does that and it seems to be a lot of number crunching.

              1. Manda*

                I’ve considered that. I just think all those actuarial exams, like engineering, are more than I can handle. I wasn’t a top student and school really stressed me out. I would find it interesting if I was up for it. Other insurance jobs might be interesting, but that usually involves exams too. I’m not sure I want to do that, but it’s a possibility.

  81. Sarah*

    I’m impressed by these comments! I’ve either been lucky enough to get very good advice, or to filter out the bad so quickly that I don’t even remember it. I’m more upset about the things i never was told (lack of good advice) at a young age rather than actual mis-information.

  82. Jill*

    My Gramma was aghast that I was about to quit a job. “Don’t quit – you’ll lose your seniority!!” she screamed.

    So, yea, stay in a job that pays crap, treats you badly, insults your abilities and makes you miserable….all so you don’t lose your seniority.

    1. Manda*

      What the hell? I’ve always heard you should apply if you’re about 80% qualified. And sometimes it isn’t clear from the ad which requirements are more important than others. They say “Our ideal candidate will have…” and then list a bunch of unrealistic expectations, even for entry level jobs. It’s no wonder people who are underqualified apply anyway and the HR staff get flooded with too many resumes. You can’t really know which parts of the job they’ll be more willing to train someone on. I’ve been applying for jobs that say 1-2 years of experience, or experience an asset, as long as it looks like something I’m capable of doing if they would train me. If I only applied for jobs that said “will train,” or “no experience necessary,” I’d hardly be applying for anything – and those would likely be crappy jobs. And this “proficient with MS Office” that’s in almost every job ad really pisses me off. Who knows just how proficient they need you to be, because that varies from one job to another, and sometimes, I think they don’t even know. They don’t always specify which programs they want you know. I’m not exactly “proficient,” but I’m good with the basics and I’m generally computer savvy so I could easily learn whatever else I need to know. So as long as it doesn’t say “advanced,” I’ll apply if I could otherwise do the job. But I’m not going to apply for something I know is way over my head either.

    2. JCC*

      Would you consider this bad advice for jobs filtered through an applicant tracking system? I get the impression that those systems are designed so that resumes that don’t meet the threshold are never seen by human eyes to begin with… you wouldn’t be wasting the HR departments time, but you might still be wasting your own.

      1. Manda*

        Well they probably are, but you still might not be able to know exactly what that threshold is. The system might not be looking to see if 9/10 bullet points from the ad match something on your resume. Often job postings say vague things like “excellent communicator.” Having that exact phrase on your resume doesn’t say much, so maybe the ATS isn’t looking for those same words. But then listing examples of how you’re an excellent communicator might not be something it can pick up on. Those things really suck anyway. It’s pretty sad if a computer gets to decide you’re unqualified for a position just because of the lack of some specific phrase on your resume or whatever.

  83. Anonymous Accountant*

    My extended family: “Oh, I see someone is DEDICATED to their job! You shouldn’t be working so hard. They’ll come to expect you to go above and beyond if you do” (after I got my 1st promotion)

    “You shouldn’t ask them for a higher salary! That’ll make you look ungrateful and they’ll fire you. Just be glad to have a job”. (When I was researching salary negotiations before a performance review)

  84. An Ickle Admin*

    Amazingly bad advice – although snorting my tea on several occasions was worth it!

    Best bad advice – repeated ad nauseum by a friend my own age “don’t stay in your current entry level job, you need to move around lots at this stage and it’ll hurt your career if you get stuck somewhere”. said charity is interested in developing me professionally and this is my first job out of uni.

    Coupled with – from the same friend “you don’t need to work really, just give up and have babies”.


  85. Christy*

    My former office manager loved the advice that someone had given HER regarding confrontation – If you have to deliver bad news to someone, or confront him/her and don’t want to seem like a jerk, always pass the “blame” to someone over you in the flow chart. For example, I handled payroll and if I had to get after an employee for not turning in time reports on time, she would actively coach me to say that I didn’t care but that the employee’s supervisor was having a fit over it. I ignored her. Not only would it destroy any credibility I had, her whole approach created an personal/emotional element that didn’t even need to exist.

    The funniest part is that she was CONSTANTLY changing/making up new petty office rules and stating that they were what our (extremely busy and field-focused) company president wanted. She would apparently forget that she had made us all very aware of her favorite strategy!

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