Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Most Useless Career Advice

There’s a piece of career advice going around lately that I find useless. It’s comparable to frugality tips like “Just spend less than you make” or health tips like “Just burn more calories than you eat”.

It’s not that the advice isn’t sound in at least a few ways. It’s just that it’s what everybody says. To me, that makes it useless. It doesn’t add anything to the conversation. It sure as heck doesn’t add anything to my career.

The useless advice?

“If you have a job in this economy, just stay in it. You’re lucky to have it.”

Like I said, I hear it from everybody. I know it. Telling me (or anybody else) that piece of advice doesn’t help. I know that having a job, even a bad one, is a good thing in this economy.

But, when you were little, when asked what you wanted to be when you “grew up”, did you say something like “I just want to find a lucky job in a poor economy, even if it’s for a large, soulless dis-organization and it makes me miserable”?

If that’s all you ever wanted to be, then great. Stop reading (if you made it this far, I have like a 100% bounce rate on this blog) and go on with your life. Enjoy having your lucky job.

But if you wanted something more in life, consider my point of view in the following conversation, that has happened many times.
Casual acquaintance: Good to see you. How’s it going?

Me: Pretty good (I’m usually lying, but this is my standard answer to casual acquaintances during small talk.)

Casual acquaintance: How’s work?

Me: Well, I’ve been looking to see what’s out there. I still have my job, but I’m wondering if I can do better.

Casual acquaintance: Well, if you have a job in THIS economy, you should consider yourself lucky and just stay there.

I’ve always wondered why the casual acquaintances in my life all seem to assume that I’ve never heard this advice before, and they are dispensing wisdom far too great for Solomon to have included in the Proverbs.

But it never impresses me.

Of course, I know darn good and well that I have some serious boundary issues, and I’ve often been accused of being “too open”. Before I continue with this post, I will make the following pledge: when a casual acquaintance asks me how my job is going, I plan to say ‘It’s going great!” or “pretty good”. Honestly, that hadn’t occurred to me going into this blog post. Like I said, boundary issues. I’ve always assumed that people genuinely care about getting honest, heart felt answers to their small-talk questions asked of me.

Back to the main point.

The reason this advice is useless is because I already know it. It’s also no help to me or anybody else looking to improve themselves. How am I going to come out of life successful by staying where I’m at forever because I’m lucky to have a job in “this economy”?

Every company I’ve worked for, with the exception of the United States Navy has lied to me. (The Navy lied to me in other ways, but was honest in this regard). During my job interviews, I like to ask if they have an advancement program of some kind. They always tell me yes. That always turns out to be a lie. Twice I’ve had to leave a company because the learning curve flattened out and I was ready for more responsibility but there was no career path. My current company also told me they have an advancement program, but that was a lie too.  They tried to roll something out, but the program failed so they went back to being too busy to answer simple emails.

During the so called “Great Depression” (should be renamed the ‘Miserable Depression’ or something more accurate), I’ve heard unemployment figures around 30%. Obviously, only the most miserable of stories made the newspaper and came down through history to us. It would almost appear that the entire country was in a New York City soup line, except for some rich people. They were at speakeasies. I’ve never been able to figure out the point to Prohibition except from a conspiracy standpoint, but that’s for another post.

Do the math. If unemployment was at 30%, that means employment was at 70%. There will always be a job for effective people who can get the job done. Some of the greatest success stories passed along at Multi-Level Marketing conventions came out of the “Great Depression”.

What can we take from this blog post?

1) If you ask me in small talk how my job is going, expect me to parrot myself on the “How’s it going?” question with “My job is pretty good.”

2) Stop telling people that they’re lucky to have a job in this economy. If they don’t already know that, they probably don’t know who the President is or what day of the week it is. Or they don’t have a job, which makes that advice even more useless.

3) You can still be successful and employed in a crappy economy.
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