Opinions are like . . . angles. Everybody has one. A lot of well-meaning people offer a lot of advice on how to be successful, how to land a job, how to get promoted. They have cautionary tales, and personal experiences designed to help you avoid the many landmines that are littering your career path. Some of these people are even career experts, with years of experience counseling others.
But career advice is like any other kind of advice. It must be weighed against your personal situation. What works for one person may not necessarily work for the next individual. For example, if you’re a guy, you may have a friend who pursued his “dream girl” relentlessly. He showed up everywhere she went, and kept asking out her out. But he was persistent, and she ended up marrying the guy.
However, if you try the same tactic, you could develop a reputation as a creep, and you might possibly be charged with stalking. That’s because what works in one situation may not work in another circumstance. Maybe this girl really liked your friend and she was just playing hard to get. Maybe she weighed her options and decided that she probably couldn’t do any better then him so she relented.
The point is that there are so many different factors that determine what approach or what tactic will work in any given situation. That’s why it is important to weigh advice against logic, common sense, and the law of averages. Unfortunately, most people apply the law of averages subjectively. They neglect good advice that is backed up by statistics because they think there’s a greater chance that the law will work in their favor than against them.
Regardless of the statistics, when people speed through a yellow traffic light, they think, “I’m going to make it without anything happening to me,” and when they text and drive, they think “I know what I’m doing, so I’m not going to have an accident.” Yep. That’s what all the people who got hit running through a red light or crashed while texting also thought.
On the other hand, when people hear career advice that only worked for a handful of people, they embrace it and say, “Hey, that will work for me. I’ll be the person who achieves success using that formula.” And these people are playing Russian roulette with their careers because either they don’t understand the parameters of the advice, or they feel that they will be one of the exceptions to the rules.
Two of the worst pieces of career advice – if you don’t understand all of the factors involved – are listed below:
Follow Your Passion
Following your passion sounds like good advice. If you’re going to work all day, you may as well do something that you love to do, right? Well, that depends on what you like to do, and it also depends on how well you do it. For example, you may love to sing, but if you can’t hold a note, it doesn’t really matter if singing is your passion.
You may love playing video games and subsequently determine that being a video game developer would be an ideal job. However, the back end of game development is quite different from the front interface. Do you have – or are you willing to learn – the computer skills necessary to be a game programmer? Do you have the artistic talent required to be a video game artist? Do you have the discipline to sit at a desk for eight hours a day programming or drawing? Game designers normally work on teams under the command of leaders. Can you objectively accept the criticism of your team leader or would you be offended if they don’t like your work?
It’s also important to identify exactly what it is that you love about a particular job or career. You may love repairing cars because you can pick and choose what work to do and when. However, when you have customers complaining that you’re taking too long to fix their cars, and questioning how much you’re charging them to troubleshoot the problem, will this still be your passion?
Also, according to Monique Valcour in the Harvard Business Review Blog, “The ‘follow your passion’ self-help industry tends to under-emphasize” the importance of being able to pitch your point to a buyer. In other words, you can’t turn your passion into a career unless you can find people who are willing to pay for that service or product. If you decide to make your passion a career, ensure that there’s a demand that you can meet at a competitive price while keeping your overhead low enough to make a profit.
Skip Or Drop Out Of College
We’ve all heard the stories about famous people who either skipped college or dropped out, and are now millionaires or even billionaires. According to an article in the Huffington Post, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to co-found Microsoft. Mark Zuckerberg left Harvard and started Facebook. Ellen DeGeneres dropped out of the University of New Orleans to become a stand-up comedian. And there are many more with similar stories.
The success of people like these has bolstered the idea that a college degree is not necessary. However, research proves that this is not the case. According to a study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, a full-time worker with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn 84 percent more during their lifetime than a worker who only has a high school diploma.
Ironically, studies also show that some associate’s degrees in technical subjects pay more than bachelor’s degrees in such subjects as education, arts, and the humanities. But whether it is an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or higher, for the average person, college significantly increases earning potential when compared to a high school diploma.
While not everyone drops out of college with visions of being rich, many fall into the trap of securing what appears to be a lucrative position, which leads them to terminate their college studies. Now, if that position includes a multi-year, multimillion-dollar contract with a professional sports team or a starring role in a blockbuster movie, it makes sense to put your college plans on hold.
But more often, college students are lured away by jobs that pay significantly less. For example, many college students in information technology are offered full-time jobs while they are still in school, and they often end up dropping out of college. Although the salary may seem lucrative at the moment, failing to complete school may limit their chances of advancement, and it may hinder them from applying for computer science positions with companies that actually require a degree.
Some students also drop out of school to work at such places as car manufacturing plants or to drive trucks for large package delivery companies. These jobs may pay well, but they are a risky choice since they don’t require specialized skills. And as a result, when these companies lay off workers, the individuals often complain that they can’t find other jobs that pay a comparable salary with no degree requirements.
That’s why you need to weigh all of the factors before making decisions that can affect the rest of your life. Your career is too important to be based on clichés and advice that is not grounded in reality or supported by research.