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Community Question | What’s The Worst Career Advice You’ve Ever Received?

A drawing of a question mark with arrows.

We try to give you good job and career advice here at Idealist Careers. And we also try to warn you against bad advice. On the Fast Track blog by Intuit QuickBase earlier this month, Alison Green asked readers for the worst career advice they ever received—and they delivered. Check out their stories of writing resumes in crayon, delivering pizza, and advice on how to pick a major.

We were inspired, so we asked our staff for their best-worst advice. Here’s one Idealist staffer’s tale:

"My dear brother is smart, conscientious, and industrious, but he sometimes can’t see the big picture. During my years traveling and working as a waitress, itinerant teacher, artist’s model, bartender, healthy patient medical study participant, and on and on, he would periodically send me concerned emails advising that I stop goofing off, focus on a skill, and “get a real job.” (Once I even remember he said he didn’t want to see me become a “bag lady!”) Maybe I wasn’t articulate enough in my replies, but I could never get him to understand that his type of career advice wasn’t right for me: as a writer, constructing an interesting life was, and continues to be, the best insurance that I’ll always have something to say. I knew from day one that I wouldn’t be cleaning motel rooms forever, but I also knew I needed to do it once so I could write about something other than sitting at my cubicle."

Sometimes when giving well-meaning advice, people can try to get you to tone down your personality. But another staff member shared a story about how it’s ok to let your personality come out in applications.

"Once when I was right out of my undergrad, I was looking for part-time work to supplement my life as a musician. I was applying for admin-y stuff and decided to goof off. I sent a bunch of resumes out that listed in my misc/honors/awards section of my resume things like, “I was an Acting Ensign on the Star Trek Enterprise,” “member of the Gold Team that blew up the Death Star,” and other gems. I actually got an interview! But I couldn’t take the position because I needed a more flexible schedule."

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