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Advice Career Counselors Give & Why They Are Wrong

There are many professionals out there who offer assistance to help you get a job and advance your career. A resume service, for instance, aid individuals by improving their resumes to get them more interviews. Career counselors and interview coaches, meanwhile, provide guidance, recommendations, and direction to assist people with their career choices.

man in the middle of an angel on the left and devil on the right with the words "Advice Career Counselors Give & Why They Are Wrong"

However, counselors don’t always provide the best advice. In fact, they sometimes get things utterly wrong, advising people to make decisions or take actions that aren’t in their best interests. In this guide, we’ll dig into some of the common career counseling mistakes you might encounter, explaining why each one is wrong.

Follow Your Dreams

Let’s start with one of the classic clichés that so many people hear from career counselors, coaches, or even just family members: Follow your dreams. Do what you’re passionate about, and the money will eventually follow. It’s a charming idea, and it might even work out for some people, but it’s not a strong or reliable piece of career advice.

Of course, it’s important to be passionate about what you do, and many people want to find a job that they truly enjoy or even love. But that’s not the be-all and end-all of job-seeking. You have to go deeper than simply focusing on your passions or dreams. You also need to find a job you can excel in, one with hours and a salary that suits you, duties you’re capable of carrying out, etc.

Take a Job in Whatever You’re Good At

This is a weak piece of career advice for two main reasons. First, it’s obvious. Nobody needs a counselor or any other expert to tell them they should find a job they can do well. Everyone knows it’s important to carry out your professional duties to a certain standard, especially if you hope to progress and get promoted in the future.

Second, it’s shallow. Just like “Follow your dreams,” this is the kind of advice that lacks any sort of depth or detail. You might be really good at certain tasks but absolutely hate doing them. Or there might be a job you have the skills for, but it wouldn’t provide the kind of work-life balance you need. That’s why you must look deeper than just “a job you’re good at,” and consider other factors and, ideally, find a job you can do well and also enjoy.

A pie chart with 10 tips for career advice you should consider using to get a better career path

Don’t Aim Too High

Here’s another piece of advice that a lot of people, both young and old, have heard from career counselors over the years. Don’t aim too high, or don’t overestimate yourself. It’s effectively a polite way of telling someone that they shouldn’t be too ambitious, or that their career hopes don’t match their skills, so they should “aim lower.”

But there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. Ambition often goes hand-in-hand with motivation. It helps to drive people, to push them to reach their goals. Ambition encourages people to put in that extra bit of hard work that could help them get ahead. It’s crucial for anyone who wants to succeed and progress in their career.

Always Say “Yes”

One of the worst pieces of career advice you can get is when someone tells you to always say yes. They might argue that saying yes will help you unlock more opportunities, and more opportunities mean more chances to get ahead, succeed, and make money. While the idea might sound logical in theory, it rarely works out that way in practice.

People who say “Yes” all the time often get taken advantage of. They’ll accept everything, like unpaid overtime or extra work they can’t necessarily handle, all because they’re worried or scared to say “No.” This kind of behavior easily leads to burnout, and it’s much better to think carefully and weigh things up rather than blindly saying yes to everything.

a blackboard with career coaching tips that say "Career - Interest, Skills, Education, Value, Goal, & Development"

Don’t Rock the Boat

Some career counselors for executives might frame this differently. They might advise you to “blend in,” for example, or “Don’t draw attention to yourself.” These are all effective ways of telling you to go with the flow, blend into the background, and avoid speaking up or being bold. They’re also all quite bad pieces of career advice.

Being small and quiet in a workplace usually just means that you’ll go unnoticed. You might have great ideas or a creative mind, but if you opt to “not rock the boat,” then nobody will ever know about it. Often, companies and bosses prefer to see workers who think for themselves and have the bravery to speak up and suggest new ways of working.

Take Whichever Job Pays Best

A lot of career & resumes advisors recommend their clients prioritize salary above all else, but it’s not a relevant or appropriate piece of advice for everyone. Of course, money matters. Especially in today’s world, where costs for many things are rising. You must be able to earn enough to afford the kind of life you want, but money shouldn’t be your one and only driving factor when picking a career.

Indeed, over 60% of people say that work-life balance matters more to them than how much money they make. Given that many high-paying jobs often come with longer hours and more responsibility, you may not necessarily want that kind of lifestyle. Thus “Take whichever job pays best” is often a shallow, narrow piece of advice. You must take multiple factors into account to find a career that doesn’t just give you a good salary but also meets your needs in other ways.

Apply for Every Opportunity

A lot of career counselors also encourage a “quantity over quality” approach. They’ll tell their clients that in today’s competitive job market, they must send out as many applications as possible in the hopes of getting calls back and interviews. While there’s a certain degree of truth to that, it doesn’t paint the full picture.

Yes, you might have to send out a lot of applications before you get your first positive response. Even up to 200, according to some experts. But that doesn’t mean you should simply mass-send your resume to every company you come across.

Take your time. Read each job description carefully. Research companies, and only apply to jobs you truly feel would be a good fit for you. Additionally, rather than sending generic resumes, take the time to tailor your documents for each opening, potentially with the aid of resume service.

Don’t Listen to Bad Advice

Bad advice won’t help you get ahead in your career. Instead, it could hold you back and force you into situations or even jobs you’re not totally comfortable with. So, if you hear a bit of advice that doesn’t feel quite right, don’t blindly follow it. Question it. Seek alternative opinions and follow the career path that suits you best.

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