People love to give advice. Unfortunately, their advice isn’t always good. That’s especially true when it comes to career advice. Two-thirds of people surveyed by Accountemps said they’d received questionable tips on navigating the working world. Most of the bad advice came from friends, but parents, mentors, and bosses were also guilty of doling out stupid suggestions for getting ahead.
It’s not that these people are deliberately trying to sabotage you. (At least, we hope not.) They might have received bad advice themselves or are out of touch with career trends. Unfortunately, their efforts to help could do more harm than good.
“Whether you’re a first-time job seeker, an experienced professional trying to climb the career ladder, or someone looking for a career change, it’s not uncommon to ask a trusted confidante for guidance,” said Mike Steinitz, executive director for Accountemps. “Friends and family members typically have good intentions, but they may steer you in the wrong direction.”
The bad advice survey respondents received ran the gamut from stupid resume suggestions to dumb tips on dealing with your co-workers. We’ve highlighted some of the more questionable tips below. If you hear the following 10 pieces of dubious career advice, take them with a grain of salt.
1. ‘Lie on your resume. They expect you to.’
Don’t listen to your ethically challenged friend who swears those little fibs on your resume are no big deal. Lying about your past experience is a no-no. Still, many people stretch the truth when applying for jobs, according to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, which found that 3 out of 4 HR managers have spotted a lie on a candidate’s resume.
While any lie is bad, providing false information about your education, embellishing previous job titles or responsibilities, and claiming to have skills you don’t have are among the most common — and the most easy to suss out. Potential employers might figure out you’re a Pinocchio by checking your references, giving you a proficiency test, or checking up on you on social media.
2. ‘Be conservative in your work, so you’re not given too many responsibilities.’
Laziness generally isn’t a virtue in the workplace. Unless your goal is to skate through life by putting in the minimum of effort (and getting the minimum reward in return), you’re likely better off seeking out at least some responsibility in the office.
For one, putting yourself out there and taking on new responsibilities can help you get promoted. But even if you’re not into the idea of climbing the corporate ladder, there’s a case to be made for making some projects or tasks your own. It makes you seem indispensable. Otherwise, once your boss figures out you’re not really contributing much to the workplace, he’ll probably have few qualms about showing you the door during the next round of layoffs.
3. ‘Make your resume very detailed and very long.’
Unless your goal is to put the hiring manager to sleep, there’s little reason to make your resume super long and overly detailed. Remember: A resume is a marketing document you use to sell yourself to an employer, not the complete story of your life and career. Keep it brief and to the point.
That said, you can forget some of the older resume rules you might have heard, such as the one about keeping your resume to a single page. Unless you’re just starting out in your career, most employers won’t bat an eye if your resume is over one page long if the information you provide is relevant. (In other words, leave off your high school gig scooping ice cream.)
And if you’re applying for certain jobs, such as those in academia or with some companies outside the U.S., you’ll want to use a CV, a longer, more comprehensive summary of all your professional experience.
4. ‘Stick it out as long as possible, even if you hate it.’
One survey respondent said their well-meaning parent gave them this bit of career advice. Hopefully, they didn’t follow it to the letter. Although there are some very good reasons for sticking with a miserable job — perhaps you really need the money or are treating it as a steppingstone to bigger things — you shouldn’t turn yourself into a martyr for your career.
Waking up every morning to head to a job you hate is bad for your health, an Ohio State University study found. It’s not good for your career either. Sticking with your ill-fitting job could lead to disillusionment, burnout, and a tendency to put in the bare minimum of effort, all of which can make it harder to find a job you actually like.
Rather than settling for a lifetime of misery, develop a plan for getting yourself to a better place. Instead of quitting in a fit of rage, plan for your next move. Beef up your skills, start looking for better opportunities, and save money, so you have something to live on if you do end up unemployed. In the meantime, do what you can to increase your happiness in your current position.
5. ‘Don’t practice for the interview.’
Winging a job interview is usually not a great strategy. Before you sit down with HR, you should think about how you’ll answer common questions (such as why you want the job), do a little research on the company, and make sure you have questions of your own to ask. If you have a tendency to get nervous or tongue-tied, actually sitting down for a mock interview with a friend or mentor can help you feel more at ease.
That said, there is such a thing as being too prepared for a job interview, which could have been what this advice-giver was getting at. “[Y]ou certainly don’t want to sound rehearsed in an interview; you want to sound like you’re having a real conversation with the interviewer. That means that it’s bad if your answers sound stiff, or memorized, or like you’re reading them off of a paper in your head,” career expert Alison Green of Ask a Manager wrote.
6. ‘Don’t be friends with co-workers.’
You spend 40 hours or more per week at work, so it stands to reason you’d get to know your colleagues pretty well. Heck, you might even become friends with them. But one survey respondent’s parent advised against getting too close to co-workers. Perhaps their suggestion came out of the idea that socializing at work is unproductive (a belief rooted in the Protestant work ethic, according to the New York Times). Maybe they were concerned about mixing business and pleasure. Whatever the reasoning behind the advice, it’s misguided.
Although you definitely want to keep your professional relationships professional, there are good reasons to be friendly with your co-workers, even if you’re not exactly best buds. Friendly co-workers might actually get more done, according to Fast Company. And having good relationships with others in your office can translate into better opportunities later on, such as when your former cubicle-mate tips you off about an opening at his new company.
7. ‘Apply absentmindedly without doing research.’
The carpet-bombing approach to finding a job just doesn’t work. Submitting your resume for every opening you can find without reading the job description or researching the company probably won’t lead to many — if any — nibbles. Sending generic, unsolicited emails to people you don’t know isn’t effective either. In fact, you’re probably annoying employers with your spam approach.
Some recruiters will blacklist candidates who apply for jobs they’re clearly not qualified for, according to Workopolis. Unsolicited emails that contain nothing more than a resume and a message equivalent to “Please hire me!” will end up ignored, wrote Suzanne Lucas, the “Evil HR Lady.” Overall, 63% of hiring managers CareerBuilder surveyed said a customized resume increased the chances they’d pay attention to your application.
8. ‘Take credit for others’ work, so you can get ahead.’
Let’s be honest. If you’re taking credit for others’ work just so you can get ahead, you’re a jerk. The person whose mentor offered this advice needs to find someone else to guide them in their career — pronto. Yet many young people seem to have taken this message to heart. A survey by marketing group DDB found millennials were five times more likely than boomers to claim someone else’s work as their own to get ahead.
Stealing someone’s ideas or trying to pass off their work as your own could work in the short-term, but it might come back to haunt you. For one, your co-workers probably hate you, and you can’t count on them to put up with your thieving ways forever. They’ll cut you out of meetings, refuse to collaborate, and might tell your boss you’re hogging credit. In general, consistently swiping other people’s ideas can damage your professional reputation and make you look lazy and uninspired.
9. ‘Stay in a role rather than grow within the company.’
We think the boss who offered this advice had his own interests at heart, not those of his employee. If you’re good at your job, your manager doesn’t want to see you go. He might urge you to say put rather than encouraging you to seek out advancement opportunities because you switching jobs would be disruptive to him.
Forget how your boss feels about it. Staying in the same job for too long can hurt your career, according to HR expert Liz Ryan. Your professional network might wither, your skills can become outdated, and your job-hunting tools will get rusty, she wrote in an article for Forbes. Although job-hopping too frequently still comes with risks, so does getting too comfortable in your current position.
10. ‘Respond with the first thing that pops into your head during an interview.’
Following this advice might give your interviewer a funny story to tell her friends, but it could cost you a job offer. When a potential employer asks why you’re looking for a new job, responding with “because I hate my boss” or “because I really need the money” is a mistake (even if those things are true). Even if you don’t stick your foot in your mouth, launching straight into a rambling answer won’t give the interviewer with the greatest impression.
If you’ve prepared for your job interview in advance, you should have an idea of how you’ll answer most common interview questions. When a question throws you for a loop, pause and give yourself a few seconds to think before you start speaking. A moment or two of silence is better than a rambling response that leaves your interviewer scratching her head in confusion.