With the best of intentions, people have been doling out really bad interview and career advice for years. Family and friends mean well, but they tend to offer career counseling without having an actual clue about the specific circumstances and nuances of the recipient’s unique situation. It’s your dad who has been retired for 10 years. He got his first job in 1975, stayed with one company for his whole life and is telling you the best way to interview and negotiate. What’s worse is that the lecture is usually followed by emails from his AOL.com account admonishing you about the suit you bought for the interview. His complaints are that it is too slim fitting and tapered, the shirt isn’t white, the tie has a pattern and is too thin, your hair has too much gel in it and your eyeglasses look nerdy. A second round of emails cautions you not to forget your briefcase, sharp looking hat (in case of rain) and freshly shined oxford lace-up shoes.
Smart, young bloggers (right out of college, with no real-world experience) pontificate about how the readers should conduct themselves in the interview process. I wouldn’t necessarily say the writers and your family are purposely trying to mislead you. They innocently believe the cliche advice offered is helpful and correct. Sadly, it’s not; it’s closer to what my grandmother called telling a “bugge-meise.” This is a Yiddish expression—loosely translated meaning a fairy tale, something other than the truth that gets a little mixed up in your head and is not intentionally untrue. There are a lot of bugge-meises circulating in the career advice space. People don’t mean to give you bad information, but it unfortunately happens all the time.
Here are some of the examples of commonly held beliefs about interviewing or managing your career that sounds good, but are not entirely true or helpful.
1. Never accept the first offer. People will order you not to accept the first job offer. It’s the baseball equivalent of don’t swing at the first pitch. The trouble with this advice is the erroneous assumption that choosing jobs is like looking for cereal at the supermarket. There are 100 different types of cereal that you can select from. If you have a specific skill set and earn a certain amount of income, you’d be lucky to have three good jobs to interview for at any given time. You usually don’t have the luxury of an abundance of choices. It’s also like the old television game show, Let’s Make A Deal. In the show, a person may have secured a prize, such as a brand new television set. Then, the host offers the chance to forsake the TV for what’s behind curtain number two. Usually, the curtain opens slowly and dramatically, the audience gasps and the viewers see that behind the curtain is a can of tuna, used Tuba or a goat grazing grass. Why give up a great awesome job just because you were fortunate to find it first?
2. Fight tooth and nail for everything. Yes, of course, you want to negotiate for an attractive salary along with appropriate benefits. This does not mean you should come across as crass and bombastic. There is no need to yell, fight, argue and bully people. It doesn’t have to be a knock-down-drag-out fight. You want a fair offer, but you don’t want to lose it by being too greedy.This strategy easily backfires as the hiring manager and human resources professionals will view you as too difficult to work with and, no matter how good you are, they don’t want to have to deal with your aggressive attitude.=
3. Why bother with human resources. Your peers will question why you are being forced to initially interview with someone from human resources. They will say it is a waste of time and energy. What these people don’t understand is that HR is an important part of the process. They do all the work behind the scenes, setting up interviews, gathering feedback, pushing certain candidates forward in the process and denying others. The advice of your buddies is completely backwards. You want to partner with HR and have them like and fight for you. If you do get the job, they will be a great resource for you at the company.
4. Play hard to get. Maybe that works in dating, but not when it come to interviewing. If you come across standoffish, cold, distant and aloof, it does not create a sense of mystery and intrigue. It makes interviewers believe that you are not interested in the job. Hiring managers want someone who actually wants the job and is excited about the opportunity. They do not want to chase after someone who is not interested. The last thing they want is to hire an apathetic person who acts like they are doing you a favor by working for you.
5. Don’t work with a recruiter—that will cost you money. Some people think that if you work with a recruiter, it will result in getting a lower offer since the company needs to compensate the search firm. First, top companies factor in these costs. Second, firms select recruiters for assignments that they know are very difficult to fill and desperately need their services to find the needles in the haystack. Recruiters will help coach and guide you through the entire process. They will handle the awkward negotiations to obtain the best offer. These professionals most likely know the hiring managers and HR professionals and can share insider insight of how you should present yourself and what they deserve in a candidate.
6. Don’t ever take less money or a lower title. Sometimes, career trajectories are not straight up. You may want to pivot to a different type of job. Taking a step back to ultimately move forward may be appropriate at times. Titles are not the same all over. A “VP” title may be handed out like candy during Halloween at one company, but parceled out sparingly like Scrooge at another firm. However, both roles are viewed at the same level. You may want to work in a different area to gain valuable experience. Due to the pivot, the compensation may be less than you are currently earning since you don’t possess the requisite skills. It is a worthwhile for some to leave money on the table to learn skills that will help them in the long run.
7. Why would you leave New York (Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc)? There is a bias among people that you should work in so-called top-tier cities. There is a certain air of superiority if you work in Manhattan, as opposed to a city in the Midwest. It’s similar to the pretentiousness people have about cars, homes, clothes, schools and neighborhoods. Don’t fall into this trap. If the job is right for you, the people are great and supportive, the work is intellectually challenging and it looks like there will be great growth opportunity, don’t worry about the city. Do what is right for you and don’t focus on impressing anyone else.
8. Why take a new job when yours is safe and secure? Most people are afraid of change. They will remain where they are out of fear of the unknown. If they have a safe, boring job and the pay is a reasonable amount, they will not take the risk of trying something new. They’ll put their fears onto you. You’ll never learn and grow if you don’t try new things. If you stay too long at one place, it is easy to stagnate. You need to take chances with your career. Yes, sometimes you will fail, but you will learn from it, brush yourself off and try again. You can look in the mirror when you are older and be proud of the fact that you tried your best and don’t settle for mediocrity.
9. Follow your passion and do what you love. This is heartwarming advice, but it can be lethal. What if you love something that doesn’t pay well and you can’t make a living? You can love something, but there is no way to make a career out of it. You may have passion, but there are no jobs available for you. If you like your job, are good at it and have the chance to earn a good living, then that is a more realistic and reasonable way to look at things. Following a dream sounds noble and works in the movies. In real life, you have to consider whether or not your passion will afford you the ability to buy a home, get married, have kids and provide for retirement.
10. If you’re not happy quit and leave the job. This is terrible advice. Never quit a job without having another job in hand. If you quit in a moment of haste and anger, you will feel great for a couple of days. You will brag to friends of how you epically walked out on your no-good boss. As time wears on, you will realize that is wasn’t a terribly smart thing to do. You sit around the house with nothing to do. Getting a new job, you quickly learn, is not so easy. Potential managers question why you left? They think the worst. Maybe you were fired? Perhaps, something bad happened? For a manager who is paying a mortgage, college tuition and setting aside for their IRA accounts, they can’t fathom walking away from a steady paycheck. Something must be wrong. The better advice is too grin and bear an unpleasant situation until you can find a better job.
11. If you don’t get want you want, demand it or leave. It’s very easy for someone else to tell you to demand more money and responsibilities from the comfort of their home. It’s another thing when you actually try this tactic. Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. How would you like to have someone storm into your office, stomp their feet, slam their fists on the table and make threats to leave if you don’t immediately cave into their demands? You would rightfully feel uncomfortable, bullied and resentful at the treatment. Even if you wanted to grant their requests, you probably wouldn’t do so on principle. The irony is that you, most likely, would have been given what you wanted if you had just asked nicely and respectfully outlined the reasons in a rational manner that was fair and made sense.