The Worst Career Advice You’ve Received

Would you like a free dress? A totally awesome dress, that is. One from Shabby Apple? I do, but alas, I’m not eligible for this free dress.

The wonderful people at Shabby Apple are giving away one dress to one of my readers. If you win, you can pick any dress from their collection.

I realize this is totally discriminatory and if my male readers want to get some company to offer something masculine I’d be happy to run another contest. But, think of your wife/mother/girlfriend/sister and enter! Then you say, “Honey, for Christmas I got you a new dress!”

In order to enter the contest, leave a comment with the worst career advice you’ve ever received. This can be advice you’ve received in real life, advice you’ve read on the internet (link please) or bad advice you’ve made up yourself for this contest. If you link to something I’ve written, claiming my advice was the worst ever you better justify it or I’ll accidentally rip your entry into tiny little shreds.

The winner will be chosen at random on December 20th! I’m excited to read your bad advice. And you should be excited to get a dress.

Note:  I did check with the Shabby Apple people and they will ship internationally, so enter away.  I’m dying reading all this advice.

Entries are officially closed. If you have some “good” career advice, feel free to share, but the winner has been picked and is (drum roll please) AZURE, who posted December 15, 2010 6:52 PM.

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95 thoughts on “The Worst Career Advice You’ve Received

  1. American companies usually don't… but do check with them if they will ship it outside of US, or of US & Canada 🙂

  2. The advice from my college adviser to go into newspaper journalism … a field with perhaps the worst salaries anywhere.

  3. I had a previous boss who advised me to drop my request for a pay raise because the company's great culture should make up for the gap between my actual compensation and my market value. I left the company for an immediate 12% increase and am now making about 175% of what I was there. And you know what? My new company has a great culture, too.

  4. Hi I am Heena from India, and i have been following your blog for quite some time now and it interests me alot.
    well!! The company i worked before had a small HR department and after working for almost a year and half when i asked my manager bout my promotion he advised me to change my department from HR to either Marketing/Sales because the company was looking at great pays for marketing/sales people.
    I never thought an HR manager could be the one to advise something drastic like this to his workforce. Although i never listened to him and i left the job for a much better raise and a more challenging and learning job.

  5. My company had brought over a bunch of H2Bs and had promised them certain living standards, and then sent them to a landlord who totally took advantage of them. They were being charged way more than they were supposed to be, and were barely making enough to feed themselves.

    The company didn't know about this, and I found out from the H2Bs that were my direct employees. I asked my boss for advice and she (an ultra pacifist) advised me not to make any waves.

    I completely ignored her advice, let the GM know what was going on… and lo and behold, the contract with the landlord was immediately terminated, and those hardworking kids were put into a much better situation right away.

    It's always better to do the right thing than to be afraid of "making waves".

  6. I was once told that short and fat/chubby women can't get promoted, so I should lose some weight and buy some high heels. Thanks, Mom.

    Luckily, I proved her wrong a couple of months ago when my 5'2" somewhat chubby frame was promoted.

  7. I got pretty bad career advice in High School, where I was told being a high school teacher was a great career to enter – about the time I would be graduating with a teaching credential, a wave of teachers would be retiring. Furthermore, the job security was great.

    Thankfully in college I found I didn't want to spend my life forcing high schoolers to learn math. The job security in my current career isn't great (is anyones right now?), but I don't get a pink slip every year while the state budget is being decided.

  8. Ok, so my worst advice isn't earth-shattering, but here goes.
    1. The college career center always says to include an objective statement on your resume. I suppose it has its place, but it always seems forced and awkward. I can say what my objective is much better in my cover letter.
    2. I work in higher ed and around here it feels like everyone has a graduate degree, just because. I have my masters, but I believe the advice should be to research and see if a graduate degree is worth it to help you advance your career. It has helped me advance my career (which isn't actually in my degree field), but at the same time, I don't think it should be assumed that it's the right next step for everyone.

  9. Allison Green actually found this gem, but I'm seeing this one in action these days.

    The post she's referring to tells people it's ok to burn bridges. There was a great deal of back-and-forth and the author clarified a bit more. But this is TERRIBLE career advice. You never know when you'll encounter people from your past employment again.

    My company is going through a merger with a company who we've had some business relationships with in the past. And the CEO of the other company was named CEO of the the new company. And some of the people that I work with had shaky relationships at best with this CEO. They didn't think anything of burning bridges in the past. Now they have to eat crow and figure out how to work with a man that they didn't get along with as our CEO.
    It's ok to burn bridges is the worst career advice I've ever seen on the web.

  10. I was discussing with my college adviser whether or not to get my MBA right after college. He told me "Honestly, I'd wait a few years- but then you'll have a husband, and you won't have to worry about paying for it. Just ask nicely, he'll say yews. Make sure you marry well, of course.

    This was in 2003, at a highly-ranked state university's school of business. It rendered me speechless, I couldn't believe that a career adviser was telling me "marry well" as some sort of advice.

    1. Well, I was told that “you don’t need a rise, you already have a boyfriend”. As you can imagine, they didn’t give me the rise and couln’t explain what that have to do with my works value. I moved to another company in a month, with a 75% rise. And while part of that rise was because I had more experience and my wage was entry level, I suspect that most of it had to do with that kind of “advice”.

  11. I started working full time, out of necessity, while I was still in college, and spent my junior and senior years juggling a 9-5 secretarial job and a full course load. My boss at the time said to me "you can't do both" – I was admittedly somewhat overextended – and suggested I drop out of school.

    He was a terrific guy, otherwise, but that advice prompted me to find a new job, which worked out for the best: at the next job I finished school, moved from admin work to sales (which I'm still doing almost fifteen years later), was promoted twice, and ended up more than doubling my salary before leaving for even greener pastures.

  12. Perhaps the high school guidance counselor advice to buy faux parchment paper for your resume? Seriously, who does that anymore?

  13. Worst advice (which I did consider since it was from someone who has always given me great advice): You don't want to go back to school / don't want the job that you can only get by going back to school / you'll miss your salary here.

    Well, yes, I do miss my salary, but I am *thrilled* to be back in school and working towards that position

  14. well, let's try this again.

    From my grandmother, who said a woman can't be a scientist, pilot or astronaut.

  15. "Don't worry about it, I'm sure it will work out."

    Now I've got a job worrying about it, on behalf of an entire company (I'm senior mgmt).

  16. Worst advice ever: "You've gotta do 3 things to be successful: you gotta be smart, you gotta work hard, and you gotta kiss a lot of ass."

    Better advice: Nobody likes an ass-kiss. Just be smart, work hard and be open to making friends.

  17. I'm not sure if this counts as career advice:

    One of my High School English teachers, who wasn't much of a teacher at all, informed me that my dream of being a writer wasn't within my reach. He told me, "You'd be better off in the army."

    He was serious.. and I was crushed.

    Now I currently write for the Deseret News and he can eat my shorts.

  18. Mine is similar to Charity's–my mom said the worst career advice she ever gave me was to major in English in college. :p
    (note: I'm in HR now)

  19. Worst advice/opinion ever received was from a High School math teacher who told me not to worry about my struggles in math because "girls aren't very good at math anyway."

    Oh, by the way, Mr. Blackwell – I now work in compensation and I'm dealing with numbers all the time. 🙂

  20. Dear Evil HR Lady,

    First of all, I would really like this dress for my wife, as she loves shabby apple and a dress would make a perfect Christmas present.

    Second of all, I'm pretty sure I might take a cake on this contest. 🙂

    Less than three months away from graduating with my Bachelor's Degree, I was pulled aside by an Account Supervisor at what was becoming arguably the hottest modern ad agency in the country, if not the world. I was freelancing for them while juggling the last semester of senior college projects. He told me they needed people like me, but I'd have to take the entry level job immediately and forgo the last semester and my degree, so I could move to Miami within the next couple weeks and start working full time on the coveted Volkswagen account. It was painful, but I turned the offer down within hours of thinking about it and I finished school 3 months later.

    That golden contact left the agency shortly after that freelance project, and he was no longer there when I was ready to make the plunge (They have a high turnover rate). I kept contact with others in the agency and got the job I wanted immediately after graduating, and I still work there. I am now an Account Supervisor, after two promotions in 4 years. The agency just asked me to help them build up their London office and opportunities are abound.

    It would have been a huge mistake in the long-run to drop out of college for a supposedly golden opportunity. This guy honestly thought he was doing me a favor, but it's hands down the worst career advice I ever received.

  21. My college career counselor: "Major in communications – you'll have a variety of fields for which you'll be qualified upon graduation." Sure, if I graduated with 5+ years of experience. It seems no one is interested in hiring a Comm major with 6 months internship experience.

  22. I took a job that turned out to be the worst in my life. It was clear from day 1 that the best thing to do would be to quit ASAP, but people said that it would "look bad" to have quit and that I should "stick it out" for at least a year. It was a year of hell. If all your senses are screaming "get out!" listen to them.

  23. "A Masters degree will open up so many career options for you!" — undergraduate academic counselor/professors/my Mom 🙂

    … although perhaps they were talking about an MA in something other than Theology…

  24. When I was in my sophomore years in high school, a career counselor came to speak to us. She asked a few of us to share what we wanted to be when we grew up.
    I told her that I wanted to be a social worker.
    She said (in front of everyone) that people who actually *wanted* to go into work like that were fools, that I would regret the choice for the rest of my life, and that I should start thinking of something else right away.
    This woman told me that I would waste 10 years on schooling and getting experience, only to find out within two years of actually working in the field that I had made an incredible mistake and it would be too late to do anything else.

    I didn't believe her, exactly, but she swayed me enough that I abandoned social work for something else. I wish I could go back and tell my 15 year old self that the woman clearly had issues and I should ignore her and follow my dream!

  25. I was told if I worked hard, people would notice. I worked hard at a company, taking on extra hours, business trips etc, but was laid off.

  26. I've got some real doozies, but by far the worst comes from my father:

    "Just take any job. It's easier to get a job when you already have one."

    Result: a nearly ten year stretch of job hopping between hopeless minimum wage "slacker" jobs, which has become an insurmountable obstacle to breaking into a professional career path.

  27. I had a previous boss who advised me to work for him "on the side" because our company was failing and he wanted to build another way to make money before the ship sank.

    Um, thanks, boss, but I'd actually really rather NOT act illegally against my employer's interests and give them reason to fire me with cause to deny unemployment in a situation where I know I'm going to get laid off eventually.

  28. As I was getting ready to graduate from a mostly science and engineering university with my BA in English, I went to the placement office to seek employment. The career counselor looked at my resume and suggested I learn to type.

  29. @LaughLearnLove: I was also a Comm major and have many friends and former classmates who have felt the same way. I hear ya. It's tough out there.

    If you're not in the mood for advice, don't read on. If you are open for it, here goes:

    Your college career counselor is half right. BUT ONLY if your college degree is paired with a burning curiosity and passion for a particular trade WITHIN the communications field. And hopefully one with a lot of jobs, like advertising and marketing. With media/communications bombarding us everywhere we look, the jobs that fill and create said media are almost as plentiful.

    In my opinion as a Comm major who has worked very hard to excel in the job market there are two things every Comm major needs to do as they approach graduation and even after graduation:

    1. Be competitive for the best internship experience you can dream up. Go for it and get a great one (or two or three even, as long as they are building your resume with great skills and experience).
    2. Be willing to travel all over the country for wherever the best entry level positions or internships are. Be mobile for the first couple years at least, soak up the best of the best, even if that's out of your favorite/home state or right coast / left coast.

    In a nutshell, the Comm degree alone isn't much better than an underwater basket weaving degree. BUT pair it with a crazy obsession of becoming the best in a competitive market, and aiming for a hot internship or two to get off on the right foot (plus networking and making friends in those internships of course) and she's right, there are lots of options.

    Thing is, you have to really love what you do and be a student of your craft outside of the college classroom to really stand out. I think that goes for most any profession. Take EHRL, for example. She keeps this great blog, she doesn't just sit around fire people all day long. 🙂

    But alas, I digress. This is her blog for advice, not mine. 🙂

  30. Background: I have an unusual form of arthritis, and one of the things it affects is my hands. I cannot write for very long at a time, and I cannot write legibly for long without considerable uncomfortable effort. Thus, I type,or I use dictation software, and in my current job I have a PA and use a dictaphone. When I was a student, my university saw this for what it is, a mechanical problem, and allowed me to type my undergraduate and Masters exams on a computer which IT had cleared of everything but Word and Excel.

    So. Around ten years ago, I was asked to sit a professional certification for work. Three three-hour written exams. I explained to my boss that I would not be able to sit them without accommodations, so we approached the awarding body, who said that I should submit a request with medical evidence and signed off by HR, but that something could be worked out.

    I went to HR for the sign off, where I encountered StupidWoman. After doing a lot of 'Awwww'ing, she said to me, 'You know, these exams will be very stressful for you with your condition. In fact, this whole job must be quite stressful and difficult and involve lots of thinking. Wouldn't you maybe be happier working as a cashier at the supermarket?'

    Not to disrespect cashiers, but really, WTF? and how does one get from a professional Masters-level job to a supermarket clerk? I gazed at her in complete and utter astonishment, before saying, 'Erm, my problem is that my hands don't work properly. There isn't actually anything wrong with my brain'.

  31. "Never quit your job without another lined up."

    Sure, it's not a great idea to leave yourself without income, but sometimes, for the sake of your mental/physical health or personal ethics, you have to get out immediately. It sucks, and it's frightening, but hey, you take a break and get some perspective and the next people interviewing you just might think it's great that you spent some time volunteering and figuring out what you really wanted to do.

  32. "Oh, a career in public relations would be a perfect fit for you!"

    –told to shy, introverted me when I was an undergrad. I spent the next two years taking all the PR classes that I could, only to realize that I'm not cut out for it.

  33. When I was in college, I wanted to go to law school in NYC (I lived in Atlanta at the time). Being the meticulous planner I am, I went to the school's alumni office & found a total of 3 alumni who were working as attorneys in NYC. I'll never forget the horrible advice I got from the only one who wrote me back (I even remember her name).

    She basically told me to go to law school in the South despite wanting to get out as fast as possible. She essentially told me not to bother living where I would be happy, even though a law student had told me that I'd have to attend law school in the location where I wanted to practice if I wanted to get employment.

    I ignored her, went to law school in CT, met & married my soulmate, moved to NYC, followed some better advice & now have a very unusual career as an entertainment attorney/entertainment executive/creative person. No one I know is doing what I am and had I listed to her, I'd still be alone, miserable & wanting to move to NYC.

  34. My dad told me after high school graduation that my best bet would be to 'forget about college, go to secretarial school, and marry some guy working his way up the corporate ladder'. I'm glad to say that I ignored this advice, went to school, and have an amazing and challenging job that I love coming into each day! Never did get married, though, so maybe he had something there…

  35. In 8th grade we were given the Kuder Preference Test, to determine our aptitude for future careers. This was back in the day when there were different scales for men and women. I scored (out of 100 possible points) 99 for science, 98 for outdoors, 89 for mechanical, 40-something for music/arts, 14 for clerical, and 2 for sales. My guidance counselor looked at my scores, laughed, and said, "well I guess you could be a county agricultural agent. Or a chorus girl." He then filled out my high school class schedule with the full range of clerical coursework, and only the minimal math class I'd need for a diploma. I totally sucked at clerical work, dabbled in a series of low-end jobs for decades, and finally got a degree in computer engineering at age 44. But oh it hurts to know that I could have been a marine biologist, or a forest ranger, or any of the other careers I fantasized about as an adolescent.

  36. When I asked my previous boss if I could negotiate my salary with HR if I applied for a position that was a lateral move he told me to forget about it. He said he probably shouldn't tell me this but "they could find someone who would work for that salary and didn't care about my skills and requirements." Well I did end up getting that job and negotiated myself a 5% pay increase.

  37. Working for the government, you'll never have to worry about job security. That may have been true before 2008, but it sure isn't now.

  38. When I was visiting grad schools for engineering, a professor asked if I had taken some courses for specific topics and I said no. He then scoffed at me and suggested I should change fields to humanities. I found this attitude from him quite amusing, considering I had been admitted to higher ranked programs already. I went to another program and have now been an engineer at a national lab for a few years.

  39. Does this count?

    How about being told through actions and being ignored for years, even though you are the only one who was trained how to do your job legally and ethically, that if you just shut up and do what the "suits" tell you, you can be a part of a quality business.

    Make sense?

  40. "Don't quit your toxic job." I had a job in college where I would cry almost every single day I hated it so much, my boss was terrible, I hated the work, and there was no room for advancement. I was told by multiple people to stick it out lest I look like a job-hopper. I did stay for one year but I should have quit as soon as I realized it was not the job for me (about a month in).

  41. The worst advice I ever received was to "Suck it up" when I was receiving unwelcome advances and gropings from a 79 year old employee at my job because "he's older and from a different era". I understand generational differences but that was taking it to a place that I can't understand.

    The real kicker though? The advice came from my parents.

  42. "Don't quit your terrible job, the economy is sooo bad right now. At least you have a job!"

    I call bull crap! I was verbally abused and bullied on a daily basis by my former boss and his chronies. I orchestrated my lay-off (oh yes, yes I did) and have never been happier. I was hired 6 weeks later by a company that respects me and actually wants me to succeed.

  43. Being told by an art professor that since I was a woman, he wasn't going to take me very seriously in class. You know, since I wasn't going to take art seriously and would just get married and have kids any way, not be a "real working" artist.

  44. The whole 1 page resume thing has never worked for me. Mine is currently 3 pages, and my lifetime interview average is 52% of jobs I've applied to. Not too shabby in this economy.

  45. "Suggested profession: Priest" – Result of my job center's computer-assisted job testing. I am Roman catholic and female.

  46. I asked my Boss to look in to performance reports of a subordinate, coincidently a Gorgeous PYT(her performance ratings were going down like a massive land slide) and my boss replied,quoting Mother Teresa: "If you keep Judging people, you will have no time to love them."

  47. Received this advice from multiple people: lie about your current salary, confirm your boss will back you up, and use your fake salary to get a higher offer when interviewing. No thanks.

  48. Ha, methinks some Europeans *have* to participate, otherwise, you'd never get so see what *really* bad advice looks like:

    "No need to apply for more than one job. In fact, that would be highly unusual. Oh, you already have applied for two jobs? Tell one of them you are not available."

  49. "Stay in teaching, even though you hate it. It's a stable job, and there's always a need for teachers."

    To be any good at teaching, you have to love it, and when you lose that passion, it really is time to find something else if you possibly can. Life is too short to do what you hate.

  50. My boss (the company's VP of HR) told me in all seriousness that I needed "bigger boobs and a smaller butt". She advised me to start taking birth control pills because they had increased her bust sized when she took them. I'm 5'7", and I was 21 years old and about 125 lbs at the time. She told me that I ate far too much than I should and suggested I start taking Hoodia pills (an herbal supplement) to curb my appetite.

    Needless to say, I left. Now, over five years later, I'm about 10 pounds heavier, but far, far happier!

  51. These body image comments are amazing.

    I was told that since I was a woman, I would have to take dictation. It was very unique.

  52. The worst career advice I ever got was when I was a teenager in the
    60's. I was looking through the “Help Wanted” section of the newspaper. It was divided into “Help Wanted: Men” and “Help Wanted: Women”. Of course all the jobs for women were the low-paying menial jobs or the very traditional nursing and teaching positions. It seemed perfectly normal to me at the time. But I’m very glad I ignored it, got a good education, and went on to a more lucrative career.

  53. That same boss also repeatedly tried to convince me to highlight my hair (I'm a brunette; she thought I'd look better as a blonde), get my ears pierced, and wear lip liner. I guess she thought women could only be successful in this world if they looked like Barbie!

  54. The worst advice I ever recieved was from my immediate boss (male) in my first job who told me that "I should be greatful to be getting promoted and didn't need a payrise". "That I had a husband and no children and was only earning spending money – and that as a girl under thirty I was very lucky to be getting the opportunities I was getting". He went on to add that if I kept on making waves (like asking for a payrise with the increased responsibility) I would be classed as a b***h and that could hurt my career chances.

  55. "You should wear lower cut tops and flirt with the clients more."

    Said to me by my manager.

    Ok, so maybe this was more sexual harassment than bad career advice…

  56. When I announced I was getting married, my then boss told me "I hope you're not planning to have kids, because if that's the case you can forget about a career"!

    Oh and he also refused to allow me to take 2 weeks of my annual leave for a honeymoon after the wedding!

  57. Surya–Shabby Apple said that international shipping is okay, so please, please, please, share your story with us.

  58. "Don't smile for the first six months." Advice given to me as a trainee teacher by my lecturer. Seriously?! I was training to teach under 8's. Have you ever even tried to spend an hour in the company of little kids without smiling?!

  59. College investment banking club president: I wasn't cut out to be a banker because I didn't drink, didn't swear, and basically wasn't a guy.

    Dear Carl-who-didn't-get-a-banking-job: Booyah.

  60. Worst advice ever – I interviewed for a job and everything went well. Part of the interview process included a small project that would take about an hour to complete – just to show my work. The owner of the company described it as "being on a first date and having our first dance to see if we move together well before we go home together." I was interviewing for the HR Director role and this comment was a bit much. I confronted the owner directly saying that I didn't like the comment and found it out of character and wondered if he was "just trying to test me to see how I would respond".

    The advice from a close friend/mentor was that "testing" me had to be the reason for the comment and I should address it head on. The owner responded that he did want to see what I would do. I ended up taking the job and left a few months later because the owner was an asshole.

    Yes, testing me was the project and the comment was to see how I would respond to inappropriate comments. I should have walked away at the beginning.

  61. I'm a new employee where I work and during training were we told to do as much as possible and to "not care too much if it is right, we care more about quantity than quality"

    This is an organization that pays out millions of dollars a month and the management's advice is to go as fast as you can and fix it later. Seriously?

    I won't tell you WHERE I work, because it will just piss off a lot of taxpayers….

  62. When I was in college, I didn't get into the School of Business. My advisor told me that transferring somewhere else to major in HR would be the biggest mistake of my life and that any degree from (insert Big10 university here) is better than anything from any other state school. A friend of mine also didn't get into the business school. She took that advice and graduated with a degree in East Asian Studies. I transferred to the "second best" business school in the state and majored in Human Resources Management. Guess who's unemployed? Not me!

  63. Lie on your resume. It's common advise given out by other students when applying for internship positions. Suddenly all of your competition is super involved in every campus activity going. A little frustrating since it's the kind of stuff that is almost never verified, but you never know when it'll come back to haunt you.

  64. When I was in intern at a big four accounting firm, I was told that to be successful you have to be a big drinker.

  65. I've got two:
    1) My father told me "Tools don't make the craftsman." I was apprenticing to a goldsmith at the time and wanted some decent pliers – he apparently thought any old pair would do, as opposed to the kind actual jewelers use.
    2) My graduate adviser told me to just abandon the idea of getting a PhD and "get married and have some babies instead." He suddenly died about three months after he said that, and I don't like to think of death as a karmic punishment, it's always felt sort of coincidental to me.

  66. The worst career advice I ever received was from my campus career office.

    The advisor was in favor of resumes printed on parchment paper to "stand out," and suggested creating a portfolio to bring with me to interviews.

    The portfolio should include pieces of writing, letters of recommendation, et al. Her example looked like a scrapbooking project.

    Fortunately, I found EHRL and AAM before I ever attempted to use the Career Center's advice.

  67. Worst career advice ever? Well that would be marry rich, and don't worry about the career. We all know that when girls grow old men grow cold and we all lose our charms in the end… why not be sure that you have something to fall back on, i.e. education and a career so that you don't have to worry about those old men with money you'll have your own. Oh yah and that advice was given to me in the third grade, thank goodness for a strong female presence after that time.


  68. My lovely, conflict-averse husband who hates stress, is currently overloaded at work from all directions (from project managers). One particular project really needs someone on it 100% and she was pressuring him to commit to it and said 'if you don't it could be career limiting'.
    I call it bullying… good job his wife is in HR eh?!

  69. I was told to keep working at a job I hated and not switch to another job I really really wanted because the first job is what I went to school for….

  70. After reviewing the results of me career aptitude test, my college career counselor told me that I would never find a job I would be happy with so I should aim for mediocrity. I'm still speechless.

  71. "You're a reasonably attractive guy, and everybody who works in HR is either female or gay. Not saying you have to sleep with 'em, but when you go in for an interview, it doesn't hurt to bat the eyelashes a bit, y'know? Just think of it as paying the dues…"

  72. My mother told me to take the first job offer I received from a fantastic company. In hindsight, I should've negotiated my pay.

    While I love my company, I wish I could go back in time and negotiate because I'm very good at negotiating others' pay when they are offered jobs.

  73. Once upon a time, I worked for a really great university, in the IT department. Among our upper management were these two who had a tendency to, let's say, engage in activity that opened the university up to sexual harassment claims, especially annually while drunk on cheap hooch at the department holiday party. Evvvveryone knew about it. It was to the point where when a new female was hired, especially Asian females, the rest of us would warn her to be cautious, leave the holiday party early, … and the HR person came into my office every so often to bum a cigarette and get away from it. Anyways, my group had some entirely other dysfunctions and a management consultant was brought in to do one-on-one interviews with the staff and then make recommendations for change. At the end of my interview, she asked if I had any questions, and I asked if it was free-form or if I should stick only to issues within my group. She said I should feel free to ask anything HR related. So I said, "I'm really bothered by this culture of acceptance of behavior, specifically by Mr X and Mr Y, that in any for-profit company would get us sued for sexual harassment. Everyone knows about it and just lets it slide, and keeps giving them booze at the Christmas party so they can get handsy with undergrads. And, apart from anything else, from a business standpoint, it really endangers the university endowment if anyone does choose to sue."

    She thought about it carefully for a minute and then told me, cheerfully, "You need to get over it." And concluded the interview.

    It just completely blew my mind. Even if that statement wasn't directly actionable, having it said by someone in authority that I should just stop caring about people engaging in behavior that potentially endangered the actual funding for the university… What a nutjob! I not only didn't get over it, I got the heck *out* of it and left. I lost my office, but I think I'm better off in the reality-based world outside academia!

    Get over it. Yeesh!

  74. My mother's recommendation that I do a Phd.

    In England. (I'm Canadian)

    Without funding. Um… no.

  75. Be grateful that you have a job at all; keep your head down and willingly do whatever your employer asks of you. Trust your employer and in particular, your manager – they have your best interests at heart and they understand how the world works far better than you ever will.

    (Priest in my high school serving as a substitute teacher in a civics lesson.)

    Even in 1980, this didn't sound like good advice. I remember one classmate, whose father had just been dumped after 25 years with his company, having the temerity to offer an alternate view.

    He was sent to the principal.

  76. I'm torn between two.

    1. The high school work-placement program coordinator who, when I stated that I was interested in mechanical or environmental engineering, asked several times whether I was sure that I wouldn't prefer nursing.

    2. Not pushing back on my supervisor for a less-than-stellar evaluation. It was shortly after coming back from a 10-month parental leave (standard in Canada is 1 year), and he'd stated that my technical expertise needed work. He'd forgotten that most of the projects I worked on I brought the concept to the designers for review, rather than them providing a concept to me. I didn't push back, got laid off 6 months later, and never got a chance to prove myself to him (due to his subsequent selection of project assignments). When I applied for professional certification, his letter ignored most of my technical contributions, and I had to justify my technical expertise to a committee (I passed). It wasn't a huge setback in the long run, but it does bother me.

  77. Definitely the advice of my then-boss, who stated I would never make anything of myself I left the job where he was "instructing" his "subordinates" on how to be proper employees (we were all new graduates, but we started there before he arrived and had had a wonderful boss beforehand). He wasn't instructing us; he was bashing us down and making us feel worthless. I left the job, was temporarily unemployed, and ended up finding several jobs since then where I am respected and my ideas are consistently taken into consideration as to how the positions can evolve for myself or the next person to take over.

    -the celt

  78. I had just graduated from one of the top ten business schools in Canada with honours, and was getting advice from a local community job centre for youth. I explained that I was looking for entry-level analyst work at corporations with branches in my city, like TD Bank, Kellogg's, General Motors.

    The counselor told me that corporations are really hard to get into, so I should consider something more realistic like a waitressing job, perhaps at an upscale place like Swiss Chalet.

    Perhaps it was my fault for booking the free career counseling session without doing any prior research on the nature of the job centre – turned out they dealt primarily with street youth and also youth with learning disabilities. Of course I disregarded their advice and found a job in a mid-sized tech company with a wonderfully relaxed corporate culture.

  79. From a former coworker:
    "Don't get sidetracked by making friends at work. Just get your work done." Sadly the term "networking" was not in her vocabulary.

    Thanks for the great contest!

  80. Entries are officially closed. If you have some "good" career advice, feel free to share, but the winner has been picked and is (drum roll please) AZURE, who posted December 15, 2010 6:52 PM.

    AZURE, please e-mail me at and I'll put you in contact with the Shabby Apple people. Congratulations!

  81. Hello,

    I have a BA in psych. for for years now I am not able to find a position with it. I am thinking of going and getting a masters. can anyone give any advise of what i can do with a psch major? If I should get into a masters program, which should i consider the most?

    Thank you!

  82. From various coworkers – “Don’t work too much/too hard.” and “They are using you, don’t do too much for them.”

    Why is this bad advice? I saw 3 raises last year, gained more invaluable experience for myself and glimpsed into sections of my industry people with 10 years more experience can’t even understand, and am now a higher-up’s right hand (and yes, he openly gives credit to what is the result of my effort vs. his). If I didn’t work so many hours, so hard, I would still be a low-level paper-pusher fearing for my job everday in the great recession!

  83. Hey there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this
    website? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  84. My instructor in design school shared with my whole class that if we want to be married and have children Fashion isnt the industry for us. We need to leave if a family is smething we want. Having a family will not get you far in the fashion industry and that we needed to make a career change that day if having a family in the future was important to us. Sad but very true so didnt listen there are so many successful designers who have families

  85. Have received some pretty career advice. When I was yet to get my present job, a friend advised me not to accept a security job simply because I was a graduate and thus the security job is demeaning for me

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