The 11 Worst Pieces of Job Search Advice

People love to give advice and let’s face it – when we’re facing a tough decision (such as a job search), we love to ask for it.  Following someone else’s opinion makes us feel like now there is a “shared” responsibility.  However, when it comes to important decisions like your career, beware of the outdated and uninformed advice that comes your way:

  1. Keep the resume to one page.  Here’s the thing – there are few absolutes when it comes to the job search. The question you should be asking yourself is, “Does everything that I’ve included in my resume position me as a strong candidate for the role in the most concise, well-formatted and results-oriented way?”  Worry less about the page limit and more about the content, relevance and readability.
  2. You should be an Engineer. Picking a profession based on the economic market is smart, but there are two other parts of the puzzle you need to consider: your skills and interests.  You may be phenomenal at math or science, and engineering is booming at the moment, but if you absolutely hate the field, you’ll have a short career or a miserable life.
  3. Skip the cover letter. It’s true that 60% of Recruiters admit they don’t read cover letters, but do you really want to risk it? I admit I only read cover letters after determining that the candidate is qualified based on the resume.  If the cover letter is absent or generic, the applicant will lose points. Skills and experience are only part of the picture – candidates need to connect the dots on how these will provide value to my company and also why they chose this specific role.
  4. Use a functional resume. This is almost never a good idea.  It used to be the “go to” solution for a gap on the resume or a career change, but that’s the problem – a functional format practically screams “There is a red flag I’m trying to hide!”  Ignoring a red flag or aggressively defending it will only hurt.  The truth is, as people progress in their careers, they’ll likely experience a gap, a lay off, etc. Work with a coach to present your work history in the most positive light instead of using this outdated tactic.
  5. Follow all of the rules. The job search process is broken. While it seems like finding a job online, sending a resume, getting an interview and being offered a role should work, it rarely does any longer. If you apply online, follow up or use your contacts to shepherd your resume to the Hiring Manager. Don’t offer your salary in the cover letter, even though the job ad says it’s required. Contact that dream company who isn’t hiring, because they’ll always have opportunities for great candidates.  Have the courage to stand out. If you don’t, you can be sure the guy behind you will.
  6. Go for the money. Yes, money is important, and for some, it actually may be the MOST important reason for working.  But for most, it isn’t.  Survey after survey shows that interesting work, good co-workers, and an appreciative boss far outweigh money when it comes to job satisfaction.  So, while it’s tempting to go for the green, be honest with yourself about how much happiness this will actually bring.
  7. Ask new contacts to meet for lunch or coffee. Most people are so busy, they rarely have time to meet friends for lunch any more. Why would they take 45 minutes to meet with a stranger?  They won’t.  Instead, request a 15-minute phone call, which is easier for a new contact to agree to.  Do your homework and be compelling, positive and targeted, and your 15-minutes will lead to another meeting.
  8. They’ll renege on the offer if you negotiate. This is the worst advice ever!  The company went through a lengthy process and chose YOU. Unless you’re completely rude or respond with an outlandish list of demands, the Hiring Manager will likely be happy to ensure you come on board motivated. In fact, as a Hiring Manager, my first thought when a candidate doesn’t negotiate is, “Did I make a hiring mistake?” Don’t waste this opportunity just because it’s an uncomfortable conversation.  That 10 minute discussion might put an extra few thousand dollars in your pocket.
  9. Stay in a job at least 1 year (or your resume will look bad!). Never make a decision based on how it will make your resume look. Period.  Your resume is a marketing document. There are many ways you can present your skills and experience, so staying in a terrible job or not accepting a fantastic opportunity because it has a “less than impressive” title just so that you can preserve your resume is silly.
  10. Returning to school will make the job search easier.  No matter what your industry, there will still be a job search waiting for you at the end of the degree.  You’ll have a few more credentials after your name, but you’ll still need to network, create a resume, and interview like anyone else.  If you’re a career switcher, an education aligned with your new career path can help, but experience will always trump coursework when it comes to hiring, so do internships or other “real-world” projects if you want to break into a different field.
  11. Follow your passion. This is one of the most stressful pieces of career advice out there.  I’m lucky to have a career I love. But it took a decade of trial and error, being laid off, making mistakes, and tons of networking to figure things out.  While there are many books on “finding your purpose”, the only way to truly get clarity is by taking action, which can take years and sometimes decades. And, you may have more than one “passion”, or several “sub-passions” (a.k.a., hobbies) you choose not to pursue as a career – that’s okay.  Life should be about finding passion in our world and your job should feel fulfilling, however, it’s fine if they’re mutually exclusive.

Happy hunting!

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