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“The Worst Career Advice I’ve Ever Gotten”

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I asked dozens of people across many industries and spanning three generations one simple question: What is the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten? From the too timid to the downright offensive, these are our favorites.

[Related: Career Advice You Should Never Follow]

1. “‘Hard work alone equals success.‘ This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are so many factors that contribute to career success, such as being a team player, having soft skills, and fitting in to the company culture.”—Keisha Blair, co-founder of Aspire-Canada

2. “‘Date the boss’s daughter.‘ And, no, I didn’t do it!” —Bruce Hurwitz, 56, executive recruiter

3. “‘Go to a small town and pay your dues before you jump into a big city, because there’s no way you’ll get a job without moving through that traditional chain.'” —Lauren Chval, 24, community coordinator and writer

4. “I started my career with a major financial institution when I was only 19. Fresh-faced and keen, I had both male and female managers ‘encourage’ me to flirt with my financial advisor clients to get cases, sales, and to ‘strengthen’ relationships. I never played into this behavior, as I respected myself, my drive, and my intelligence too much. It was that respect for myself that ultimately won the business and loyalty from my clients.” —Kamara Toffolo, 32, career coach

[Related: 6 Real-Life Job Interview Horror Stories]

5. “When I was in my late 20s and had my first academic position at a university in Boston, my chair told me when I was looking for work—targeting the West Coast, in particular Southern California—I shouldn’t mention in my cover letter that I’m trilingual. ‘Nobody cares about that,’ he said. ‘They’ll think you’re a lightweight if you mention it.’ I built my career on cross-border teaching, consulting, and research, especially in Mexico. I ignored his advice and labeled him an anti-mentor in my mind—any advice he gave me I did the opposite.” —Louise Kelly, strategy professor, Alliant School of Management

6. “‘Horses are a hobby. You can’t make a living with them.‘ Not only have I made a living with horses my whole life, the horse industry itself is worth $112 billion dollars a year.” —Terri Jay, 62, professional horse whisperer

7. “‘Take the first job offered to you out of school.‘ I am a recent graduate out of law school and with the legal market being as horrible as it is, everyone kept pushing me to take the first job out of school that was offered to me, even though it wasn’t in the area that I wanted to work in. I held out, unlike some of my classmates that are miserable, and I am quite happy with how things turned out.” —Julian Cordero, 26, lawyer and entrepreneur

[Related: 8 Successful People’s Advice for Soon-to-Be Grads]

8. “‘You probably shouldn’t be a writer because you get too nervous about your articles.‘” —Meghan Keane Graham, 35, chief content officer

9. “‘You should never leave a job unless you’ve been there for at least one year.‘ Fortunately, I have ignored that advice a couple times in my life already. Had I either stayed in a position I was not happy in or not pursued a new opportunity, who knows where I’d be today. The stress and uncertainty of a new job was worth it.” —Michael Thrasher, 26, research analyst

[Related: How to Stay in Love with Your Dream Job]

10. “The worst career advice I ever got was after I was passed over for promotion. They were explaining why I wasn’t ‘retail management material’ and—I kid you not—they finally told me, If you’re not willing to yell at your employees you’re clearly not passionate about the job.’ I am actually grateful for the advice. It made me realize I needed a new career!” —Kiki Schirr, chief marketing officer at Fittr

11. “Years ago, when I told people about my desire to become a comedian, I was told that it was too risky, too difficult, too impossible. Boy, am I glad I didn’t listen to them! I’m a professional, clean comedian who has performed for President Obama, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Arianna Huffington, Steve Wozniak, and many other luminaries. I’ve performed in 24 countries on five continents. I think a lot of times, people try to discourage you from doing something ‘out-of-the-box’ because they themselves are too afraid to do something risky, so they validate their own for decision to stay put by putting down others who want to do something risky.” — Dan Nainan, 34, professional comedian

12. “The worst career advice I’ve ever gotten? It came from my boss while I was still in the corporate world: If you waste your time writing that book, you’ll lose focus and probably blow the amazing career you’ve got here, and you’ll regret it every day for the rest of your life.’ I wrote the book, without losing focus. But yes, it did blow that career for me, creating the extraordinary business I’ve had ever since: writing, speaking and consulting. I couldn’t be happier that I didn’t follow that particular piece of advice.” Barry Maher, speaker and author

[Related: 12 Ways to Respond to a Demanding Boss]

13. “‘Marry someone who will be the breadwinner,’ ‘have kids early, before you’re 30,’ and ‘never start your own business,’ but if I did, ‘wait till I was in my mid-30s so the kids would be in school, at least.’ This was back in 2013 (I was 23 at the time), and the person advising was a ‘career coach.’ You can’t make this stuff up!” —Laurence Bradford, 25, freelance front-end developer and tech writer

14. “‘Money doesn’t matter.’ Yeah, it does.” —Lisa Marie Basile, editorial director, strategist, and copywriter

15. “The voice of one of my first bosses pops into my head: ‘Stay with this company long-term, work hard, and the promotions will come.’ Experience since that time has shown me that people who are willing to move around move up a lot faster than those who stay put. There were five of us in that meeting that day. One of us stayed with the organization. After 20 years he’s worked he’s worked himself all the way up to middle management. Enough said.” —Arron Grow, Ph.D., 47, university administrator and associate program director, School of Applied Leadership at City University of Seattle

You Might Also Enjoy:

8 Successful People’s Advice for Soon-to-Be Grads

7 Pieces of Advice from Amy Poehler

8 Amazing TED Talks Every Woman in Her 20s Should Watch

Photo: Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Topics:

Career Path #Self Discovery #Personal Development Career Advice
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I also got #12 when I was an attorney and writing my first book. They went one step further and asked me to use a pen name so the book wouldn't be "associated" with me, even though it was non-fiction and non-controversial (it was about business and legal issues in sports). I went to another firm and ended up with a job offer from ESPN a year later that changed the entire course of my career...for the better!

Kristi it is so encouraging to know that these things work out for people! Glad to hear it!

Sometimes, you just have to follow your own gut and it'll bring you to your destiny. You can't always listen to what everybody else has to say. It's your job and it's your problem. Thank you for sharing.


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