During your career you often hear conflicting messages about the nature of work. Too many people today believe in myths and have excuses that prevent them from moving forward with their career plans. Knowing the truth about these common inaccuracies will help reduce your stress in terms of your long-term career development. Try to be clear and open minded when it comes to achieving success by avoiding these common misconceptions:
Myth #1: The most qualified person gets the job.
Reality: A strong resume is a very important document in the job search. As a career development rule, you build the best resume possible; one in which you are proud. Oftentimes, however, the person who lands the job is the one who makes the best impression, regardless of qualifications. A resume does not land you a job, but rather an interview. Sometimes people with weak resumes land interviews because they excel at networking, and are able to convince the interviewer that they possess the best match of qualifications, “chemistry,” and personal attributes for the job. Personal attributes include persistence, enthusiasm, honesty, confidence, and most importantly, popularity. Get them to like you. Don’t get overconfident if you feel you are the most qualified person, nor discouraged if you are not a direct match for the position. In the interview, you will need to prove yourself as the best candidate for the job.
Myth #2: My major or degree should be directly related to my job/career.
Reality: The notion that there are no jobs with your degree is false. For example, Carly Fiornia, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, was a medieval studies major at Stanford University. The old rules regarding career development no longer apply. Pick a major or degree that you love, and make sure you gain relevant experience from your work experience that match your career goals.
Myth #3: A degree guarantees me a good job.
Reality: Some believe that they can go anywhere with a GPA of 4.0. Not true! Employers do look for academic success, however, many employers would rather see a GPA of 3.0 plus work experience. Remember the rule is education plus experience equals employment
Myth #4: If I take this job, I will be set for life.
Reality: People who spend a lifetime with one employer are a dying breed. In the new economy, a job change every three to five years is not considered job-hopping. In fact, demonstrated experience at several employers is an asset, while long-term employment with one firm can be a warning sign of someone afraid of risk-taking or change. Studies show that the average working American will have three to five careers and between ten to twelve jobs during their lifetime. As a result, you will need to make multiple moves to gain new skills and get ahead. Do avoid very short stints – those under one year.
Myth #5: I’m just going to start applying and I’ll find something
Reality: Lack of focus is the number one reason people struggle with their job search. If you don’t know what the target is it is really hard to hit it. You need to rank your top jobs in the following categories: 1) ideal/dream job, 2) realistic/backup job, and 3) safety. Your career focus should be based on careful self-assessment that takes into consideration your skills, values, interests and personality. Taking self-assessment tests like the Campbell, Myers-Briggs or the Strong are useful. Having the right direction is absolutely critical to job satisfaction.
Myth #6: My family and friends make great career advisors.
Reality: When it comes to jobs and going back to school, people close to you will have many conflicting and strong opinions about what is the best option for you. It is okay to seek a variety of views, but remember that your family and friends are biased and are not trained career counselors. You will want to have someone listen to you and advise you objectively. Ultimately, your career is your responsibility. Trying to please others, such as your friends, family or even what is valued by American Society, is a mistake that will come back to haunt you in the future. Remember: you, not anyone else, must live with your job choice.
Myth #7: I don’t need a resume.
Reality: Everyone needs a resume, even if you have a great job and don’t have any intention of leaving. We live in uncertain times so continuing to build your resume is a smart career development move. Every 6 months you should review your accomplishments at work and add them to your resume. At that time, identify what the gaps are in your experience and have time to fill them in before you really need to make your next move. Your resume can also serve as a self-assessment tool to help you track what you have achieved and reflect on where you want to go next.
Myth #8: Interviewing is easy if you know how to talk.
Reality: Many people make the mistake of over preparing their resume and cover letter, and under-preparing for the all important interview. What will you say when an employer asks you to describe your greatest weakness or give examples of your top three skills as they relate to the job? Job searching is really about marketing yourself to employers. The best way to do that is to read books on interviewing, research sample questions and answers on the Internet and set up a mock interview with a mentor.
Myth #9: The only jobs available are in the classifieds.
Reality: Most research shows that less than 20% of jobs are ever listed in the classifieds. If someone is looking for a job and the classifieds are their sole source of job leads, their job search will be frustrating because most ads can draw an average of 100 to 300 applicants. It’s important to learn the other job search strategies that will complement your classifieds search. At least 50% of jobs are found using the most effective job search technique: networking.
Myth #10: I sent a resume and a cover letter. If they want me, they will contact me.
Reality: Given the volume of resumes that most employers receive, a recruiter will spend roughly thirty to sixty seconds reviewing your resume and cover letter. A passive approach will not work in today’s job market; you will need to conduct extensive follow-up and request an interview. If you left a message and you have not heard back, you have every right to call them again. Knowing someone that works at the company and requesting assistance might help you get your resume to the top of the stack.
Myth #11: Money is the most important factor when making a decision about a job offer.
Reality: Wrong! The two most important factors are: job content and your new boss. In addition to financial incentives you should also weigh such essential factors as the relationship with co-workers, typical work week, location, organizational flexibility, and other benefits such as tuition reimbursement and vacation time. Since you will be at work more hours than you will be with your family or anything else, job satisfaction should be a high priority. In addition, many workers today are eager to forego money to achieve a better work/life balance.
Myth #12: I’ll start looking for my next job when I really need to.
Reality: Wrong again. You may be happy in your job right now, but that will change. Job satisfaction always starts off in a idealize honeymoon fashion, but over time the job may become routine, boring, frustrating and meaningless. Finding the right career is one of the most difficult challenges in adulthood. It is a time-consuming process that is best done when you don’t need a job; not at the last minute. When you have already passed the boiling point, starting too late can only add more anxiety to this already stressful process. It is important to know the warning signs of burnout before it happens.
Myth #13: More education means more marketability.
Reality: This is not necessarily true. The key here is that you match your educational goals to your professional goals, and then couple them with relevant experience. There are plenty of people in the world who are well educated, but lack the necessary experience. Having a “better” degree does not necessarily mean getting the job you want or getting a job that is meaningful. What is important is the right combination of education and work experience, mixed with your ability to sell your personal qualifications in an interview.
Myth #14: The company will take care of me and my career.
Reality: Perhaps true in the 1950s, but the workplace has evolved. In an age of downsizing, the rule is career self-management. Only you will be responsible for your continuing education and career development. Even if you do well for the company, there is no guarantee that the company will guarantee its own future, let alone yours! According to Business Week, the chances are one in three that you’ll lose your job at least once during your working life.
Myth #15: I posted my resume to the Internet, so I should hear about a job offer soon.
Reality: The Internet will not solve all of your career problems. Using the Internet should be part of your overall job search plan, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security that it is a silver bullet. Post your resume on three to five of the best job sites and be sure to monitor it as well as checking the job listings on a regular basis. Spend no more than 5% of your time conducting an Internet job search. Again, the rule is networking beats NOTworking.
Copyright 2012, Dr. Thomas J. Denham, Careers In Transition LLC – Posted Friday, January 27, 2012