The worst career advice in the world

Today, some gut-wrenching stories about the worst career advice you’ve been hearing for the last 25 years.

Ramit Sethi

Today, some gut-wrenching stories about the worst career advice you’ve been hearing for the last 25 years.

It is truly amazing how bad most career advice is. The only comparable industry is “financial literacy,” which mindlessly repeats the same 5 tips over and over, is completely out of touch with how real people use their money, and genuinely believes that the world needs yet another compound-interest chart. Even the name “financial literacy” makes me want to urinate all over my computer.

So it was with great trepidation and reluctance that I began doing career research.

In true IWT style, we have an extraordinarily rigorous process for studying advice: We buy every course, product, and book. We study them intensely, keeping blind notes and comparing them. We build iterative models and frameworks, relentlessly test them, and in some cases rip them up and start again (in early 2011, we spent 4 months and tens of thousands of dollars on one approach because we’d missed something subtle — only to have to throw it all away). By the time you ever see a course from me, it has been quietly vetted by tens of thousands of people.

After all this research, what I found was seriously disheartening.

I found advice written by people who haven’t looked for a job in 30 years. (In fact, most career experts have never found a top-tier job.) If they haven’t interviewed with the world’s top companies, how do they know how the game is really played?

I found advice that tried to be “modern” — by slapping on words like “social media” onto the same old tired advice that’s been passed around for 50 years.

I found that career advice for women is almost unreadable. With phrases like “You go, girl” and approximately 68,000 references to shoes and “climbing the ladder,” I found myself wondering: Are women really this dumb? The answer is no. But the advice is.

So here are 5 of the most egregiously bad pieces of advice — THIS IS REAL CAREER ADVICE — that we found. Seriously, these are actual things that people wrote and were paid for.

Some of the worst career advice on the internet

I pulled these 5 pieces of hilariously bad career advice from our internal research vault.

Let’s start with…

1. The #1 thing you need for a job search is…

Yes! If you’ve been looking for your Dream Job, the first thing you need is NOT a strong network, or a process to identify your targets, or a way to narrow down the infinite universe of job options available to you. No, you don’t need to understand your psychological barriers, or the interviewing game, or how to master negotiation.

Nope! You need business cards.

2. This is what passes for “scripts” from other sites

Notice my favorite part: the last line.

Simple! Just expand! Hey…start a business. That’s right, just start it. Now, get some customers and you’ll be a millionaire!

3. Follow your passion!

It sounds logical to find your passion using self-examination. But has that worked for you? Just like “keep a budget” sounds logical for money — but doesn’t work — looking inward is only a small part of the puzzle. On its own, it doesn’t work. Of course, you would need to test it to realize this. Bonus: Notice the very American idea of looking inward, as if you can “think your way to clarity.” Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Here’s my view on passion:

This is me smiling
4. Don’t close any doors!

Notice that this idea of “keeping all of your options open” is so deeply entrenched that many people cannot fathom another way. But if you’re honest with yourself, you know that having too many options is crippling.

5. If you tweet it, they will come.


Why is this career advice so bad?

That seriously passes for career advice — in SOME OF THE LARGEST MEDIA SOURCES IN THE WORLD.

Are you kidding me?

Is anyone else outraged?

I’ll tell you why I’m mad.

I’m mad because this terrible advice is written NOT to help people, but to drive pageviews. If one of these writers helps literally zero people, it doesn’t matter — they still get paid. In fact, I am changing “Doesn’t matter, had sex” to “Doesn’t matter, got paid.”

God I love that song. Anyway, since these career “experts” are never held accountable, you get low-quality writers who come up with obvious ideas, then write the same article 1,500 times. GTFO, horrible advice-givers.

I’m mad because we’re fed platitudes for our entire adolescence (“Go to college! Get a good job! Buy a house!”) and provided no guidance on how the game is actually played. For example, who ever told you that buying a house is very often a horrible investment? Who told you that submitting your resume through the front door of a company (via its website) is a quick route to being considered a total commodity — like the hundreds of other applicants?

I’m mad because the career advice we get is unspecific at best, and blatantly wrong at worst. Telling people to get business cards? Please leave this industry and never come back. I have literally never, ever gotten any job because of my business card. In fact, I will bet anyone with a $1,000 set of business cards that I could out-perform you in any job interview.

(I’m going to teach you how to do EXACTLY that — including the words to use in an interview — on the Dream Job launch list.)

After we spent 4 months going down the wrong path of constructing our Dream Job material, we realized we had taken a wrong turn and we had to go back and do it all again. But that’s not what makes me mad. I’m mad because I realized 90%+ of the books we read had never tested their theories with real people.

When you read other personal-finance books and they start with, “Let’s figure out how much you’re spending,” do you know what the vast majority of readers do? They put the book away. Nobody wants to write down what they spend because it makes them feel guilty. Of course, you would only know this if you tested your material. The same is true here: Most career “experts” sat in their room, concocted some ideas that SOUNDED reasonable, and wrote a book. They never tested it. They never systematically identified the flaws in their plan. They just “put it out there.” And the results have been terrible.

That’s one of the reasons we get people like Beth:

“I am angry that I am working in a silly job after spending a lot of money on a master’s degree to get out of silly admin jobs. It makes me feel foolish, BROKE (student loans), and like I’m a waste of space. I’m not contributing the world in a way I consider positive.” — Beth H.

And I’m mad because most of YOU have never taken the time to learn this material. Yes, the media gives us bad advice, and so do our parents, but when was the last time YOU took a successful friend out to coffee to learn how s/he did it? When did you ask one of your top friends how they got their job, and asked them do a practice interview? When was the last time you systematically tried to figure out the job game?

It’s fun to blame everyone else, but you ultimately need to take responsibility for yourself. I want to kill you right now.

The result of this? We end up feeling betrayed by a system that promised us success, but never gave us the tools to find it. In a fascinating comment on Reddit, someone wrote about why men often seem bitter about not finding women (substitute jobs for women, yeah I said it):

“I think a lot of Reddit is young dudes that focused on school and homework and such and figured that if they just checked off the boxes their parents and teachers told them were important, everything would fall in their laps. Especially if you’re a smart kid, opportunities seem to come to you pretty much constantly and everyone tells you you’re great. So they do well in school, do all their homework, focus on studies, and eschew social occasions for being dumb/beneath them.

Then when the hot girl doesn’t fall all over them for having good grades or being an engineer or whatever, they get bitter because hey, man, I’m smart and I majored in a real major not that liberal arts crap and so on. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do! They feel entitled to have the girl of their dreams just because they’ve checked boxes and do the “But I’m a NICE GUY” thing and when that doesn’t happen, they get more and more angry and settle into the “Women are just crazy bitches!”

One of the code words of our generation is BETRAYED. We were promised so much, but the chasm between expectations and reality is vast.

(By the way, this isn’t just for people with low or middle incomes. I know people with 6-figure jobs who feel the same way.)

We graduated into a terrible economy, a world with more choices than ever before, and an entirely new life situation to navigate. Our parents’ advice (“Pick a good job and stick with it!”) worked for them, but today is simply irrelevant. Worst, there is nobody who’s been through it — someone we trust who understands how the system REALLY works — who can take us through it.

You’re not finding Mildred, the 62-year-old lady at your career services office, throwing her fist down on the table and saying, “LISTEN UP, ASS. HERE’S HOW YOU GET A BIDDING WAR STARTED BETWEEN FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE.”

It’s no surprise that we end up feeling betrayed. Take a look:

Seriously, whoever picks these screenshots needs to be hurt
And so an entire generation — our generation — has been raised with this low-level anxiety in our heads that we NEED to find our passion, but we don’t know how. Start a twitter page? Clean up our resume? Buy a new suit? WHAT? WHAT DO WE DO?

We’re repeatedly told to find what we’re passionate about…but how? We see our friends posting stuff on FB they’re doing — traveling, getting prestigious appointments, buying a new car — and we just don’t know how to craft our lifestyles to be about that. Some of us even have these things — a nice apartment, a new car — but we’re still not happy.

Over time, we naturally become more risk-averse.

#1: I am afraid to fail. Not so much out of fear of failure itself, but moreso the fear of wasting time and energy in doing so. While typing this, I realize this is more like a FEAR OF RISK: I feel like I should not put my efforts into something when I am not certain that the payout will be worth the time I put in.
–Eric M.

How many of us would do ANYTHING to find our Dream Job…but we’re not sure what to do? Notice how over time, we become more and more concerned with wasting our time. The phrase goes like this: “Yeah, I would try anything…but how do I know it will work? I don’t want to waste my time on something that won’t work.”

Sound familiar?

The ultimate irony

The ultimate irony is that there are top performers getting the BEST jobs in this terrible economy. And most of us don’t even know that it’s happening.

Most of us simply accept what we read in the mass media, which is produced for the LCD — lowest common denominator. I don’t give a damn about the LCD. I’m not writing this for people who are unemployed or have $10-an-hour jobs. They need an entirely different skillset. I created this material to impress my Stanford friends, because I know that you’d rather have material that brings you HIGHER rather than panders to the most basic needs (“Wear a clean shirt!”) ever. There’s enough of that worthless advice out there.

I’m focused on results. Like how one of my students got a dream job offer within weeks of starting my Dream Job program…even before he finished the 8-week program.

So, ignore the terrible advice that is designed for pageviews, not results. There is hope. There is a SYSTEMATIC way of finding your passion, turning that into clear steps to find your dream job, and interviewing against people with years more experience — and winning. I’ve done it, I’ve helped MANY people do it, and I want to show you how.


Leave a comment with the following:

  1. What is the most ridiculous piece of career advice you’ve ever heard? Be specific please.
  2. How has bad career advice kept you from achieving your goals? A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE PLEASE.
  3. When you graduated college, where did you think you’d be in 5 or 10 years? Where are you now? Please share a specific story about the difference between expectations and reality.

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  1. Lindsay Lennox

    RE: Questions 1 and – The worst career advice I ever received wasn’t actually bad advice; it was poorly framed. “Have a fall-back plan, something practical, in case you aren’t successful in your writing/music/art/etc.” Nothing wrong with this advice, but it’s about failure, so people either ignore it completely and become broke artists, or they’re discouraged completely from even trying to do the thing they really, really care about doing. This advice could be reframed like this: “How will you make money to support yourself while you’re writing/composing/painting/whatever-ing?” Now it’s about enabling the lifestyle that matters to you.

    RE: Question 3 – This is a silly question, along the lines of ‘what’s your passion?’. No one knows where they want to be 5 years after graduation, and if they do, they’re wrong. First of all, no one has the knowledge of their industry to understand (that early) where the power positions are, where they’ll be able to leverage their abilities to get the things they care about. For that matter, no 22-year-old can predict what they’ll care about at age 27 or 32.

    • Barbara Saunders

      Another big flaw in the passion discourse: it presumes that passions line up directly with jobs and job descriptions. There are many artists making great money in areas like packaging physical products. It is not business majors who get these positions! Yet people will advice would-be artists not to major in art, and then tell skilled, accomplished artists that they need to go back and take business classes to get a job.

      And that’s not some new “creative class” era phenomenon. My father had a friend, probably almost 80 years old now, who worked as a pattern illustrator for the Singer company while establishing himself as a fine art painter. When he quit his job, Singer hired him back as a (much better paid) consultant based on his reputation as an artist.

    • Jen

      I agree with your first answer. When people ask you to create a fall back plan, it automatically triggers you into thinking “Oh No! I’m not going to succeed”.

      Then you end up spending all your time working on Plan B while ignoring Plan A. And when you don’t get what you want, you end up settling for the back up plan, telling yourself, “I just knew this was going to happen”.

      Great point, thanks for sharing it.

    • cc

      agreed! one of my pro artist buddies told me once he was good at cashiering in case his art career didn’t work out. like, grocery store, minimum wage cashiering. there’s nothing wrong with that, but he’s an artist making 6 figures a year, why does he have a minimum wage “backup”??

      luckily my computer hobbies lined up with art in college, so now post-college I can pick up computer/graphic design work with light programming as well as art. i don’t love it like i love being an arteest, but it’s a backup gig that’s more satisfying (and higher-paying) than cashiering.
      a bit annoying though, i do make way more in computers than art, and jobs are much easier to get, but it’s not my main, ah, groove or whatever. if i gave up the art and went 100% computer i’d probably have a bit more spending cash, but for what? (my art professor answered “to buy a very nice gun to shoot yourself with”, har har).
      anyway, the passion video was an eye-opener. it’s a common trap for freelance artists realize there aren’t markets for every kind of art, and you have to compromise sometimes.

      but anyway, i guess in the end i’m glad i have my plan B. I’ve got two plan B jobs juggling while looking for more plan A, so I’m not filling out Starbucks applications yet and i can still work in my jammie jams.

      BTW, I loooove the videos. I know you don’t allow debtors into your paid courses, but I’m well on my way and saving up for them is on my list once the debt is gone. I’m already down to $8,500 from 19,800 a year or two ago. SOON!

  2. Barbara Saunders

    There is a special place in hell for those blogs that attempt to coach people on how to answer standard interview questions. If you’re stuck in one of those standard interviews, you’re already at a disadvantage. The only option at that moment is to flip the script entirely, not provide one of the groveling answers usually advised.

    Cocky and honest works better than people realize – provided you are actually a fit for the job.

    • Mike Graf

      To me, it seems likely that if the company is pulling that bullshit, they’ll be doing it over and over again during the course of your job. Fuck ’em from the get go. If a company asks how much you’ll work for and you know you wont get the interview if you go too high, just lie. Demand more once you know they want you, or walk on the job.

      In the capitalist system it is the onus of the workers to demand every penny they can get (and demand more often). Part of the reason wages are so low is because workers are so damn lazy/fearful and they’ll take what they can get. When you “just take what I can get” you’re hurting everyone else in your industry because you’ve lowered the bar for hiring wages. Refuse to work for peanuts and keep stomping on job offers until you find a good wage. If every person who interviewed for a walmart door greeting job refused offers below $15 an hour, walmart door greeters would probably be paid $15 an hour (their value is about the same as a security guard).

    • Angie

      Your comment reminds me of a canned interview question I got when I was 22, and I how I totally blew it because I was trying to appease the interviewer, yet at the same time didn’t have much respect for him, but I needed a job. The question was canned, but not standard. I was asked, “What is your philosophy of life?”

      I was thinking, “Is this guy for real? I’m 22 years old. I’ve never thought about my life philosophy, and I don’t think I have one. All I know is I need a job so I can move out of my parent’s house.”

      Well, I tried to pull some answer out of my arse. I don’t even remember what I said, but I’m sure I screwed up the question. Friends told me I should have just said something about working hard and being rewarded.

      I told my boyfriend at the time that I really wanted to tell the guy, “I don’t have a life philosophy. I’m not philosophical, and I’m not sure how being philosophical will help me to do this job (at a financial firm). Can you explain why I need a life philosophy to do this job?”

      My boyfriend told me if I had actually said that, I might have gotten the job. But as much as I needed the money, I didn’t really want that job.

    • cc

      unfortunately this is true. i’m a freelancer that occasionally picks up PT jobs for extra cash, every time it’s like “wellllllll i don’t NEED the money but it would be NICE so this place better be good otherwise no way.” i’ve found myself interviewing the people as much as they interview me, mostly trying to get out of the damn thing without a job (ugh a job), but most of the time i get it anyway.
      so yeah, apparently acting cocky and like you barely want it if THEY even meet YOUR criteria works really great. word to the wise. go into interviews like you don’t even want it. (it helps to be qualified of course). my husband is currently interviewing and he’s polite but he’s definitely interviewing them more than they’re interviewing him. he’s got one large company who called him several times for an interview because he was ignoring them (too many other interviews).
      seriously, maybe there is something to this here…

  3. Dave Doolin

    Yeah, you got me there at “keep your options open.” It’s crap advice.

    I’m a living testament to the non-efficacy of open options.

    Peter Drucker (if I recall correctly) said something to the effect of “I walk away from sunk costs.” That’s closing options which don’t work.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Keeping your options open is one of the crippling ideas of our generation. It is so pernicious and invisible that we often can’t even imagine there’s a different way. In our research, we found that it’s so deep, it’s almost a guiding principle for career decision-making in 20s and 30s. And not in a good way.

      Will cover this more later.

    • K00kyKelly

      I feel like keeping your options open is really advice for a different problem. There are tons of people who are out of work because they never bothered to learn new skills and became obsolete. People see this and think to themselves so-and-so didn’t keep their options open, except that really so-and-so was just too lazy to learn new things and somehow didn’t notice their industry evaporating around them.

    • Stanley Lee

      I think it’s more appropriate to keep the right doors open in the near future, and figuring a way to open the right doors when you need them by tapping into the strong network you have.

  4. Jesse

    I haven’t received particularly bad career advice. It was more staying at a job that wasn’t going anywhere. Staying at that job cost 5 years and the company went under.

    I didn’t go to college, but I am in a field where most people have Bachelors and Masters degrees. I never thought I would be where I am now 10 years ago. Now I know I want that Dream Job.

    BTW The personal branding strategy worked for me. I got my current job through it and it continues to get me interest. The problem is that I don’t have a dream job.

  5. Scott PF

    Wow, Ramit, this is pretty much what I’ve been saying for years. Thank you for writing this. We have indeed been betrayed, and I’m glad the message is finally reaching beyond my dining room table at Thanksgiving.

    In response to the above questions:

    1. The most ridiculous career advice is the mindlessly obvious quips that maybe work for one in 1000 people. I’ve actually been told — in 2011 — to “print up some resumes and mail them to companies.” Seriously? Seriously. I’ve also been told to “ask around”, which is basically like saying “that sucks for you.”

    2. I wouldn’t say that I received bad advice, per se, but it’s the systems you describe above, such as Mildred the career counselor and the guy on Reddit who has spent 20-odd years ticking boxes. I think the biggest example of promises unfilled is when my parents, teachers, and everyone else said “you have a degree in engineering; that means you can do anything. People will hire you no problem.” The reality is that NO ONE GIVES A SHIT. Having done a Master’s, we rarely discuss my Bachelor’s in an interview, and very few people are going to view me as a leader solely because I did 5 years of Calculus and Thermodynamics (yes, it was a 5-year course). I don’t regret studying Mechanical Engineering, but that major has only so much currency after graduating.

    3. I was so stupidly naive in graduating and looking for work. When I left grad school, I thought I’d apply to A FEW jobs ads, and in no time a hot agency would snap me up. After all, I had lots of good attributes: engineering degree, post-grad degree, international experience, web design skills, speaks Spanish, etc. I thought by the time I turned 30 I would be living it up, running the show. The reality is that I’ve spend more than 6 years freelancing, job-seeking, being laid-off twice in one year, and eventually running my own business because the hiring environment is so harsh (acknowledging, of course, that little recession thing). I had no idea how hard interviewing was, how shady people are in their evaluating of candidates, how no one returns phone calls, how some job vacancies can get 700 applicants in a weekend, and how unscientific it all can seem at times. The sharpest contrast, though, is between the formulaic expectation of “if you do X (study hard/earn a degree), then Y (you can enter your chosen profession).” Maybe int he 1960s it was true, but we live in interesting times.

    These days, I’m not totally unhappy running my own practice, but I’d still prefer a full-time role. But like you, even if I got my dream job tomorrow, I’d still be mad for being lied to my entire life.

    • Ramit Sethi

      True. Very true. But let’s not forget personal responsibility, too.

  6. Marcy

    Terrible advice I’m sorry I took: Just take the job and if you really don’t like it you can quit later. Staying unemployed until I found the job I really wanted would have been a better idea. I am so drained after work it’s very hard to focus on bettering my situation so instead I’m ‘getting through’ every week.

    When I graduated college I thought I would be able to continue to live at the poverty level and save all my salary in order to pay off a house and quit full-time work. That has definitely not happened. I also married well and we make a lot more than our parents but thanks to student loans, we don’t feel better off.

    • Mike Graf

      Plus you totally get “comfortable” when you get a job, making it harder to get what you want. One thing on the side of taking a job is that people seem to want to hire employed people more than unemployed. @Ramit, any stats/research on that last statement?

  7. Bennett

    1. Go into accounting, because there are always jobs in accounting. Also, you could replace “accounting” with any job which sucks but is widely necessary…garbage collecting, fast food fry-serving, etc.

    2. I am an accountant who is unfulfilled with his life and feel like I’ve wasted years on education which I no longer have a desire to use when I could have pursued a field I was more interested in.*

    3. When I graduated college I definitely thought I’d be a millionaire within 5 years and a multi-millionaire within 10. Let’s just say I’ve got some work to do to make that happen within the next 12 months…

    * This realization some time back has led me to actively pursue other fields by contacting people in those fields, asking them what their job is like, and testing whether I like that job by assisting them for free. Needless to say I’m now much more excited for the future!

    • cjhuitt

      Speaking of advice I’m glad I didn’t take, one of my high school teachers told me I should go into accounting because I was so good in it. Of course, I was good because I knew math and could follow rules, not because I liked it, and I learned this by the end of the second year of the courses. Fortunately for me, I already had plans for engineering (in which many of the same traits help).

    • Aaron

      Hey cj, same exact thing and timing applies to me. Of course after I left business I took a rest stop at psychology before moving on to computer science.

    • shea

      i did that – the working for free thing – very, very successfully. i was a single mom, on welfare, my only skills working in fast food restaurants and no education to speak of. and the worst thing was that i had NO CONFIDENCE (born a girl into a family that only values boys). so i started investigating what i might want to do, but didn’t have the ability to believe that i could do anything, even though i knew i was smart. so i started working for different companies in my community, working basically as an assistant to the people who were doing the jobs i was interested in. i researched the people and company ahead of time and then went for it. i got enough confidence to apply to a very good college, got a grant to go, and used work study money to continue to explore careers and work that i would not otherwise have been able to do. best thing i ever did.

    • Daanish

      Fellow Accountant here. Which fields have seemed more interesting? What kind of assisting are you doing to find out what you like? Its an interesting strategy for sure!

  8. Erin

    1. “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.”

    2. I really DID hate working in retail and in admin jobs after undergrad, and it was definitely not an attitude problem. Had I not taken the above advice, I might have thrown my hands in the air sooner and starting working towards an actual long-term goal, rather than wasting time by trying to “accept” that I was not too good for any job.

  9. Michael Kaput

    The single worst piece of career advice I ever received (and had to implement):

    In college, our career services department sat down the entire senior class in an auditorium to listen to a presentation about finding your dream career. We were given worksheets we HAD to fill out. They consisted of the following instructions:

    Draw three circles that all overlap in the middle (like a Venn diagram, I suppose). One is for your interests, one is for your skills, one is for (if I remember correctly) your goals. The intersection of these is your dream job.

    WTF?! Sesame Street taught me more about how to find a career. I walked out and never looked back.

    • Lindsay Lennox

      Yeah, I’ve seen those Venn diagrams too. Often there are circles for ‘what you love to do,’ ‘what you’re great at’ and ‘what people will pay for.’ Problem is, EVEN IF we have enough insight to fill in the first two (which we aren’t; most of us have no idea what things we’re actually great at), we then go on to make a bunch of random assumptions about what people will or won’t pay for – a topic Ramit’s covered before in SOME depth. =)

      It improves things slightly to ask in that third circle ‘what do people need?’ but I’m not sure that would remove the need to actually do some reality testing to find out the answer.

    • Ramit Sethi

      It’s amazing how these things don’t work over and over, yet “experts” trot them out time and time again. It’s almost as if they never followed up with their students to see if it really caused any change…

    • Daanish

      I believe this is Ramit’s advice in Earn1K about how to find your free-lance trade.

  10. Kate

    1. The worst piece of advice I’ve gotten would be to “follow your dreams.” Really? Following my “dream” would make me a multimillionaire without having to do anything. Or getting paid a six figure sum to read sci-fi/fantasy books. Something like “don’t change your computer science major to a classical languages (Latin) degree! You’ll realize you don’t want to teach and be SOL,” would have been much more useful.

    2. It’s more lack of good career advice that’s kept me from my goals, see above. Additionally, it was recommended that I return to school for an MBA, which I have yet to do, because I don’t want to spend that much money to get a degree I don’t want. “But it’s more marketable! Everyone looks for that!” Everyone being places I’m not interested in working for.

    3. Where did I think I’d be? I figured around 27 I would have been married for several years, had children and be working a job I could work from home and have time for my family. Seriously. Where am I now? Married for two years, no children on the horizon, working a job that isn’t bad but is far below my skill level. Fortunately, I read this site… so that will change. The job thing at least, haha.

  11. Cathy

    1. My High School guidance counselor urged me to drop out of High School and take the GED so I could start working and making money sooner. I was only 16 but I thought he was nuts. My High School was a pretty good school, why give up FREE education. He did say computers were the next big thing (yes I grew up with the dinosaurs), so he got that part right. The consequence of this advice was to reinforce my idea that sometimes people have no idea what they are talking about, and sometimes they do know what they are talking about!

    3. I thought I would go into anthropology and or writing, but didn’t. I went into medicine which has had its ups and downs. With all the changes in health care I expect it will continue to be a roller-coaster. Still am writing, but haven’t made significant money with that as of yet.

  12. andrew

    I dont believe its the career advice as much as it is the mentality that a lot of people my age (20) have while they are in college. They believe that a job will simply fall in their lap once they graduate as a sort of reward for getting a degree. This mentality keeps a person from achieving their goals because their mind will automatically look to blame anyone for their inability to get a job. Gary halbert said to only rely on yourself because if you rely on someone else you have an excuse for failure.

    To answer question 3 I believe it’s hard to predict where ill be 5 or even 10 years from now. I would most definitely not have been able to tell you about the experiences I have had even 3 years ago when I was graduating high school.

    • Kate

      That is so true!! I’ve noticed that a lot with a cousin of mine who just graduated! He does not seem to do anything to look for a job, just expects it to be handed to him, just like most things have been. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy, just unmotivated. It’s the same entitlement mentality that the whole generation seems to have!

    • Ramit Sethi

      Yep. And if you talk about someone who got a Dream Job, the first person will use phrases like, “He must be lucky” or “It must be nice to know all those people…” (classic Shrug Effect).

      But if you try to spend 30 seconds talking about how hard that person worked to get their Dream job, their eyes will start to glaze over…

  13. mark

    As a criminal defense lawyer for now 18 years, I have some success at making over $90K plus a year. This limited success is no thanks to any advice from my law school. In law school, we were told to

    1. practice general law unless you are hired by a big name law firm
    2. don’t purchase malpractice insurance if you do criminal defense work (you don’t need it)
    3. take specialized courses instead of bar review classes because you will get enough information to pass the bar in bar review after law school.

    I have ignored all this advice. I started out in “general” law and had more success when I specialized in criminal defense. Other lawyers on the civil side also have had more success in specializing in one area of the law. I do have malpractice insurance to protect me from frivilous lawsuits which you get from crazed criminals. The insurance premuiums are about $1,500 a year and the insurance company will appoint a lawyer to defend you in a civil suit.
    I passed the bar exam in three states on the first try because I took bar courses in law school. I paid for law school to pass the bar, not for the enlightenment of specialized courses of nutty law professors. Lastly, my career has had a big boast because I choose to learn SPANISH, not French, German or Russian.
    Yes, everyone speaks Spanish, so I learned it.

    • cc

      for years now i have regretted taking german instead of spanish. my fam has a lot of buddies in germany and half the fam speaks it, and technically the one time i was in germany i managed to speak me a hotel room reservation (yeah!). but living in nyc now, boy oh boy i wish i knew spanish. isn’t it like the most widely spoken language besides english in the USA now?

    • Judith

      As a German I am always surprised how many people say they want to or are learning German. It’s nowhere near a widely used language like English, Spanish, French, Russian or Chinese.

  14. John Leonard

    Hi Ramit, first time commenter and I’m new to your site and content – I’ve only been reading your recent blog posts and am now trying to catch up!

    (I feel like a first time caller on a cheesy talk radio station!)

    1. Worst career advice I got was from my last boss, who was a puffed up, self important and egotistical moron who tried to convince me that sticking with him would get me places. The entire division got axed and he got made redundant (as I did) three months later.

    2. Bad career advice that kept me from achieving my goals? A very well meaning old boss, some twenty years ago, transferred me into sales from an electronics prototyping position and convinced me that I was better off abandoning my degree in electronic design to stick with sales. Twenty years later, I realise that I’m only marginally OK at sales, but don’t really like it, and developing the side project I am now doing is taking me years of re-learning the electronics system design that I could have done in six months, so very long ago.

    3. When I left school 25 years ago, I had no idea what I was good at or where I wanted to be, hence being waylaid in career choice by a variety of bosses. Only now am I building the confidence to start doing what I want to do on the side, but it’s a long and slow process!

  15. Justin Mares

    Still in college, our career services department sent out an email to a blog post they wrote about how to “approach” (spam) HR people on LinkedIn at companies you want to work for. The technique included using advanced search to find these people, then asking to send them your resume.


    • Ramit Sethi

      A commonality among some of this bad advice is a simple failure of the last mile.

      “Experts” suggest getting in touch with hiring managers…but then what?

      They suggest taking people out to coffee…but then what?

      They suggest doing XYZ to your resume…but then what?

      If you can’t close the loop, what’s the point?

    • Justin Mares

      I wish you’d reference your old blog posts more often (like below). That one was great, and the site is a bit hard to search and go through archives. Thanks for the link!

  16. John Morgan

    1. The worst advice I would say I’ve heard is to send your resume to as many companies as possible and that with the “law of averages”, eventually you will get something. What you get is a lot of time wasted sending an application out to place after place rather than tailoring and narrowing your job search down to what you are specifically looking for.

    I’d also agree with the poster about ideas like the circles. I’ve done it and it’s a dumb strategy.

    2. Specifically this system has held me back because I’d fall into the trap that ‘more is better’. That somehow by sending out my application to hundreds of companies, that job I wanted was just going to appear.

    3. This is a great question but honestly when I graduated from university I don’t think I even considered 5-10 years down the road. When I was graduating all of the talk was the pressure to find a job, to get a good job (any job really as long as it is stable and pays well). It seems like all the pressure was on the need to find THE JOB and very little was given to where that job would actually lead. I wonder if other people felt the same thing. As for now, I run my own recruitment agency hiring people for positions overseas. I like what I do – hard work but I get to meet lots of interesting people. A lot of what Ramit says in his videos comes into play with our applicants.

    By the way, I agree with the comment on Lattes. Ever want a good laugh? Read that book that asks you to find your “Latte Factor”. Yes, all you need to do is discover your Latte Factor and your road to success is guaranteed (note, sarcasm – not always easy to detect online but trust me, that is what that comment was).

  17. Colin M

    Fortunatly I could not read your snippets of bad advice, due to the writing being displayed to small on the iPhone. Here’s some career advise.
    If your target audience cannot read your resume/brochure you will not impress them in the slightest.

    • Rach

      And you will not impress me by not being able to spell advice…

  18. Kyle

    1. The worst advice I ever got was probably from friends, family, and authoritative figures during school. I was told “Get a college degree, and a great job will come with it”. I remember being told so much about college, that I’d get close to a six figure salary just with an entry level position, and I could easily become rich if I got good grades. Years later I realize everyone else was doing the same, and now I can’t get a job in my field, make a less than liveable wage, and am in huge debt and have terrible credit due to my school loans and because I let my parents handle them when the economy tanked (Sacrificed paying my loans for 4-6 months multiple times just to pay the mortgage)

    2. My goals hit a brick wall when I realized my degree in Business Administration was completely worthless. I realized this a few years after graduating, when I never saw it as a requirement for any position, and an interviewer had never asked about it or seemed to notice, and the fact that my interview rate didn’t change when I took it off my resume (zero. More mathematically, .25 per month)

    3. In 5 years? I thought I woulda been making at LEAST $60k a year. At 10 years? I figured a house and a six figure salary. Where am I now? Long story short I make about $10k a year and I’m in my mid-20’s and still live at home. My brother and my friends are all in the same situation.

    I think a huge factor was how vague all the advice was. I was told “pick the most general college degree, it opens the most doors!” so I thought there was nothing as general as “Business”, because everything involves business, right?


  19. Erica

    1. “You just need to get your foot in the door”, often without elaboration. I also heard “Go get your MBA” for awhile, and almost did it.

    2. I switched my major to computer science. Before, I wanted to be a writer, but was told it wouldn’t pay anything, and that computers would pay more, especially with a degree. Not only do I get paid the same as my colleagues without a degree, I still want to be a writer.

  20. Nick


  21. Kat

    Q1: “Take the offer”. I did and ended up making 10k less than the male who had less work experience than myself.

    Q2: The advice givers I spoke with grew up in a different working environment and were also male, so they didn’t see my situation correctly. I should have gotten a female mentor to help me navigate the field and help me negotiate more money.

    Q3: 10 years after I graduated college, I thought I would be better set money wise and possibly running my own firm. I am not running my own firm due to myself being scared/lazy to get my license. Plus the fear of legally being responsible for the entire project and getting sued. That I can control.
    The money part, I don’t know how to fix since I know many in my field getting screwed by clients and companies who are cheap and taking advantage of the current economic situation. You can only stand your ground so long before you have to give some so you can eat.

  22. Jen

    1. What is the most ridiculous piece of career advice you’ve ever heard? Be specific please.

    Answer: You ALWAYS need a resume to get a job. Not so, I worked for two years as telecom marketing manager for a start-up without once giving my future boss a resume. I simply showed him what I could do based on past results, stayed true to my word, and rocked that job. I’m also learning that case studies showing past results and custom tailored proposals work better than simple resumes/cover letters.

    2. How has bad career advice kept you from achieving your goals? A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE PLEASE.

    Answer: You need a lot of experience in order to get a job. Not so, I talked my way into a lot of jobs with ZERO experience. I’ve worked for three software start-ups and even a healthcare company with very little experience. Again, I showed what I could do based on past results, networked like hell, and focused on solving the company’s problems. I never once talked about me, me, me…

    3. When you graduated college, where did you think you’d be in 5 or 10 years? Where are you now? Please share a specific story about the difference between expectations and reality.

    I thought I’d be finishing a surgical fellowship by now and not applying to med school in 2012! I allowed myself to believe in a lot of limiting beliefs, especially trying to please my family and all that junk. I thought I wasn’t good or smart enough to go to med school. So I spent 7 years working in the telecom and software field.

    I didn’t realize until NOW that I could still overcome all my limiting beliefs but if I didn’t practice a systematic way of taking action, measuring results, and then tweaking my findings…I still lose! Positive thinking is not enough, you must embrace and become comfortable with testing assumptions. And then testing them again and again.

    For me, it’s great to have self-confidence but it’s not enough to pass the MCAT or get into a med school with flying colors. It takes working on the right things, not “just” memorizing Organic Chem equations like the next geek. It’s about learning the system, how it works, and then playing the game right.

    I stopped trying to be the best med school applicant. Now all I focus on is negotiation skills to get rock solid LORs, becoming kick-ass at writing admission essays, hauling ass when it comes to taking timed tests, asking everyone and their Grandma to review my applications, and so forth. My grades are great but so is the next applicant. I’m hauling ass in a different direction, the direction of people who’ve achieved what I want, in order to Win.

    Biggest lesson learned in 2011:

    * Shut up, listen to people who are winning, don’t question them, do as they say, stop complaining, and don’t ask whiners for life advice.

    True dat…

  23. Julia

    1- the worst career advice I received was a bit about when I was considering moving from NYC (secure job, big corp) to SF to work for a small startup (just off the ground). The advice-giver told me that what I was considering was EXTREMELY RISKY, disregarding that I was miserable in my secure job, and that I should probably not take the startup job. The startup offered more money, better work environment, work I actually cared about, better benefits, and I’m 23 with zero debt… but I shouldn’t take a ‘risky’ move like this. GREAT advice.

    2-the worst piece of career advice (I use this loosely) that kept me from my goals was given by my academic advisor at the Ivy League school I attended. Because I was an athlete, he told me that I should not pursue a double major as I had planned, and that it would look better to have a stronger single major. I regret that I took this advice. Although it hasn’t impacted my employment, I did not get as rich of an academic experience as I had hoped to all because of this jerk who can’t believe people can be simultaneously physically and academically capable.

    3- The biggest difference from my ‘5-10’ year plan graduating and now is that now I actually have one. By that I mean that I, now almost 2 years graduated, finally have concrete milestones for what I want to accomplish and where I want to be in the next few years. My 5 year plan graduating was that I want to be ‘successful’, which is just embarrassing.

  24. Chris

    The shitty “If you tweet it, they will come” advice actually worked for me – and landed me a sweet gig. Granted, I work in that mysterious field around social media marketing so it was natural to have my Twitter and Facebook represent my resume and a way for potential employers to contact me without having to apply to a position. Wouldn’t expect this to work for 99.9% of other people.

    Worst career advice I’ve received – take a job for the benefits! Shitty companies offer great benefits to retain their shitty talent. Real talent leaves when the shitty company with great benefits won’t give a raise and goes to a competitor company where they just received a 5-figure salary increase using the briefcase technique. I learned I don’t need health insurance through a company, it’s just as expensive (and a ripoff) if I buy it on my own.

    When I graduated college I thought I would have job offers falling from the heavens and could pick where I wanted to work. Not the case. I said to hell with employers, took Ramit’s poor man course on freelancing and never looked back. Two years out of college now and 100% freelancing as of 6 months ago and teetering on the edge of a yearly six-figure income. Thanks Ramit.

    • Stanley Lee

      The benefits hook is not even the worst to come during the entire cycle. Once getting recruited, managers may give you so much work to make taking advantage of the benefit difficult for you as an employee. It happened for me.

  25. Divya

    1.Young people telling each other or planning to get their masters, phd’s, mba’s. I find when I ask my peers what they’re going to do when they graduate they all want to complete graduate degrees! It baffles me – and it often seems like some sort of elite intellectual superiority battle.

    2. Even now, in an social science program and all, I am told by family and relatives to “get a professional degree” (medicine/law/MBA). Always an uphill battle justifying my decisions not too, and at times makes me second guess my decisions.

    3. I am still in college, but five years ago (even two years ago) I had thought I’d be applying to medicine/law. Expectation: apply to med. school, law school, prepare super hard to get in, theoretically get in, and study more, get a job. Reality: not interested in any of those fields, designing my own career now – which is really scary. It’s way more comfortable having your life and a theoretically linear career path handed to you.

  26. Megha

    Most ridiculous piece of advice?
    Network with anyone and everyone without ever stopping to think:
    1. Is this someone who is in the industry I want to be in
    2. Is this someone who is actually up there (not just at my level but actually 5-10 years out who can give substantive advice)
    3. Is this someone who is confident and can give good advice — not someone who will spend the 30 minute coffee time trying to make up for their own insecurities by telling you how much better their school was then yours, how much better their experience is than mine, etc… (yes this did happen to me).

    Networking is great, but it must be more targeted — you can’t just add every single person you have ever come across on facebook and LinkedIn and expect it to produce results — yet that is the advice I received.

    I wasted time speaking to people who had no idea what they were doing themselves / were also in dead end jobs and spent another boatload of time speaking to people simply because they were lawyers (I had just graduated law school), even though they were nowhere near the industry I wanted to be in. Not only did it prevent me from moving forward with my career, but it also wasted so much time I could have invested in gaining experience or simply researching what I was doing wrong on my own. It was also CONFUSING the crap out of me. Funny thing is, now when people come to me asking me for advice and they are neither interested in my field, nor my industry, I start wondering about their intellect — when I was doing the same stupid thing a year ago!

    When I got out of school, I thought I’ll work hard for 5 years, and then I will get the position I have now.

    It has been 2 years, and I am in the position I thought I would be in 5 years out. Keep in mind those 2 years include the one year in which I was unemployed. The year in which I was unemployed, my reality shifted to I should just take any crap job because the economy sucks, no one is hiring, my grades weren’t brilliant, and that’s the way it is. I did that for awhile and wanted to shoot myself.

    My reality now just makes more sense: who cares about the economy or how the legal world is doing — it’s really about making the RIGHT moves, and not just spinning your wheels like a moron, running around handing out business cards to every single person at a holiday party, most of whom don’t care to give you a job and are only there for the open bar.

    Ramit’s blog, specifically, provided me with the advanced negotiation skills (not just how to get out of credit card fees — the brown in me already knew how to do that), including what to say to my boss/company to demonstrate that I wasn’t just capable of doing the job, but these are the specific things I had done in the past, and could continue to do in the future. Sort of used a hybrid of the briefcase approach. Let me just say it took me 1 hour to prep for a meeting with our CFO, which got me a 22% raise — unprecedented in our company, but it was 1 hour of TARGETED research and studying. not just running around talking to everyone in the company of how cool I was.

  27. Ian

    1. “You’ll never get anywhere without a degree from a top-named college.” Yeah, right. While I’ll agree that a degree can _help_ in some professions, it very seldom, if ever, needs to be from a top-name (read: stupid expensive) school.

    2. Twelve years ago I went to school for an A.S. in ‘Computer Networking’. It was the tail end of the tech boom, and everyone was saying there would always be a demand for computer techs, and that they’d be able to name their own price for salaries. Being a computer guy and having dropped out of college for Mechanical Engineering (should’ve stuck with that one), I went for it. By the time I graduated the only openings were for basic help desk support positions. While I did land a good one, it started me in a rut that I was unable (unwilling?) to get out of for ten years.

    I followed the crowd of lemmings and ended up stuck in something I no longer enjoyed.

    3. After school for Computer Networking, I was thinking that by now I’d end up building or managing a computer network for a mid-sized business, or more. Reality is, ended up getting myself stuck in the ‘tech support’ role. Four years in one job, moved from CA to WA, five years in another one. Ended up in a semi-government position, pay was quite good for what was expected of me, but it was dead-ass boring with no challenge. Through ‘staff reductions’ I was let go from that position, found another one with the same company. Still doing menial data entry stuff, still getting paid well, and still not happy with it.

  28. Ellen

    1) Worst career advice: when I was pursuing an acting career in New York, I was talking to my mom about going on auditions, dealing with rejection, etc. Her advice – “well, why don’t you get an agent?” Thanks, I’ll just pop down to the agent store and pick one up.

    2) “Focus on your craft and the business side will fall into place”. While this is exactly the advice artists WANT to hear and follow, it fails to take into account that the business side IS PART OF THE CRAFT. Developing an audition speech that you can deliver brilliantly 100 times in a soulless florescent lit office, or “cold” script reading skills, are huge artistic challenges. Knowing where and how a director can use your unique persona is as essential as a painter knowing how to mix colors. Self-indulgently focusing on “process” over learning to sell your work is a career-killer.

    3) When I graduated I thought that in 10 years I would be working with an international ensemble repertory company doing classical plays from world literature. That didn’t happen, but 10 years after graduation, I was living and working as an actress in New York – which often involved day jobs that I put up with to serve my career. Right now, 10 + X years after graduation, I am back in my home town, raising two kids and working as a secretary. Several things I did not factor into my fuzzy dream: A) there are very few, if any, such exotic theater companies in existence, and I did not know where they were, or how to get hired. B) 22 years old plus 10 years is 32 years old. Most career-oriented 22 year olds are not thinking about fertility as a factor of how to spend your time. 32 changes many women’s priorities. So does the health and mortality of your parents. C) There is a big difference between conforming your life to serve your career, and finding a career that serves the life you want.

  29. Leah H.

    1. Worst career advice I’ve ever gotten is “Something will come along!”

    What? How?? A job is not going to just fall in my lap, who are you kidding? I’ve been freelance editing and web consulting, while looking for a full-time job, for THREE YEARS. I’ve sent out nearly 200 job applications in the last 2 years alone. When exactly is this mystical job going to “come along”? Ugh hearing things like that is just frustrating and not the least bit helpful.

    3. When I was in grad school, I was told that something like 90% of graduates from my master’s program had jobs in their field within six months of graduation. So naturally, I thought I’d have a steady job with a mid-level salary within 5 or 10 years. Instead, five years on and I’m basically jobless.

    The betrayal thing is palpable. At the rate I’m going, I’m stuck in arrested development. I’ll never be able to afford a wedding, or a family, or even a bigger apartment. Sometimes I really wish I’d forgone college and grad school and just learned a trade instead.

  30. Sean Goble

    1. “It’s an internship right now but once things turn around we should be able to hire you full time.”. I was too starry eyed about the prospect of being a music supervisor to notice (or care) about the obvious warning signals in the above statement.
    2. “Following my passion” and “focussing on that which I love” I actually left a job that offered me a large pay bump and management position to keep me to pursue the above internship. I was pretty young and figured I could always recover. Still working on getting back to that pay grade after the supervision shop closed up.
    3. With both an undergrad and a college diploma, I expected to have set-up my own shop by this point as my dad had been rocking his own business for awhile by the time he was my age. A music studio and publishing house under one roof was the ideal when I first finished college.

    God, who needs a drink?!?

    • Sean Goble

      Missed the reality vs dream part. My current reality is working at a performing rights organization which, while somewhat mundane, does keep my toe i the music industry and gives okay compensation with security and benefits but little to no creative output or enjoyment.

    • Stanley Lee

      The internship remark is an invisible script that took me some time to get over. The passion script again didn’t close the loop as it doesn’t address the problems of how you monetize off potential passions, how you find mentors, how you find potential clients, and also the realistic market size. Chances that you’re not an outlier is pretty huge.

  31. Natalia

    My father currently has one of the highest paid jobs in the country, he is a sales manager and has been “successful” in his job. He raised the sales of a certain multinational technology company from approximately $30 million to $120 million in less than three years. He is passionate about his job and he loves what he does. Still, his advice for us, his children, has been that we should not to let ourselves fall in the hands of the corporate world. He says that it is much better to be an entrepreneur (he used to be one, for example, he used to have a bank), until he failed and decided to get the security offered by a job instead and he never went back to the world of entrepreneurship.

    So, I am not here to discourage you, I understand that some people think it is best to have a risk-free job, but don’t you think that, for those who have what it takes, the best thing is to be your own boss/start up your own business?

    Ramit, since you have been talking about “interviews” and “resumes”, I believe that when you say “dream job” you are not including “founders of companies”, are you?

    You may agree or disagree with what I’ve said, I just wanted to share with you a piece of advice that some of you might find helpful.

    Sorry for any grammar mistakes, English is not my first language.

  32. Allison

    1. Worst career advice: Take what they’ve offered, and after three months, discuss a raise.
    2. How has that bad advice kept me from achieving my goals? That raise never happens, or whatever is offered has been outright offensive. So 10+ years after graduating from an Ivy League… the ROI on my degree is negative. And considering I considered dropping out of college at one point, it is frustrating to know that I could be making more if I had made different career decisions years ago. (I will change this though by June of this year).
    3. I thought I would be living in Europe and having it all 5-10 years out of college. What’s having it all? High-responsibility job, high-paying job, family (husband, kid or two) and lifestyle that would allow me to fly back and forth to NY at whim. Reality was that I was living in Europe, had jobs that demanded huge dedication – but not sufficiently recognized either financially or even in terms of the title, and so busy that there was no time to consider or develop a personal life). The crap we were sold at the women´s college I attended (you must aspire to greatness – professionally speaking – and live up to your alma mater´s name…. turned out to be less fulfilling than they made us believe while we were in our women´s studies courses. I say “we” because as we approach our 10th college reunion, many of my friends and I have had this conversation lately. We feel cheated.

    Thanks for asking the questions.

  33. Sarah

    Worst career advice I ever got – that standard internships are necessary for working in the fields I’ve worked in to “get your foot in the door”, and that you “need to start at the bottom and slowly work your way up.”

    No you fucking well don’t. You do need to demonstrate your skills and build trust with the people you work with or plan to work with, and yes those traditional epithets can result in that, but very inefficiently. I’ve bypassed that advice regularly to get into positions that surprise people who still try to “help” me with that advice.

    And what use is a standard internship anyway? Think about it. You do free work, often the most mundane and generic work the company has, the most low-risk work. The only people who see that work are the people in your company, and often only a fraction of them. Then, your “foot in the door” as they love to call it only turns into an actual job if the company happens to be hiring a lackey right as you finish your internship. Which they usually aren’t, because they’re taking on a series of lackeys as interns, as you’ve just been. Nice plan.

    In my teens, people kept banging on and on about how my goals were unrealistic, that no one can succeed in the arts and you’ll end up broke and starving, that I was from too low a background for top jobs, all that rubbish about playing it safe and blah blah blah snooze. I tried to ignore it as much as possible, but it definitely did hamper my general tendency to shoot high. Being surrounded by mediocrity and mediocre beliefs can really sap your energy, and I bought into that stupid notion that dreams would only ever be dreams, to my detriment.

    Ten years out of college, I thought I’d be a millionaire, driving a nice car (Merc or something), wearing designer clothes, holidaying when I want, but working hard at a job that challenged me and that I loved. I have about 4 and a half years to make that happen. Most of it is still pending.

  34. Sheri

    I can’t believe I paid for five years of a university education without knowing what I really wanted to learn. I spent tens of thousands of dollars for a product that may or may not work, had no guarantees, no follow-up, and which made me sad, confused, and unhealthy.

    I majored in something that was so broad, I could choose any job (I suppose the underlying idea was that simply possessing a degree in anything would entitle me to a top-level position somewhere). So I majored in Communication. LOL!

    What is more, this degree was also supposed to be the thing I could fall back on – dance was something I could always do as a hobby.

    Anyway, I spent a decade applying for “communication/media/pr” jobs after graduating college and eventually did get a well-paid position at a top lobbying firm. Unfortunately, the most fun part of the job was being able to buy new shoes and clothes every day after work until I realized the shopping was repressing a desperate and deep-seated dissatisfaction with life. I was thirty, and bitter.

    Now, five years later, I’m a full-time personal trainer and fitness instructor. I will never write another job application. I lease my own studio space and run dance programs for children. I’m developing kick-start fitness classes that will make real changes in peoples lives. There are still a lot of kinks to work out and there’s a ton of work to be done, but I love my life. I also just gave away the last of the suits and designer shoes I had been reluctant to sell – in case I would ever need them again. I won’t.

    • Angie

      I also didn’t know what I wanted to major in college and I also majored in Communications! And applied for communication/marketing/pr jobs after college! LOL.

      I thought by studying something broad, I would be able to more easily qualify for anything, but the truth is, after graduation, I felt qualified for nothing.

      But while you wish you had focused on dance and athletics, I wish I would have focused on a BS degree in either Economics, Business or Computer Science.

      It sounds like you love what you do now and that’s great. You sound so confident that you will never need to fill out another job application. That’s encouraging.

  35. Catherine

    1. I had spent the summer utilizing career services at the government internship I where I was advised to take the Myers-Briggs personality profile. Back in school I still felt completely lost and made an appointment with a career advisor. I SPECIFICALLY told the advisor that Myers-Briggs did not help me at all, because it came up with a huge list of career options and was not specific in telling what I needed to do. I also said that I didn’t think my career was aligned with what I was studying, and I didn’t like the types of jobs offered to people with the skill-set that I was building. Her advice to me was to…take the Myers-Briggs again, because my personality might have changed over time. WTF?! At the end of the session I straight-up told her that she had added no value, and had absolutely not helped me figure out what to do in terms of career direction. I would summarize this advise as “try the thing that everyone else does, and if it fails, try it again after some time has passed because maybe things have changed.”

    2. This “bad advice” didn’t really keep me from anything, since obviously her advice was so bad, that I didn’t implement it. However, it did make me feel like I had tried to do something in order to get what I want, while not actually achieving anything. So it allowed me to blame someone for my failure in a sense.

    3. Right after school I started working at one of those huge professional services firms, that seemed to be the right thing to do after finishing school. I expected it to be exciting and challenging. I ended up miserable. I was actually told by someone close to me, that I was a “significantly less pleasant person to be around” after I started working at my first job out of university. Which felt really weird because my parents were really proud of me when I had that job, and people often seemed impressed when I told them where I worked. So I quit that job. And went back to school. Which is where I currently am.

  36. Ilhan

    1. I was told from a high school teacher I really admired to “Follow your heart.” The way he said it was so intense/emotional that it left a real impact on me.
    2. I’ve since kept trying to figure out how to follow that advice, and what it meant to me. This has led to lots of introspection and watching documentaries, not making progress for months.
    3. Graduated a couple years ago. I expected I’d be running some kind of respectable online business, traveling, having virtual assistants and all that exciting stuff you and your buddy Tim Ferriss seem to be up to. I’m now 23, living at home with my parents, still waiting to figure out what it means to “follow my heart” and whether that means I should go to school and study science. I’m also wondering how that could lead me anywhere near the kind of lifestyle I would like to have in my mid-20’s (independence, money, social life at nights).

  37. Trevor

    I’ve received the standard bad career advice cited by many, but two answer question 2, the biggest crime bad career advice helps you commit is to make you feel like you’re working hard and making progress toward getting a new and better job when you’re really just spinning your wheels. For months I diligently sent out resumes and wrote countless time-consuming cover letters to show my committed interest to specific jobs. I always felt accomplished after submitting a resume and cover letter. In the immortal words of Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, I was just “another brick in the wall”. The resume and cover letter technique does nothing to differentiate me, and I didn’t realize this until I started reading your posts.

    Over my many years of schooling I learned how to take tests well and get good grades. People (and tests) told me I was smart and lumped praise on me. When I graduated college, I thought I’d be making my way up the ladder in a corporation I loved with extra money in my pocket and respect from my peers at 10 years out. I thought I’d hit milestones of success that would make me feel fulfilled. After college I worked in a low-paying job doing fairly intellectual work, and I got pretty damn good at it. Aside from the $, I was happy. After that company folded, I found another job that pays better (but not fantastic) and allows me to interact with great people. People look in from the outside, and they’re envious of the roles I have, which are nonstandard, progressive, and constantly changing, yet I don’t feel fulfilled. Upon watching your video clip about passion, I realize that, aside from occasional instances, I haven’t felt like I was damn good at anything I do in 5 years. I also haven’t felt like I was doing something meaningful. I miss those feelings. I want to find something that I can get good at, feels like meaningful work to me, and pays reasonably well.

  38. drea916

    I LOVE your comments on finding your passion. I HATE the advice “What kind of work would you want to do if you won the lottery? That’s how you know what kind of job you should go for.” I spent three years trying to find my passion following that advice. I remember this line from Jack Canfield’s book “Do you like watching soap operas? One lady found a way to make a career out of it, she writes for soap opera digest! Like talking to people? Oprah has made a career out of it!” I need to pay rent! I’d like to do more than work at starbucks. The above advice was not helpful! Only stressed me out.

  39. Sandy

    “At least it’s a job with a steady income!” Terrible advice. It leaves you feeling that any reasonable job is good because the most important thing is making money.

    Not that I object to money, you understand! But the truth is that you might be competent at any job that pays money, but you’ll never be really good at anything you don’t love. If you aren’t really good at your work, you will never rise to more and more interesting work. You will never feel that you are paid well enough, so that you want to work hard at your job, if you don’t love what you’re doing.

    But if you figure out what you really love, what you’re really good at, even if it’s not what you expected, you will find an interesting job, and you will be paid well – well enough at the beginning, and better as you grow in the job.

    Unless your children are starving on the street, it’s never a good idea to take a job you don’t care about just for the money.

  40. jane shafrin

    worst career advice: “The lipstick on your upper lip is wrong”

    This was from a man who called himself a headhunter.

    I have more! When I was a teacher: “Dont even think of showing up to work without panty hose!” (I’m female) “Do you think you are a fashion designer?” (referring to my clothes)

    getting fired from a writing job that I held for 3 years & won mentions in local press:”You sure can’t write!”

    “Learn touch typing and shorthand! You’ll always have a ‘fall back'”
    ==heard it all

    • Ramit Sethi

      Who the hell wears panty hose? Do we live in 1952?

  41. M

    1. “Women in the workplace need to wear makeup in order to look like they care, but not too much or they look like they’re trying to seduce the boss/interviewer.” Seriously? Wtf? While I understand looking presentable is important, shouldn’t I be judged primarily on my skills and experience? And how much is enough? How much is too much? Is someone really going to think that a woman’s coming on to them just because of their makeup? And wouldn’t the ‘acceptable amount’ vary from field to field? This advice is not only irritating, but so vague as to be useless.

    2. While it wasn’t ‘advice’ per say, my first couple years in college I allowed my scholarship to dictate what field I pursued. I didn’t give myself a chance to explore what was available due to the requirement of declaring a major right off the bat. Eventually my grades started to tank because I wasn’t really interested in the subject and I stayed in that major for way to long, dragging my GPA down, demoralizing me, and tacking on two extra years for my bachelors degree. I guess I was acting on something someone told me once which was to “follow the money.” Computer science would’ve been very lucrative, but I would’ve been miserable.

    3. I’m still in college, but I’ve started making tutorials on YouTube. It only pulls in $50 a month right now but with more time, effort and videos that should grow. I graduate this up coming December so to answer your question I’ll simply project where I expect to be ~5 years from graduation.
    Once I graduate I intend to get a full time job while continuing to build my online revenue on the side. My finance and I plan to live as cheaply as possible and save up for about 4 years and then spend the 5th year learning to sail, obtaining a boat, equipment and provisions. At the end of 5 years post-graduation our plan is to set sail to circumnavigate the globe. Overly ambitious? Maybe, but that’s part of what makes it an exciting (and terrifying).

    • jane shafrin

      hi just FYI, it’s “per se” — not per say. Your future husband is your fiance, not your finance.

      Hope your tutorials aren’t anything to do with proofreading.


  42. Krista B.

    The worst advice I keep getting is that dream jobs don’t exist. “It’s called work for a reason” my family tells me. Find something stable and work until you retire.

    I have internalized this message that there really can’t possibly be a dream job and allowed myself to stay stuck in a job where I feel frustrated daily…but hey it’s secure!

    After college, my 5-10 year plan was to be a project coordinator of a large advertising agency. I never got a job in advertising and eventually went back to school. I now work as a high school teacher.

  43. Daniel

    1. As a Computer Science major, I should post a resume on your student webpage to show that I’m computer literate. This was given to me by the career department at a top-tier University.

    2. Just do the work that your boss/manager tells you and don’t venture out into uncharted territory. I spent about a year with some really great ideas of how value could be added to the company I was working for (automating a good deal of their testing processes. I feared angering my then manager by suggestion that he goes about doing things in a radically new way.

    About a year later, when I mentioned the idea during a bit of water cooler conversation, he loved and let me lead the initiative.

    Lesson learned, good managers are not bad people and do not view their subordinates as competition. They want to see you move to senior positions to add value to the firm and are more than willing to help you get there.

    3. Honestly, I thought I would still be doing some sort of entry-level position within a respectable firm after I graduated. The advice that was given to us is that advancement is done through tenure and not on the value that you add to the company or by simply making it known that you want that position and proving that I’m capable of doing it.

    Just about ten years out of college, I’m viewed as much more respected member of my department than those who are ten years my senior, by simply ignoring that advice and simply delivering results that far exceeded expectations on consistent basis and making it known that I wanted bigger challenges when I grew bored of the work.

  44. Michael

    I’m currently in the military. The advise was, “you’ve already done 10 years. You might as well do another 10 and then retire.” This person already knew that I despise the military, so why the fuck would I subject myself to 10 more years at a job/ organization I cannot stand any longer? Because it’s ‘safe.’ Screw safe, I want my freedom.

  45. Tammy

    Great Post!
    1. Choose a practical major, like nursing, child development, criminal justice. Whenever I tell someone I’m a Spanish major, they either say nothing and dismiss it, say “oh, what could you do with that degree, or they tell me how it’s best to learn another language as a child because. Whatever, I know exactly what I intend to do with the degree, how I’m going to do it, and what I’m getting out of it.
    2. The advice of Imagining where you want to be has left me in Daydream land since I was 8 years old. It didn’t improve my high school grades and it won’t improve my career success to just day dream.
    3. 5 years after graduation I will have a freelance business, NOT have a house, travel as often as I like, read all the manga I want(Japanese comics), meet interesting people every month, and blow my client’s and new client’s minds often. I also believe in Cal Newport’s theory on finding your passion.

  46. Justine

    1) I was told that if I just “tough it out” as a Chemist that my company will notice my hard work and promote me to my bosses position as technical director, because I mean he has to retire someday right?

    2) So I toughed it out. FOR 3 YEARS until they hired a guy off the street who succesfully sold himself as the expert in the field. That guy than had me train him in my boss’s old job and then fired me, saying that I was negligent and denied me unemployment.

    3) When I graduated college I had no idea where I’d be. I’d decided at the last minute not to go to graduate school so didn’t have a fricking clue what to do with myself. I took a shitty QC job at a manufacturing plant and then read every book at the library on career advice. FAIL. Then I started reading industrial chemical trade magazines. After I got fired I called every supplier I ever talked to and asked if they knew which direction to head. One of the suppliers told me about the company I now work for and how they had already gone through 2 rounds of interviews looking for a Project Manager.I applied, convinced them that not having any PM experience just made me a self-starter. They bought it and I’ve been ladder jumping ever since. I’d like to add that my friends in grad school are just leaving with Ph.D’s now and have ALL told me I did the right thing just going straight into industry as no one will hire them now as they are over-qualified.

    I wanted to get a Ph.D because I wanted to do research. Now I make industrial adhesives.

  47. Donna

    1. “Get into catering.” I live in a tourist destination where there are lots of hotels and restaurants so I guess there was demand for chefs but I can’t cook. Thankfully I didn’t take this advice.

    2. “If you work really hard and get good appraisals then you will be promoted.” Crap. This totally ignores the wider economics, not to mention the “game” that gets played.

    3. I thought I would be single, a high earner, in a stunning career and driving a sports car. I was married and in an admin job (which I loved at the time).


  48. Elizabeth

    1. Any job is better than no job (from my dad)
    2. Getting stuck in sucky jobs & not motivated enough(our know how) to change
    3. I thought I would have more control over my work flow& schedule. I feel like a slave, or a circus performer, dodging the cream pies they throw my way.

  49. Mohammed Shareef

    1) There are too many interview questions that could possibly be asked. Don’t bother going through all of them. Be yourself and answer the best you can. (Reality: There are definitely some very specific common questions, even in technical interviews.)

    2) I was interviewing for a job with five other classmates. The interview questions were not very difficult to answer. I did the best I could. I was told I would be invited for training to start the job. Three of my classmates got the actual offer and invitation details, and I was not one of them.

    3) I thought I’d be the owner of a million-dollar teen counseling organization in 10 years. I had no idea where or how to start. I jumped around from one job to another. Eventually, I went back for a second bachelors (Computer Science Engineering) to open myself to more job opportunities. I’ll be finishing this degree in a few months.

  50. Jen

    #1: “Academia is totally a good fall-back for writing and you’d be good at it because you’re so smart!” tied with “Why don’t you go to law school?” I knew better than to go to law school, but being a professor is full of weird pitfalls that no one explains whenever the one professor tells you “you know the job market is terrible, right?” That’s nice, but you always believe you’ll beat the odds. Why does no one say, “for liberal arts majors, becoming a professor means you will spend five years trying to suck up to a year off to write a dissertation while you babysit a bunch of undergrads who have to take your comp class before the soul-killing event known as the job search, which includes having to sound brilliant and interesting to a bunch of dinosaurs who think they are gods. Then you will have to teach a bunch more so if you don’t like teaching 20 year olds, don’t become a humanities professor.”

    2. I didn’t get as much bad career advice as non-existent career advice. There were all sorts of cool jobs out there I could have easily gone for if I’d known about them. (17 year old me would have been all over the Foreign Service or even starting out making 30K/year translating. Hell, just understanding that there are software jobs other than sales and developers would have helped me.) Women also get pushed toward admin and marketing work a lot and this is…ye gods…so not my thing. I also hate that professional schools (MBA/Med School/Law School) are always the way to make money to parents.

    3. I thought I’d be a professor who wrote novels on the side. I am a tech writer at a software company who writes the occasional long-form piece of TV criticism for publication. I didn’t realize just how much I hated doing academic work compared to non-academic-work OR how rare conventional novel-writing successes are. I also was full of this idea that corporate work can never be mission-driven or “good” which I now realize is bs because there’s such a variety for it.

  51. Jason Sandeman

    1) Never work for a paycheck.
    2) When I find that I am getting bored with a place, it becomes monotonous. Then I start to slack off. I left a 72K year job because I “didn’t want to work for a paycheck.” As a result, I am unemployed, anxious, and don’t know where my career is taking me.
    3) When I left cooking school, I thought I would be a sous chef at 5 years, own my own restaurant within 10 years. Then I met my wife, and found that there was something else other than working 18 hour days. Today I am burned out by the cooking world, and looking for something else to do.

  52. Virginia

    What is the most ridiculous piece of career advice you’ve ever heard?
    I am an actor. One of the most ridiculous pieces of career advice I’ve been given is “showing up (at auditions) is half the battle.” That is suuuuuch bullshit. It is not HALF the battle. I would say it’s the last 2% of the battle (though a critical 2%, I will admit). However, you can’t JUST show up. That’s stupid. It doesn’t matter how many auditions you “show up” at, if you don’t have an agent (first and foremost) you will NOT be able to make a decent living as an actor. Period. That’s just realistic in the industry. Also…you must be prepared with PERFECT material for that specific audition, have the talent/chops to knock their socks off and know who you are auditioning FOR (via personal relationship building or research on that casting director/creative team, etc.) Otherwise you are basically playing the lottery…and you are veeeery unlikely to book that job. The market is toooooo competitive. There will be hundreds of actors that are waaaaaay more prepared than you. JUST KEEP SHOWING UP makes me want to throw up.

    How has bad career advice kept you from achieving your goals?
    I have wasted sooooooo much time and energy “just showing up” in the past. In 2009, I went to 200 auditions for theatre in NY…got 3 callbacks and booked 1 job…a contract that lasted for 4 months. F-THAT!!!! I CLEARLY needed to rethink my approach, do some research about the market and where I could best fit in, talk to some successful people about how they got to be making a living and be more strategic about the way I was spending my time and energy. I got totally burned out. You’d think it’d make me want to quit acting, but it didn’t…It just made me ANGRY and MOTIVATED me to want to find a way to improve my game. Because there ARE people who are successful actors…lots of them. So I know that it’s possible…I just needed to stop “SHOWING UP” and get some real tools that would help me make some actual progress in my career. Not just hit my head against the same brick wall 200 times, thinking it would crack.

    When you graduated college, where did you think you’d be in 5 or 10 years?
    I thought I’d have an agent and at least be able to pay my bills and save some money with my acting paychecks. This year I made $30 with my acting. Nice, right?

    Where are you now?
    Right now I am working a 9-5 as an Executive Assistant in NY making $67K a year. A job I am very well-suited for, though I cannot say that I am PASSIONATE about it. I am currently applying to graduate school at three top schools for acting: NYU, Yale & Juilliard. I figure, if I am going to give up my cushy high-paying job to follow my passion (acting)…I am NOT going to go back into the biz without a solid business plan, a kick-ass agent, some seeeeeerious professional connections and at least 10,000 hours of practice to back me up. I do NOT want to be a starving artist for the rest of my life. I even started a blog about my process of preparation for grad school ( I am DRIVEN and I refuse to fail. I will just keep adapting and learning and doing whatever it takes to create a sustainable and fulfilling livelihood as an actor. I will find a wayr. If I could land this Executive Assistant gig in the middle of the recession, then I’ve got to be able to transfer those same skills and tenacity to establishing a thriving acting career.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Such a great comment about showing up being necessary, but not sufficient. Anyone can show up (even though some do not). Few can be amazing.

  53. MJ

    “Even the name “financial literacy” makes me want to urinate all over my computer.”

    I just spit $4 latte on my laptop.

  54. Lily

    Find a job in a field that you know wont die out (ie. Health field). And work for the rest of your life. Honestly, the generation before did that, but thats also when pensions existed and people gave a hoot about other people and their health. Not just the money hungry health system we have now. No job anywhere is “safe” or “guaranteed” anymore. Sigh. I imagined myself with a safe job when I entered my field, but now with all the healthcare reform, tight budgets all that had crumped with the market.

  55. Scott PF

    Just saw this over on Reddit:


  56. Heather

    1. The most ridiculous piece of career advice I remember reading (fairly recently) was ‘Wearing a read shirt can make you seem more dynamic and powerful in an interview, and should give you a confidence boost. But it tends to work better for women, guys – try a tie.’ That may not be the exact wording but that was the gist. In a published book for young people from the library. I remember rolling my eyes and putting the book down at that point.

    2. When you’re on jobseekers allowance (Scotland, it’s for when you’re unemployed and I was there for a while after graduating) you have to sign on every fortnight in order to get paid. There’s a meeting you have and a booklet you have to fill in to ‘catalogue your job search’. The three actions we were meant to take each week included; Search and apply to vacancies on job boards, wander round the town centre looking for vacancies, and read the local newspapers for same. I was also going through your free material at the time, and keeping track of everything in detail.

    At the start I’d spend about an hour or so a day doing what they told me to (and getting more stressed and ‘desperate’ because it just wasn’t working), then when I cut back on time spent there dramatically and started networking and so on instead (being a little more creative in my job search) they didn’t want to know and I wound up feeling bitter at the whole thing.

    The mindset it instilled made it hard for a while to even care enough to focus on doing it any other way. It was a huge block to achieving my goals the entire time it went on because it was such an energy drain and mood killer. I allowed it to be that way of course, but still – it’s unpleasant knowing that they’re having you perform useless tasks and hearing every week ‘just keep looking’.

    3. Fortunately I only graduated in June so its not too heart-breaking a ‘I wish I’d’ story. When I left I fully expected to just spend the summer and up until Christmas working on my showreel and making connections while working at a ‘normal’ job, move once I’d saved up some money to be near Vancouver and the bulk of my industry, and start out in an entry level vfx job shortly after.

    The reality is that it took me until the end of November to find Any job, I was busy until Christmas then my hours got cut and I’m still not finished my showreel (due largely to packing too much into it for projected time and then not working on it for a month while pulling 40 hour weeks). Wound up studying an international massage course as a hobby and now I’ve caught myself thinking of just moving as a masseuse instead of an artist.

  57. Braydon

    I just read all of those comment and no one made a crack about that hilarious photo of you. I watched the video and was pretty disappointed it didn’t say “my hands are a b-cup, can I just check?”

    Anyway. I’m going to be honest here. I can’t really remember any specific advice that was bad, beyond the usual “get something stable or follow your dreams.” I’m not sure why, but I always just ignore that. Maybe it’s because all I heard was “be like me” or “I failed and now have to do something terrible, don’t be like me”.

    I just sort went out and learned first hand. I tried to hang out with people doing interesting things because they were interesting. They didn’t say “do this, do that” I looked at their actions. Their actions said “Attitude and work ethic make all the difference.”

    Nobody told me that. I just looked at people who were amazing and tried to steal everything I could off them.

    I never tried to follow my passion. I said “I’m an idiot, in 8 years I will be less of an idiot” Then I’ll know more about the world and be able to make better decisions about where I want to end up. Between now and then lets try heaps of things and try not to do anything completely permanent like have a family or end up in prison.

    It paid off. I’m not in prison.

    My first job at 19 promoted me in 6 months and flew me to another country and employed my girlfriend so she could come to. At the time I thought that was awesome. In the last few months, I’ve come to realize that I’d had just employed negotiation tactics. The conversation went like this.
    “How would feel about going to fiji?”
    “Cool, three weeks?”
    “I can’t, I can’t leave my girlfriend”
    “Okay, what if I pay for her as well”
    “Cool, she going to be bored though”
    “No worries, I’ll train her up and then she can work as well”

    Thanks Ramit.

    I’m no going to bother into other stuff that happened since then. But I’ve had a bunch of other really cool, some incredible well paying and interesting jobs. All through random ads in paper or people I knew.

    In fact the only traditional interview I’ve ever had was a disaster but how many people at 20 get an interview for state manager designing entertainment programs for sick kids in four hospitals. I was as you would expect hopelessly under-qualified. I’m awesome but I’m not quite that awesome.

    But I’ve always tried to bring my A-game, (I also up-sell my skills to doing more interesting work, didn’t know I did that either) Which has landed me more flights around the country etc.

    Currently, I’m niche down my skills set so it further aligns with how I want to spend my time. So I get to come everyday and do something that interests me. Not everyone else, not some generic dream (I want to be a writer, I want to do something I love etc.) but how I want to spend my time. Has it been easy? not exactly, I’ve heaps of setbacks on the way and would stupid if I though there wouldn’t be more.

    But whatever, no one gets out alive anyway.

    Great rant/article looking forward to more.

    Cheers Braydon

  58. James

    Wow, some of you are embittered. I don’t remember getting any bad career advice, because I didn’t get any career advice while at school. So maybe the bad advice is that you need somebody to tell you what to do. But perhaps that’s the benefit of hindsight occluding any vision of failures. It’s been much easier for me to discern good advice: have an awesome CV, and don’t be boring at interviews. So hooray for me.

    On the other hand, when I left university I thought I’d be a retired internet millionaire within 5 years. Only being an employee with some stock, rather than the founder with a vast amount of stock, put paid to that dream. Boo hoo. Sucked it up, moved along,

  59. C

    I thought that I would get an academic position within 1 or 2 years of getting my Ph.D. That’s what I had been led to believe by professors, career counselors and my peers’ experiences. Unfortunately, my graduation year was the trough of demand for my specialty. It took almost 2 years to find a job and it’s out of my field. What’s worse is that I’ve been stuck in it for >10 years. I work for the federal government in an increasingly team-oriented environment. Sometimes, it seems like we have teams for the sake of teams. I can’t get any of my most important research published because of pushback by mentally ill and narcissistic managers. Changing is nearly impossible because I’m now typecast and have minimal ability to manage others.

    Why did my career turn out this way? I’m autistic and was only diagnosed 2 years ago. While I pass for neurotypical (non-autistic), my social abilities are impaired and my decision-making has been poor because of the social information I can’t process. I don’t do small talk, which is often essential, because I can’t. Sometimes, this has been mistaken for an aversion, which many NTs have. My understanding of office politics is nil, unless I’ve been told what’s going on. Autism also accounts for my inability to manage. I can manage a few geeks and a secretary, but those are not the kind and number of people I would have to manage in the government. Our teams consist of a core of 3-5 people and lots of hangers-on. I can’t handle the social interactions that are not directly related to the work at hand.

    Don’t take this as a complaint about autism. It has given me tremendous abilities in other areas and is an integral part of my being.

    BTW, an NT’s “passion” is roughly the same as an autistic’s “obsession.”

  60. Dave

    1. Worst career advice…where do I start? I have to go with: “Just network.” OK, maybe not terrible advice, but nobody tells you HOW to network in an unsleazy way, and then use that network to get a job.

    2. Several times, I took the first job I was offered because I was afraid of being unemployed, not being able to pay back debt, etc. That old thinking, “in this economy, you’re lucky to have ANY job.” I wish I had held out because I could’ve landed much better gigs.

    3. When I started college in 1999…in the middle of the dot com boom…I thought I would graduate and go to work for a startup writing copy or designing Websites for $80k a year and probably be a millionaire by now, as classmates who graduated that year DID.

    But when I graduated in 2003, things had totally changed and I took the first job I was offered…for $27k. Today, I’m no millionaire.

    Eventually, however, I took things into my own hands and now work for myself making a decent 6 figure living. But had I stayed in the workforce playing by “the rules” and following all the “bad advice” I’d be lucky to have broken $50k in my field after 8+ years of experience. Total crap.

    • Stanley Lee


      Glad to read that you stopped following all the “bad advice” to change course. Being lucky to have broken $50k after 8+ years of experience is pretty sad for many fields.

  61. Alex

    Most ridiculous piece of career advice (which I took) was walking away from the interview process with a top-5 global (world-known and respected) company when I was about 10 rounds in and doing well. this was because someone I thought I could trust saw how unsure i was about my ability to do the job and how I disliked a prior experience in a comparable company and recommended I walk. I completely blame myself for taking such a foolish step, and realize I was stuck in a feedback loop of uncertainty and doubt and wanted affirmation rather than an “out”. Now I am still at the much less respectable place doing work I dislike. the worst part is that I walked away before I knew fully what the outcome was, which was just plain stupid as I will wonder forever what may have happened. Also second worst advice is probably “stick it out”, as in endure, the antithesis of which is “develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer” from Machiavelli.

    This advice has hindered me from accomplishing my goals because I want to work with intelligent people at a place that is prestigious. Why do i want these: 1) I feel I can tolerate higher work demands if I respect my colleagues even if I don’t find the work ideal. 2) getting prestigious names on one’s resume at a young age likely make transitioning to other companies easier. This admittedly could be a barrier I maintain to justify fear or complacency, but it’s something I’ve heard from plenty of people further along in their careers who have been in hiring positions.

    Where did I want to be in 5-10 years. When I graduated college, I was more concerned with getting the most prestigious position (which happened, entering front office of a bulge bracket investment bank from a non-top school) and getting excellent grades. I didn’t have a clear idea of “position” 5-10 years out, but I had an idea of “environment”. Namely, I wanted something intellectually stimulating, dynamic, highly compensated, with sophisticated people. The reality was that I went into a part of the company I didn’t want to be in and have been “stuck” in that field since though moved companies. The intellectual fulfillment and dynamism are lacking.

  62. Michael

    The worst advice I received was from my aunt: you should grow a beard so you look older and more mature. WTF? Fortunately I was unable to follow that advice because my facial hair is very light, thin and splotchy, but it left me thinking for years at I wouldn’t be taken seriously by my colleagues because I looked much younger (and by correlation inexperience and unknowledgable) than I was.
    When I graduated uni I thought I would be running a junior mining company within 10y. After 10y I was a maintenance superintendent for a mining company and then spent the next six years in various different Mtce supt positions in Canada and Australia. Felt like I was on a never ending treadmill of supt jobs.

  63. Comet

    1. I’ve heard way too much about getting a safe, secure job with good benefits.

    2. During college, I took a job because it paid well. I followed the idea that I should settle for a good paying job so I could pay for college. The job requirements had nothing to do with anything I’d ever wanna do in the rest of my life. Looking back, I realize the insignificant monetary difference between what I made at that useless job that taught me nothing in comparison to a job that would have prepared me with valuable experiences in pursuit of my dream job.

    3. I still have one more semester of college left. I have not done much in planning ahead but in the next 5 years I plan on landing a job somewhere away from home and expanding my book-selling side business. I have absolutely no idea what to expect in 10 years.

  64. Kenneth

    1) You can’t get anywhere without a masters.

    3) I thought that five years after graduation I would be living in Portland, OR working as a professional engineer for a land development firm. Instead I am working as an engineer for the government in construction.

  65. Mike

    Go to college (which one?), get a job (not a career, a job, not an exciting fulfilling life of value–a job, and then marry and buy a house [ok, a domestic partner and a house–whatever…] Grandchildren? More work, more work, more bills, more issues–investing? saving? budgeting? HAH!! And, unless you are successful at luring renters into your house [to cover the mortgage and maintenance], it’s not an investment–or, an asset–it’s a piece of personal property that will take time and money to keep.

    I’m glad someone finally put this realtor-generated ‘myth’ of wasting money on rent to bed by laying out the costs; and this ‘myth’ of the career advisors to bed [akin to resume-writing advisors].

  66. Alichino

    “Do what you love” – this doesn’t work for everyone. If you want to live in luxury, there are certain fields you must avoid simply because there’s no money in them. I tried to buck the trend and make money in the info science field, and now I’m swamped with student loan debt, including a useless masters degree, and still live with my parents because I can’t afford to live on my own at age 30. I have a crappy part time job and am scrambling to network and put a portfolio together so I can get into a better paying field. I’m getting creamed by younger people with more experience, and it’s humiliating. I don’t know how much longer I can cope.

    tl;dr – Do what pays the bills, ideally doing something you don’t hate.

  67. Evan Caporale

    1) “Send your resume out to as many different job postings as possible.” My dad said that getting a job was a number’s game. The more resumes I sent out the more responses I should have gotten and the more job offers. It took me three months to get a job that way. My current job I got after looking for less then a month because a friend introduced me to a friend who was hiring.

    2) Instead of spending my first years out of college systematically looking for jobs with a specific goal in mind I just kept looking for a job. Everyone kept telling me I just needed a job, any job and that was all that mattered. I worked for UPS spending more on gas commuting then I earned in a week. I worked for a restaurant as a busboy and went everywhere embarrassed that I had a college degree and I was wasting it. I worked for an internet startup for in what could of been an interesting job, but paid so little that I spent all my time there constantly worried about how much I had in the bank. What’s worse is I spent 3 months unemployed looking for each one of those jobs.

    3) I never had specific goals when I graduated college. I just knew that in 5 years I would be an up-and-comer at some cool company where my opinion would be valued and I would help set the direction of the company. Currently, 5 years after college I work at a incoming call center where the main stat by which I’m judged is my adherence to my break and lunch schedule.
    When you graduated college, where did you think you’d be in 5 or 10 years? Where are you now? Please share a specific story about the difference between expectations and reality.

  68. Chris Campbell

    +1 for including my favorite video

    “Doesn’t matter, got paid.”

  69. Lisa Fine

    1. To use cliched phrases in your elevator pitch, like, “I’m a top player”, or “I’m a people person”. Gag me.

    2. I have been told to send out as many (blind) resumes, which results in next to nothing. (In the meantime, when I use my network to get advice from people, it leads to closer results.) I now spend most of my time doing the things that work, and very little time (if any), doing the things that don’t work.

    3. I don’t think I really knew where I would be – I probably thought I would be working for a non-profit organization. I was pretty unhappy two years out of college, feeling like I wasn’t ready for a full-time somewhat permanent position, and spent the next two years traveling and working seasonal jobs on farms and in environmental education. The travel and seasonal work (more than my original work after college) brought me back full circle as I now am looking to work for a food non-profit to develop educational programs, and I write a local & organic food and green living blog.

  70. KO

    1. Go to college and study something practical, so you can get a good job and make money to do other stuff. This is sucky advice for 2 reasons: 1) who is actually doing what they went to college for? I would say about 65% of architecture graduates, and that’s it. (To be fair, I’m referring specifically to a bachelors degree.) I started college studying something “practical”, and quickly realized that studying a specific “concentration” was a giant waste of time. I now tell all my younger cousins getting ready for college to go and study something they enjoy, because the important things you learn at a typical 4 year college are life skills, not job skills. Like living with people who aren’t your parents and figuring out how to pay for beer on a limited income.

    2. I continually spend all this time tailoring my resume to specific jobs (good advice), but they NEVER get seen because they got lost in the black hole. No one’s ever given me advice about how to get my resume scene, and I don’t seem to know anyone who knows anything about networking. Of course, that’s a lie, I just haven’t asked the right people yet.

    3. I hadn’t slightest idea where I wanted to be in 5 years, and sure enough I was in the same place 5 years later. I didn’t have any clue how to start figuring out what my Dream Job was and how to get it, so I drifted from entry-level job to entry-level without ever accumulating any meaningful experience. In fact, I didn’t even figure out what industry I wanted to be in until I was 30.

    I’s with @Sean Goble, a drink sounds about right at this point…

  71. Anna S.

    1. Worst career advice ever? When I was in school, and said that I was interesting in foreign languages, and the career lady said ‘Oh, so you want to be a translator, then?’ I told her no, that that sounded kind of boring… and she went on about being a translator for an hour. And posted me a careers sheet about translation.

    Also, the careers service at my undergrad uni, where I went in to find out what my options might be for doing creative, interesting work in the business side of the music industry, and they wouldn’t even give me an appointment until I’d written a resume. The thing is, since I didn’t know what jobs I could apply for, and wasn’t looking at anything specific, any resume written at that stage would have been completely worthless!

    2. All of this left me leaving my undergraduate degree with no idea what I wanted to do, so I got one terrible job (the first one to come along) then quit that and got a job in headhunting just to pay the bills. Fortunately, that helped me work out what I really wanted to do. Which I’m now doing.

    3. After undergraduate, I had no idea where I’d be in 5-10 years time. I knew I wanted to travel the world, I knew I wanted to use my BA (in German) and I knew I wanted to own property at some point. Now, I’m doing a PhD in North America (I’m from the UK) and going exactly where I want to go.

    Best career advice I could give anyone right now? Be flexible, and have your fingers in many pies. But make sure you love everything that you do, and work out how to make it profitable as you go.

  72. Patrick

    Most ridiculous piece of career advice? Not really getting any in all. Just understood the notion to go to college and then shit would pan out. Ha.

    Not having any tangible advice makes me feel like I wasted opportunities in college to understand the game that is being played and to get ahead of the curve.

    Year 4 out of college, still in my first job after graduating. Thought I would have jumped around to a few different jobs, meet a lot of interesting people and really take off in my career. Instead I am surrounded by an older generation of people who have all ambitions sucked out over the years and who are content with the status quo. I can’t take it anymore!

  73. Aaron

    1. I was told to just go into engineering because I would be guaranteed a job upon graduation, since the job market for that field “would always been growing”. That couldn’t have been more false as I have been looking for a job for almost 2 years now, but have decided to pursue finance since I was pretty interested in that when I was doing my undergrad in engineering.

    2. I followed the monotonous application process of drafting unique cover letters and applying online, only to discover I was just wasting my time when I could have taken an entry level position somewhere and tried to work my way up. Had I known lack of experience would be this big of a factor, I would have made a much larger effort when I was in university to try and attain an internship or any other direct form of work experience, as opposed to just studying to earn good grades.

    3. After 5 to 10 years, I expected to be settled at my dream job with a decent pay ($80k+) and potentially have my personal life worked out. Currently (2 years after graduating), I have none of that going on, but I do realize that there are many things that I could have personally done better. I am going to do whatever it takes this year to improve my life and start working towards my goals!

  74. Elaine

    1. “Career changers should use a functional resume format or blended format.”
    2. Two experiences: I had a great conversation with oil/gas business development sales agent over drinks with friends. After talking about the industry and her experience she started asking about my goals/experience and then asked for my card (didn’t have one), gave me hers and asked me to email my resume. I was so afraid of sending her the “wrong” resume, I didn’t get back to her for almost a week because I thought I should rewrite my resume in a functional format. Not only did it cost me time, but I’m sure she looked at the cryptically written functional style resume and tossed it. At best, this crap-advice cost me a contact, at worst, a job.
    Later when I was applying to business school, my college career office gave me the same shit advice “Career changers should…”. I didn’t let them near my application or resume because it was clear they didn’t know anything about admissions committees. Confusing someone with an awful functional style resume is an easy way to get your resume thrown out.

    When I graduated college… 5yrs (tenure, finishing National Board Certification, finishing Masters, earning a payscale bonus for both), 10yrs (EITHER teaching AP/honors and being department head OR state curriculum planner OR track to be principal). I did exactly what I wanted to do and prepared to do after college, and then hated it.

    present (3yrs out of undergrad) – h.s. teaching, two in the US, one in Japan
    2 years (5yrs out) – graduating with MBA, starting consulting firm gig
    7 years (10yrs out) – senior biz development position in oil/gas with the goal of top management.

    2009 grad. Majored in History (because I liked it). Got Teacher Certification (to be practical). Was in a terrible local economy, but moved across the country to a full-time teaching job earning $10k more than most starting teacher salaries. I never had to take a risk before that move. I went broke paying for a plane ticket to go to a job fair in a different state, but I got a job. Hated the job, quit after two years and currently work abroad teaching. Its an easy job that pays a lot, but i dont want teaching to be my career. Even if I don’t get into a good business school next year, I’m going to come back to the USA and hustle, network, and push to get a job in industry and role I want.

    “you should apprciate ANY job.” I’m brilliant, talented, and sick of the bullshit. I don’t need to settle for just any job. I have already know what it’s like to beat out dozens of other more-qualified applicants. I know what it is to work 60+ hour weeks, high stress, and no flexibility. Teaching doesn’t even have secure tenure and strong unions, so the one benefit the profession had is gone (and working 12 hour days and weekends for 10 months negates the benefit of summers). If I’m going to work that hard, I’m going to get paid a hell of a lot better doing something else.

    Ramit, you are right on point with the attitude toward risk. I thought teaching was a “safe and secure” position and was too afraid to take a risk in the private sector. When guaretted-unemployment was my main option at graduation I was forced to take a risk (spending my last dime after college on the vaguest hope it might pay off with a job). That experience gave my attitude a 180. I’m taking risks and making a career change I wouldn’t have even considered years ago.


  75. Pax

    Lindsay it sounds like your were at the dinner table when I was a kid, because that’s exactly what my parents told me. EXACTLY.

  76. Olivia Hoang

    I stumbled upon the best way to think about career search (and anything else, for that matter) by transposing some ideas from direct marketing.

    First, you need a strong offer. For career search, this means you need skills that are in demand. So this would be the first step.

    Second, you need to target the right market. So target the companies and industries that would respond best to the set of skills you have to offer.

    Third, you need to have a great selling message. So this is where learning sales and negotiation comes in.

    I would say that having strong skills will account for almost half of it, as it does in direct response marketing.

  77. Megan

    Worst advice: Work for the government, it offers great benefits and stability.

    How the advice affected me: I never even thought about working for state government until someone else mentioned it to me. Then, I thought it would be cool because I could have some kind of impact and make things better-more efficient and effective. Public service, how noble and rewarding, right? I worked at one agency, got frustrated, felt I could still make a difference; moved to another agency, same thing and another. Finally, I got so frustrated I made the jump to the private sector. Unfortunately, the unusually cool sounding start up with coworkers from some of the top schools in the country was an unethical pyramid scheme full of douche bags, so I reverted back to the public sector. What I have learned is that for any free thinker with ambition and the ability to actually improve the bloated, constipated condition of our government, state work is a soul sucking, mind numbing, black hole of frustration and career stagnation.
    Do not pass go, do not pay union dues, do not collect over inflated pension.

    Where I thought I’d be in 5-10 years: I figured I’d be a foreign service officer in an awesome place like Australia, or otherwise working in foreign relations fostering international business and trade between the U.S. and other nations. I also figured I’d speak at least 4 languages and have done some extensive world travel.

    Where I am now: Finally taking action. I have always been a late bloomer, but I let myself get stuck too long and spent far too much time complaining and doing nothing. I started reading IWT last year. The material called me on my BS and put me in my place. Wapish! I used the 30 day course on hustling to secure a position as a freelance communications consultant for a solar thermal energy start up. I expanded my network, offered free work via email, got a dinner meeting, busted out the briefcase technique-I gave them a plan. By the end of dinner, they wanted me on board. Granted, I’m working for free because the company is still in the R&D phase, but the experience and connections I’ve made are well worth it. The communications consulting gig is not my dream job. In fact, I applied for the dream job scholarship, but my first ever web video, was pretty damn awful.

    I still have my crappy day job but am working my way out by implementing IWT dream job material coupled with insights from Tim Ferriss-The 4-Hour Workweek. I have niched down my preferences and am starting to reach out to appropriate contacts. Since I struggle with reaching out to others for help and am generally an introvert, I am finding the comfort challenges presented in 4-Hour Workweek crucial to any dream job progress. The comfort challenges offer specific actionable steps you can take to get yourself out of your comfort zone and moving forward. Even just seeing what some of the comfort challenges are makes reaching out to others for help finding a dream job seem a lot less daunting. I am also using language learning techniques from the 4-Hour workweek blog to revamp my Spanish so I can actually use it when I travel to Costa Rica in a couple of months and aim to become fluent in 3-6 months as at least one potential dream job of mine involves me being fluent in multiple languages.

  78. Katherine

    As a professional recruiter I have seen it all. I have had interviews with candidates that have absolutely no idea what they want to do. Worse yet I get emails all the time telling me to check out their LinkedIn profile and let them know if I have a job for them. My favorite emails are the responses to a job posting with the person having none of the skills, education, or experience that was required for the position.

    Biggest misconception of our role is that we “find” people jobs. Sorry. We are paid by the client to find the top talent to fill the positions. Often we are working on tight deadlines with unrealistic expectations from our client on what they want in an “ideal” candidate. A-List talent with C-List paycheques. Unfortunately there also a lot of shitty recruiters out there who tarnish the profession to others. As with any career, there are good, bad and indifferent.

    I myself struggle with a lot of the bad career advice given to candidates. It makes my job a lot harder. Recruiters fill only a small percentage of the available positions out there. Wish I could force all our applicants to read your blog before applying!

  79. Doug

    1. “Certified Novell Engineer is like a guarantee of employment.” The fact most people reading this post probably don’t even know what “Novell” is/was says all that needs to be said about that…

    2. “Don’t toot your own horn,” “Let others say good things about you” and numerous variations thereon. Not intended as career advice, but rather as life advice in the small towns where I grew up. Unfortunately, in the corporate environment where I currently work, it tends to make my tounge cleave to the roof of my mouth when I get to those crucial, “Explain why we should give you this raise/promotion/opportunity/etc” conversations. I know I’ve blown at least one interview on what should be the softball “So, what are your strengths?” question (or a variant) simply because I was so uncomfortable talking about myself in a positive way.

    3. When I graduated from college, I thought that in 10 years I’d be a Captain or Major in the Air Force, moving from a flight position (navigation) to a staff position, or possibly flight training. What I’m doing now (28 years after graduation) is working as a business analyst for a Fortune 500 company. Flying turned out to make me so miserable I didn’t sleep. The Public Affairs job I got when I gave up flying was not as bad, but definitely not what I wanted to do for any length of time.

    In 1988, my wife and I found ourselves with no children and no debts and no desire to stay in USAF. Still, it was with considerable trepedition that I took a job writing manuals for a little startup that created agricultural accounting software, thereby turning away from the secure field of newspaper journalism. (At the time, that was not even a remotely ironic statement.) The startup had problems of its own and I left after a few years, but across a series of several jobs at several companies, I morphed from technical writer to computer support to business analyst.

    I’d like to claim I planned all that, but it’s really been a case of asking “What’s the right next step?” every time I was pushed by external events, an opportunity presented itself, or it felt like time to move on.

  80. Val

    1. The worst career advice? “Just go to medical school, no matter what it takes or how much money it costs. You don’t like it? It doesn’t matter, the job is the most stable job in the world. You can worry about what you like later.” Never mind that you give away 5+ years of your life going $200K into debt that you have to pay off until the day you die. For something you don’t even like. Never mind that a good chunk of that doctor salary is going into malpractice premiums on top of debt payments. Thank gawd I jumped out before it was too late.

    2. Bad career advice has kept me stuck in a mediocre job for far too long. My job pays 100% tuition. Despite what people say, one shouldn’t take free education just because it’s free. Especially if you have to limit your career choices and experiences to do it. Too bad it took me until I was 75% into the degree to realize that. I don’t regret the degree and I learned a lot. But I could have learned 10x more by finding a better, more challenging job.

    3. I’m actually 4.5 years away from the day I graduated now. I really thought I would be earning at least double what I am making right now. I thought I would be out of this city a long time ago. I even thought I would be working for myself or at least have a successful side business. Today I am doing none of those things. I will never forget the day that my former supervisor walked in with a piece of paper that informed me I was getting a 5-cent raise. Of course, I have nobody to blame but myself. After that I did start looking for other income sources, and I do make money on the side but not nearly enough. And I still don’t know where to go next.

  81. Melissa

    #1. Do What You LOve & The Money Will Follow

    Really? Where is it? I do love my work, but I make less than 30K working 3 jobs!

  82. Theo

    Hi Ramit,

    The youtube screenshots are typically the frame from the exact center of your video. Hope that helps. 🙂


  83. Xmcd

    Youve been workin on your presentation skills. Nice.

  84. Jonathan Vaudreuil

    1. Get a college degree (MBA/certificate/more training) if you want to be successful. I’m glad I got a college degree, I enjoyed learning in college a lot, but other than helping me land an entry-level Sales job when I graduated in ’04 the only residuals I have still are the student loans I’m almost done paying off. “You need more experience” translates to “I don’t trust you with this” in de-bullshitted English.

    2. You know what almost no one tells you? Don’t work for assholes, don’t believe the hype in the interview. don’t believe the career path the interviewers tell you. They don’t tell you to find companies you want to work for and negotiate every chance you get. My pay and responsibilities jumped dramatically when I threw everyone else’s advice out the window. After my ex-girlfriend wanted me to take a job making more money, I joined a start-up instead (and dumped her because she was nag). It didn’t work out, but it was the best job experience of my life at the time, far better than my previous jobs. The next company that hired me made me the new manager when the manager who hired me quit my first week on the job, because I had both management and hiring experience through the start-up. No start-up, I’m probably doing the same middle of the road sales jobs I had before then.

    3. I thought I’d either be a Sales Manager or building my own company/on board with a start-up from its earliest stages. I did the start-up, have another side company, have done consulting work (thanks Earn1k for the 60% pay increase), and I am currently a Sales Manager. I graduated in May 2004.

  85. Kat

    1.) My parents told me to get a technical degree and I could do whatever I wanted. I did major in engineering, but struggled. I chuckle about it now because I find it funny that I, diagnosed with a math learning disability and qualified to take the SATs with extended time, thought it would be a good idea to get a degree that required about 5 semesters of calculus. I’d like to point out that although this wasn’t great advice for me, I don’t think its bad advice. On the contrary, both of my parents came from relatively poor families and became scientists. That career choice made them decidedly upper middle class and gave our family a good life. My parents told me what they tested and worked for them. I don’t think I can ask for much more and I appreciate them wanting to help me.

    2.) Unfortunately, as an engineer (see advice above) in the Air Force, I’ve been pigeonholed into a job I hate. However, it hasn’t ruined my life or career. I’m looking at outside jobs (not engineering) but I sell my degree when asked about it. I focus on the problem-solving aspects of it and how I get things done even if its not my favorite thing in the world. I see me getting a job I’m excited about in the near future.

    3.) I thought I’d be flying planes, except I found out I get really airsick.

  86. Robert Putt

    When you graduated college, where did you think you’d be in 5 or 10 years? Where are you now? Please share a specific story about the difference between expectations and reality.

    When I graduated college with a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering I was the quintessential subject that you discussed in this article. I didn’t think I was deserving as much as I assumed that I would lock in a position with a Biomedical Company. In 5-10 years I figured I would be making 6 figures designing biomedical devices. After 3 months of looking for a position I hung my head and walked into Staples working as a cashier for $6.50/hr.

    That was 8 years ago.

    Not until the past 12 months did I take control of career and attitude. I got to Hustling.(Last Year’s Theme) I examined my faults and fixed my attitude. I hustled and got myself a job at and I’m looking to be the best performing manager at the warehouse in only 6 months.

    Love the material, Ramit

  87. ray johnson

    Where I thought I would be after being out of college was a millionaire who traveled the country ‘. with a few side businesses and real estate holdings. Instead I am a dead end job with minimal Propspects.
    My reason for this was that I thought would become a supervisor for walmart, which would lead to a management spot that would allow me to join the swat team. A position that allows you to travel the country fixing walmarts. Needless to say my plan was derailed when the store manager ask what were you doing in this four year gap. My reply school getting a management degree. No good. This non promotion has led to me struggling and not making the money I wanted to make to be come that 7 figure business man

  88. Sylvia

    The worst piece of “advice” I ever received was from one of my ex-stepmothers questioning why I would want to get more education (over joining the Army or Navy but that’s another story)… “Why do you want to go to college? You know we can’t pay for that, so you’ll have to come up with that yourself. Anyway, you don’t need more education – you’re a very pretty girl and I’m sure you’ll meet a great guy and he’ll take care of you.”…… umm… yeah….. Even back then I knew that was an extremely flawed theory.

  89. Kristin Patterson

    1) Worst career advice given to me by my mother and her relatives was to join the military.
    2) Thankfully I did not take this advice. But because I have not been able to land a job since finishing grad school, the military seems to them like a good option.
    3) I thought I would be an Associate at one of the big consulting firms. It didn’t happen but this time has allowed me to do things I enjoy and pursue a few business ideas.

  90. Jenny

    1)Do what your boss tells you without question because you are a rookie… My boss was later kicked out of the industry for unethical and criminal behavior. Thanks!

    2) I had to leave my dream job because I had to report my boss for unethical behavior. Trying to pursue a similar position in the same city as the newspaper that broke that story… fail.

    3)In 5 years I wanted to be graduating from Law School. In 10 years I wanted to be an established attorney with the funds to pursue my hobbies, which are expensive. I’m still on track, but am missing my previous position. Obviously, I am not missing my previous boss.

  91. Dave Booda

    I’d like to comment on the passion idea…

    I think the passion that people desire is deeper than “cooking” or “playing music”, that’s what most people consider when they search for a passion. To me, passion is about what that skill allows you to do. Your mother isn’t passionate about cooking, she likes cooking no doubt, but she’s passionate about service, about providing for people she loves. When you discover that a persons passion isn’t music, cooking or art but rather things like “inspiring others”, “justice”, or anything related to service, it allows you to see many more options in your search for your dream job. In that sense, your dream job CAN be your passion, but your passion needs to be more broadly defined.

    I love your book, love your site and I’ve personally recommended you to 3-4 different friends who have also benefitted from your advice. Thanks!

  92. Matt

    That’s funny, I was just looking at re-ordering business cards just before I read this. But being an artist, I make ones with my images on them, so I need to update them regularly.

  93. Martha

    The worst career advice I received came from my supervisor . . .

    “You don’t need a mentor”

    I wanted to cuss my supervisor out, but instead I will channel that energy to build multiple streams of income, ultimately surpassing their income.

  94. Sarah L

    1. Oh my gosh, you will love this. My dad is bent on helping me succeed, bless his heart, but he is an electrical engineer and really has no knowledge of the finance field. So the last time I was home over Christmas break, he dragged me to the golf course to teach me how to play golf because that’s what he believed I needed to know if I wanted to be successful in business. I’m not kidding you in the slightest.
    2. Oh geez, I cringe at my own naivety. I was told not to worry about internships until the summer after my junior year. So instead, I spent my first two summers embarking on low-paying jobs in admittedly awesome locations so that I could pursue my youth and find myself. I don’t want to discredit the value of those summers; I matured a lot as an individual. But if I could go back, I would have looked for relevant summer internships as a freshman.
    3. I’m not graduating until spring 2012. But I will say this; back when I was a freshman, I thought an entry level job paying me $60K a year would just fall into my lap my senior year. It’s definitely been a humbling process for me, but I’m ready to devote some serious analysis and work to land my dream job.

    • Sarah L

      Oh I forgot to say that for #2, my lack of experience has been a HUGE obstacle for me finding a full time job in the finance industry.

  95. Rob Petzold

    What is the most ridiculous piece of career advice you’ve ever heard? I was told to take a specific promotion thy I really did not want in order to get the opportunity I did want.
    How has bad career advice kept you from achieving your goals? In the above situation, the opportunity I took cost my career at this particular firm because I was set up to fail in a location that was set up to be consolidated.
    When you graduated college, where did you think you’d be in 5 or 10 years? Where are you now? 5 years after I graduated I expected to be a very successful financial advisor and 10 year in I expected to be running a successful financial planning practice completely independent of any one carrier or financial firm. Instead I drank the “go the leadership route” cool aid and have been downsized two times in the last 5 year. I now have a great career with a stron company. I’m working on building my original dream but it’s more difficult to do with family obligations I now have. It will get done however.

  96. Josh

    Follow your passion is the worst career advice…and this is why:
    It’s only a small part of the game. Some passions are not meant to be jobs- they’re meant to be hobbies or charities or entertainment etc.
    What needs to accompany this “passion” idea is this: Do some self analysis as to what you value in a job/career (is it mobility, or part time work, or solo work, or physical work) as well as what strengths/skills you have (am I a good writer/sewer/singer/speaker etc), and lastly what am I passionate about. Then see how these three (values, strengths/skills, and passions) meet up in the middle. Then ask what is a job that already exists or a job I can create for myself that employs as many aspects of my values/skills/passions at the same time. Is there anyone else out there doing similar things to what you’re wanting to do? How do you do it the same? How do you do it differently? Then like you say, start taking out successful people to lunch/coffee and ask how they got where they are now- and consistently surrounding yourself with successful people (we are the company we keep).
    This is of course a small sampling of why the “passions” advice is shi##y and everyone learns differently but I didn’t figure this out till two years ago- now changed my game plan and I’m freaking killing it. And off topic- thanks for this kick ass blog man- I recommend it to lots of my friends and clients -J

  97. Andrew

    1. I had something else, but Lindsay Lennox (above) was so spot on with her answer that I’m going to go ahead and agree with her on that. It’s startling how much of a difference this mindset has. Once I accepted that taking side work to support the fun work was how my creative career was supposed to function, I was able to make progress.

    2. Pass

    3. Someone asked me this recently and I was shocked to discover how on target I was with my plan. What I didn’t anticipate was the money factor. Somehow, I was completely ignorant of the amount of money I could have made had I gone a different direction, or how much money I’d make going down this path. I’m not sure it would have changed my mind, but it would have been good to know from the start.

  98. Peter Weis

    The best advice? Why would you quit the job you have or look for another job when you have a steady job already.

  99. IH

    1. I made it all the way without being fed one piece of career advice, which is especially odd considering I worked three jobs to get through undergrad. However, they were the types of jobs where people twice my age had been there forever and had simply given up. That atmosphere in an of itself was enough to keep me going, though. But, to answer the question, during career counseling at my college, I’d requested an advisement session because I was interviewing for a position at a film studio. All the adviser said was that people who worked on film lots “dressed different”. That was it.

    2. I’ve never taken anyone’s career advice until now. Srs, guys. So far, Ramit hasn’t led me astray, but I do need a great deal of help building myself a testing system.

    3. I’d no clue where I’d be. I may be in the minority here, but I was discouraged from going to college; all I wanted to do was learn, and was the first in my family to go.

  100. Paul

    The most ridiculously unhelpful advice I ever read for designers/photographers, in the mid-1990s:

    A simple 4-step plan to success:
    1. make unique and incredible work
    2. print and arrange the best images in a large, expensive, leather-bound, name-embossed portfolio case.
    3. make appointments and show your portfolio to all the top agents.
    4. choose the agent who offers you the best terms


    As an aspiring photographer, I accepted my parents’ advice that it was risky and that I should keep it as a hobby but have something to fall back on. 5 years of university followed, doing what I was good at but didn’t enjoy, after which I had a “good career” which bored the crap out of me and in which I felt like an imposter who didn’t belong.

    By graduation I’d modified my thinking, expected I could earn a shitload of money in the next 10 years, then retire and follow my original passion.
    I didn’t earn the shitload of cash, left that career a few years later to try making it as a freelance photographer, but by then the advice I was getting (and essentially tried to follow) was along the lines of question 1 above.
    I never got past step 2.

  101. Bryon

    This could not have come at a more excellent time in my life. Before I was reading this, I was thinking of all the check lists people put out there that do not really work!

    Q1: If your good at it, it should be your career. That’s what has me in the hell hole I’m in today. Took an accounting class (not to mention a computer class) in high school and excelled. Decided accounting would be the career -after all everyone has to manage money and accounting jobs would be plentiful. NOT!! 14 years after graduation of undergrad, I now have a decent job. The journey has been a little bitter after many networking events and many bounces off the brick walls. Even after doing a paid internship, it was difficult to land a job as it took nearly two years to get in a respectable position at a local accounting firm that two years split and I loss job. Will mention three years latter, manage to land at a Fortune 500 accounting job to see that role being outsourced and offshored – not to mention the influence of technology. Now in a role as accounting systems manager for another Fortune 500, and realized how miserable I am. That is changing as I’m going for Masters in HRD which has made me realize how much of a right brain person I am. The story goes, I am a musician and singer by heart – but never realized my potential with a little work. I was even playing air guitar before I was walking my mom says (altgough I’m a pianist now, but learning guitar). Yes, in high school I was in chior but dropped to do these other classes and college prep courses – strike 1. Played with a local family band most if my life until college. I had non-accounting professors in college to tell me I’m not the accounting type – strike 2. When 8 hrs of most boring day job sucks the life out of you, but 12 hours of home studio music work doesn’t phase you – strike 3. Yes, baseball fans, I’m out as these words (and everyone’s expectations) has made me feel like I have accomplished nothing. I am hoping that changes as I really want to get into the music field, as a musician, but also to help others learn to lead (possibly other musicians).

    Q2: go to school, get an education, education will land you a job as this is the knowledge age (afterall knowledge is power, right? [Not always], these will somewhat allow you to live the life you want. NOT! I’m living back at home with parents, back in college on round two (or second inning) of my life. Where I go from here – probably will not rest on anyone else’s advice. I know what gets me out of bed (and what wants to keep me in the bed in the mornings). Refer to Q1 of the 14 years of missery, hundreds of resumes, tons of networking, working with multiple recruiters time after time with no results! None of this has put me near my dreams/goal of really wanting to tour the country/world with music (and I also love reading about various historical leadership heroes) talking about leadership.

    Q3: 5 years after college, I’d figure I would be working in some metro area having a job that allowed travel to get out and meet people when reality, I just lost a job and after managing 8 years of independence, had to move back in with family. 10 years after college, I just lost another job (after getting back in my feet again) so had to move back in with family. 14 years after graduation, still with family as I’ve practically become the primary care giver of aging parents – and trying to figure out how to get my life going again.

  102. Dan W

    My worst career advice was unfortunately the one I followed. It was from my college professors, who said: “The job market is really moving into this field. If you want to be a success, you should move that way, too.” Seems reasonable, and at the time, is sure looked that way. The problem was, of course, that they didn’t do any actual RESEARCH into whether this was really true. Sure, there was a short term demand for the type of position, but was that sustainable? Was that something that companies needed long term? Or, was it something that was needed right now, but would then see the supply immediately meet the demand. My error: following without doing my own research.

    Because of my mistake, I’m now an expert in a field that is necessary, but no one wants. Business is about making money, but my aspect is all about cost. There is no money, just expense. So, the advice was bad, but my error made it worse.

    When I graduated college, I thought I would be an innovator in the industry, designing systems to help my customers and showing them how to not only minimize cost, but to actually profit from environmental awareness. Some companies have actually done this, and I am glad. That isn’t where I am, and it isn’t where I am going. While I design the very systems I went to college to learn how to design, I am at a dead end, designing systems for people who desperately don’t want them, but have to have them anyway.

  103. Dan

    Worst advice from a resume counselor: You need an objectice statement for your resume. – I bit my tongue and did not say my objective is to get a job…. And that a reasonable person would read the executive summary I wrote at the top that was matched to each job announcement…

    Bad career advice has conflicted with my goals when I’ve been told “you need more experience” or “put your time in,” and best of all “trust me”… I trusted all the way until I was following guidance, and had my promotion paperwork pulled when my boss didn’t stick up for me after making her look good…
    Instead, I’ve leveraged the experiences I’ve had to identify where I excell and strengthened contacts with people who appreciate hard work and believe in me.

    After five- ten years, I thought I would be working at a Fortune 100 company after I left the Army. My expectations were that I would be offered multiple high paying opportunities just because of where I went to school or who I knew. Instead, I learned more about business and influence. I learned how most people unfortunately do the minimum required. and have few interests beyond their tv… And many high paid execs take credit for other people’s work… And that most people feel the world owes them something.

    I presently work for the White House, and continue to serve in the Army Reserve. I’ve been very fortunate, and learned when you are commited to excellence, truly understand your clients and the problems they face, and are willing to invest the time in the people you work with, you will be able to lead and effect change. It takes a lot of preparation and determination, but it is worthwhile.

  104. Ga

    This may be the best email yet, especially the use of “urinating” with “financial literacy.”

    My college advisor asked me if I wanted to take interesting courses or get my degree easy and cheap! Being young, I picked easy and cheap. I now have an MBA instead of that MFA or MSW I could have really used and loved.

    After college I expected to make a decent wage with a nice title. Instead I got cancer.

  105. Mercy

    Q1. The worst piece of career advice given, that is drummed into our heads from when we were kids, is read hard, work hard in school, and when you finish your education, you will get a very good job. There was even a freaking song composed that used to be played on radio everyday! This in turn has created many disgruntled and disillusioned individuals because nothing that we were promised has ever come our way.

    Q2. I have always been told that I should first pursue a “sensible” degree like medicine, IT, business, etc and then go ahead and do whatever it is I please because at least I will have a back up if I fail. I did exactly that and I am now back in school pursuing what I should have done in the first place, and I have made a total career change. I am happier than I have been in ages. I also consider myself lucky that the transition has been relatively easy for me.

    Q3. Five years after graduating, I thought I would have a high-flying career in diplomacy and in ten years I would be appointed ambassador to different countries and would be at the UN fighting for my country. Reality is that I wasn’t getting into the Foreign Affairs despite having impressive internships and work experience. I also felt that a part of me was being suppressed because of making the protocol my life. Where am I now? Transitioning from the world of international organizations and back into the corporate world (I worked for a bank for a few months then quit because I felt that I was missing the “point”. I was a diplomat not a corporate individual) and I love it!

  106. Peter


    I don’t normally leave comments, but I feel driven.

    1. Worst Advice: Put your head down and shovel your way through the piles of crap left behind by others.

    2. By “putting my head down” I have given myself (I am normally a very strong personality) a complex about pushing and driving harder to get greater results. Obviously a bad thing, this hesitation is not how I will get the next promotion and now my boss badgers me around like I am her brow beaten husband.

    3. I knew I would climb fast and would be in a VP spot within 5-10 years. Now I am stuck in mid-level management wishing everyday my Fairy God Mother would come rescue me from my pathetic excuse for a career.

  107. A-ron

    I think the worst career advice I’ve ever received came from myself (and subtly echoed by my dad at the time), when choosing between studying something artistic or something practical: choose something practical so you’ll make money.

    I’m not sure I have any career goals, nor have I ever. My goal as a kid growing up was to be a “rock” star, a musician of some sort. The greatest hindrance to that goal has been my families insistence on being “practical,” so I was gently steered away from doing anything other than the status quo (get good grades, go to college and study something professional, get a job, etc.). I suppose if I had to choose one life goal, it would be to create something remarkable. A piece of music, writing, software, whatever, but that damn practicality thing is always nagging away. “Why bother? ”

    Since I’m a software engineer and studied all sorts of cool stuff, I thought I’d be running my own game development company by now (10 years later) or building kick ass robots. But now, I just have a shitty, menial, paint by the numbers job for an average, ordinary internet company.

    I used to feel betrayed like you said, but now I’m more jaded and I’m slowly settling into the routine.

  108. dave

    Every career advice that you receive is HORRIBLE! Why? Because NOBODY cares about your career. When you’re at the interview, ask yourself, how can i make this firm/person money? if you can’t figure that out or have the passion to crush it then you’re not going to get the job. nobody cares about your feelings, your debt, your college diploma… they only care if you can make them money. Be your own CEO – because nobody is going to do it for you. if you’re wasting time emailing resumes to ABC corporation you don’t deserve a job. that already tells me you don’t know how to pick up a phone. don’t waste your time applying for jobs that you don’t want. finally, realize, that most people with jobs are pretty stupid, but it doesn’t matter – if they out hustle you – you’ll never get out of your entry level job.

  109. Su

    1. I didn’t get career advice. It’s almost as if giving career advice to women 35 years ago was considered as being in bad taste so no one did it (not counting generic articles, etc.). Also I had some pretty solid filters re the “be a teacher or a nurse” tradition my female relatives followed. My parents wanted me to have some bankable skill, so I learned computer programming but it was never much of a career (unless you enjoyed the equivalent of doing crossword puzzles for a living). Much later, a prof quoted Joseph Campbell at me–“follow your bliss”–which I did; it did not turn out as I’d hoped, but I did enjoy my studies and things have not been dull.

    2. see 1. Pretty much a complete lack of career advice of any kind hasn’t hurt me irrecoverably but I can’t say it helped me either.

    3. Ha. I had probably the most promising job of my life BEFORE I graduated from college, but left it to move to another city for the man I ended up marrying, then divorcing 15 years later. So I’ve never been anywhere I imagined I might be, and things have gotten much worse than I could have imagined. It’s been “adapt or die” pretty consistently. At least grad school showed me I have nothing to prove to myself about what I can accomplish: I survived, produced useful work, pushed my own preconceived limits about how hard I can work, and got the damn degrees.
    Finishing the PhD and getting a research postdoc led me to think 1) I liked research and 2) I could get hired to do research. The postdoc experience disabused me of both those concepts. There was a period where my hourly wages doing postdoctoral research were significantly less than my son’s wages as an office assistant with an AA (2-year) degree; so much for the shortage of bright, motivated, educated science and technical workers in this country we keep reading about.
    I never expected to end up working for environmentally unfriendly industries, yet those are the only ones interested in my skills who pay me a decent wage (as a consultant, not an employee, of course). Turned out my soul wasn’t worth nearly as much in the marketplace as I would have estimated.

  110. Georgia

    #1Career advice:
    1. Send out as many cvs as possible, something will stick
    2 Just get a JOB and be thankful for, no need to spend energy looking around
    3. Find a political influence to get into XYZ company
    4. If they haven’t post a job is pointless to contact the company

    #2 Still being at a job that I find meaningless and future-less just because I’m “lucky” to have a job + Lost opportunities to approach companies I’m interested because they haven’t post any jobs

    #3 After I got my Msc I thought that within 5 years I’d reach a seniority level, running my own projects and 3ple my income but… neigh… I moved a bit but nothing I that I was dreaming about.

  111. Roscoe

    Probably the most ridiculous piece of career advice I’ve ever got was that, if I really wanted a job, I needed to work on the goddamn cover letter. I got this from a career counselor at my college (STRIKE ONE!) and the job application was for low-level Chinese language analysis (I spoke a bit of busted Chinese from spending a year teaching English there). I spent three days on the damn cover letter, bilingual, and had to wait two weeks for the career counselor to approve it.

    I never heard back from the company after I sent this masterpiece.

    But that still wasn’t the worst example. That would have to be my father telling me, in 2008, that I should just string some gigs together to pay for my life, and if I couldn’t get quite enough gigs, to dial it down. You know, like he did in San Francisco (as opposed to a small city whose economy is largely geared around upper-middle-class information industries) in the 1970s.

    I hunted Craigslist every day for two years, went over $25k in debt, and when I didn’t find a job? “Well, they must be able to tell you’re not a really good employee. I mean, when you were twelve, you hated working for us and we could tell.” Gee. Thanks, Dad.

    I ended up going back to China instead. Where I can get a job, rent an apartment, and eat out once a week. I’m going to get my certificate in intermediate Chinese and make my own fucking job.

    It’s like Malcolm X said. “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you stand up and take it.”

  112. Dan McCue

    1) staying in a job that’s a bad fit is better than taking a chance to find something better. It doesn’t matter how good the benefits are if you are not growing or advancing toward your goals. Also wish I had learned more about how to negotiate. If only I had read Dale Carnegie in high school….

    2) Too much focus on search and resume. My network has consistently given me better and more interesting oopportunities than job searches. Also, there are no mistakes in job descriptions.

    3) I was doing more or less what I expected I would be doing 5 and 10 years out, but paid less than I expected.

  113. Ujjwal Trivedi

    “GET AN MBA”

    I get this advice even now – People say not having an MBA will be a roadblock in my professional growth some day.

    It have already grown from being a “software developer” (implementing ideas written down in documents) to a Business Analyst (generating ideas and innovative products) – WITHOUT AN MBA. I networked, displayed my skills when needed, captured opportunities – and one day Just Got Lucky!

    • Elaine

      The MBA is a tough one… with no business experience or business degree, I really want to believe the advice that getting one will allow me to transition into the field at a mid-level. I know this is too good to be true in some ways, and I know not to go to a school unless it has a good reputation, high placement and regular recruiting in the field, I have a solid plan, etc.

      I have been gearing up for b school for over a year now and summing up all the research and interviews I’ve done… People with MBAs say to get one, people without say don’t.

  114. Chelsea

    Worst piece of career advice: the suggestion that I get a head-hunter out of college. I graduated w/ a liberal/fine arts degree.

    A lack of advice or concern about career seems to have hurt the most. Growing up as a bigger fish in a smaller, nearly rural high school & getting into my college of choice seemed like all that was needed to win at the next round of Life. My family assumed I would figure things out & career wasn’t something we discussed until I was away. The resources at University were there but only if you asked. I soon realized I needed a plan. Struggled through reams of information about choosing a major & filled notebooks with lists of careers I might enjoy, all the while not knowing of whole categories of careers & related majors available right at my school. Without a compass struggled to put forth adequate effort in certain courses & it seemed fateful I did so well in a Cinema 101 course. Selected a film major, with added year of tuition & classes on to compensate for choosing a major late. Completed the major with extra production classes thinking it will rock the “real world”. Came out realizing I could have gotten the skills needed at my first relevant job making web videos ANY other way for less $$$$$ & gotten a degree for something more market-friendly. Loved the theoretical & critical film knowledge I learned, painfully aware that there are thousands of kids graduating yearly with big plans to teach these classes one day & even though I sat for the lectures, some part of me accepts I cannot reguritate and perpetuate the kind of major-career fantasies to future generations.

    ~5 years ago I graduated thinking I’d get on Craigslist enough times and eventually find work that would be perfect for me. Over that 1st summer back at home working part time I thought I’d at least find a job to float me along awhile & then I’d “figure it out”. Haha. The jobs didn’t come along so quickly. I began temping, then that gig ended, got another temp job alongside a retail job, got burned out, and have been temping some more. I’ve enjoyed each job more than the last & am proud of the things I’ve accomplished, but none of it pays the bills like I’d like and the growth is so incremental compared to the strides I imagined I’d be taking by now.

  115. Laura

    Hi Ramit,
    So the worst advice I’ve heard/seen coming around is mostly people telling others to start their own company if there’s no good job offers out there. Not everyone is ment to be an entrepreneur, still people seem to think that “with the bad market and all”, it’s easier to make money when you’re self-employed…
    When I graduated from my first college (Music Therapy) I thought I could do great things with music in businesses. I wanted to do workshops about group dynamics and conflictescalation, through music, butI found out most people really don’t get it, or think “oh, so you make music for elderly people and stuff..?”. Having such a specific schooling didn’t help me so far (even though I use a lot of the skills I’ve earned there, thankfully), so I decided to broaden my schooling with a Masters degree in Communication Science. I realize having a degree is not the end, but a beginning. Maybe even more than some of my fellow students, I look at the skills I’m learning and how I could use them in a to-be dreamjob (instead of staring blindly at grades). My expectations have changed, they’re more realistic now. Like you said, the difference between a hobby and a job is that a job brings food on the table… 😀

  116. GettingBackonTrack

    1. It’s a tie between three things:

    a) The college career counselor told me I cannot start a business right out of college and that it’s better to get 20 years of work experience before attempting to do so. (I ended up ignoring her and tried anyway.)

    b) Stupid resume distribution as a strategy. I implemented a tip to submit my resume to an e-mail blasting service that sent it blindly to hundreds of organizations. I ended up getting one job interview at a completely mismatched company. Also, I spent way too much time answering job ads and updating my resume, which didn’t get me anywhere.

    c) Apply for a position (and career path) that I’m not interested in just because it’s a so-called “obvious fit” for my college major. I got to the point where I would send out resumes to ads that I knew I wasn’t very interested in and sometimes I’d hope not to get the interview – just so I could tell myself that I tried to find a job.

    2. Since I never knew how to find unadvertised, interesting jobs, I gave up on finding such a job many years ago and changed my focus to succeeding as a freelancer. (I’m one of those people who got bored of their college degree upon graduating but felt restricted by it as if it “pigeonholed” me into only one career path.)

    Last but not least, this doesn’t fall exactly under the “bad advice” category, but the media-inspired idea that most jobs are boring, painful and lead to a life of quiet desperation (Office Space, Dilbert, etc.), witnessing people close to me getting booted out of corporate America at age 50, losing health insurance, and not finding work easily has set up powerful mental barriers about the job market.

    3. Ironically, I thought I would be in the position that many of your students are in, namely, having a comfortable middle class salary but having a nagging sense of dissatisfaction with my career. Instead of that, I struggled as a freelancer for years, ended up not liking the “job” I created for myself and didn’t get the perks of full time employment (e.g. consistent money flow, paid vacation, etc.).

  117. Erik

    1. When I was struggling with my major in college and had to change it to something else. My mother’s advice: “You like to read, just become a librarian!”
    So I changed my major and spent several years working towards a degree.

    2.How has bad career advice kept you from achieving your goals? A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE PLEASE.

    I ended up wasting my time and money earning a degree that is useless to me.
    I second guessed myself and didn’t make time to get clear on what I really wanted. I just let someone else decide for me what I should do with my life.
    I foucsed so much on trying to enter a career that wasn’t a true fit for me and I was cutting myself short. I wasn’t living my own dream job, I was living someone else’s idea of what I should do for a living.

    3.When you graduated college, where did you think you’d be in 5 or 10 years? Where are you now? Please share a specific story about the difference between expectations and reality.

    When I graduated, I thought in 5 or 10 years I would get a job at a library and work towards earning my bachelor’s degree. I even thought my internship at a library would help me get my foot in the door.
    A few years later, still no library job to show for the useless degree I have.
    So I’ve decided to start over and get clear on what it is that I want to do, not what someone else thinks I should do for a living. I’ve learned to stop listening to bad advice from family. I’ve often thought about going into business for myself, so I’m implementing what I’m learning from the Finding Your First Profitable Idea ebook. Damn what my family thinks. I’ll create my own dream job.

    • ex-libris

      Erik – I thought I was the only one dumb enough to listen to similar advice given to me by my parent. Wow.

  118. Bryson

    To question 3: I never went to college. I taught myself what I needed to know to get my first job, and worked through connections with friends to get it. Then I kept learning on my own, consistently over-performed and haven’t received a raise under $10k yet. Now I’m closing in on that magical $100k/year mark while all my friends who went to college are realizing that the degrees they got are really just nice big piles of debt and no jobs. And no matter how much I try to get them to read your stuff about getting jobs they’re stuck in their ways. I even bought two of them your book. You really can’t make a horse drink.

  119. jack foley

    yea at some time, you have to get real about your passion and ask yourself

    does my passion really pay?

    If Not ask yourself

    Do you want to live your passion every day or do yuo want to be rich..?

    Your call..

    • Jen

      See, this is bad advice, too! Because you set up life/work to be, “I can either make 25K a year as a freelance artist/writer or I have to get an MBA or be an entrepreneur NOW to make the BIG BUCKS.”

      Neither is that helpful. For example, I could spend my spare time learning to code because developers can make the big bucks in software, but that doesn’t play to my strengths and so my question becomes, “what shit that I don’t like can I handle to get paid 200K a year? What is the absolute lowest amount I could handle being paid a year if I got do X, Y, and Z cool things while getting paid that?”

      Turns out, I can totally handle having to work for “the Man” from 8:30-5 and sit through the occasional lame meeting if it means I make 30-40K more a year than an adjunct professors and not have to grade on the weekends. On the other hand, you couldn’t pay me to be the guy who maintains servers because even for 150K a year, I would be an angry, resentful bitch the first time I got the 2 am call about fucked datacenters.

      You have to know what you value in life, not just the price of a life. This is the work that career counselors fail at along with not teaching people to close the circle on almost-good advice.

  120. jack foley

    yea at some time, you have to get real about your passion and ask yourself

    does my passion really pay?

    If Not ask yourself

    Do you want to live your passion every day or do you want to be rich..?

    Your call..

  121. Jeff

    1- That career choice does not pay well.
    2- which led to a career that is not personally fulfilling.
    3- I was not that far off, but then I got comfortable and stayed there 8 years too long. December 31 was my last day. I do have a great skillset and have 3 interviews this week. Now to make sure its a dream job that I land.

  122. yannick

    1. Worse career advice: I have received lots.
    2. I have ignored most of it, I think. The one I have followed too much is applying online of company sites, even if that got me some interviews and job offers in a couple of cases. In one case I took the job.
    3. When I graduated from college, I thought 5 to 10 years later, I would have started my own business. I still have not, which may mean that the corporate world turned out to be better than what my cynical self may have thought initially…

  123. Christina

    1A: Worst general advice is to “market your online personality” or “control your search results!” – there are hundreds – if not thousands! – of people with my name in the US alone. If I search my name, 3 or 4 different women are on the front page. If even one other one of them is also trying to “control the search results” then were competing with each other and no one gets anywhere. It also assumes everyone has done stuff worthy enough of a front page Google search or even wants to!

    1B: To stay in a job because its “safe” and “its money” even when I hate it. I’m trying to get back to school and my In Laws think I’m crazy for leaving the job market during this economy.

    2: Not so much bad career advice as a lack of useful advice kept me from seeking experience during college that would have helped me get a job I actually liked when I graduated. No one stressed the need to have anything other than the degree.

    3: When I graduated I had no idea what I wanted to do. I wanted to work in a zoo or other setting for public education in biology, but it isn’t a big field, so advice is nonexistent. Also, no one mentioned that “finding a job” is a lot more than “I want to work in X” – you have to consider location, field, and what you are willing to do/try. In my instant, my Dad died months before I graduated and I did not want to move far from home, which limited my options – but no one talks about all the other personal factors involved with finding a job like that. I am 5 years from graduation, and work in a chemistry pharmaceutical lab. I’ve learned more about I am willing to do and what I hate doing in this terrible job than I did at school.

  124. Mustafa

    1.Worst Career Advice I have received.Stick to one job for life.As too many job changes look bad in your CV.Today employers are looking for people who can multi-task.
    2.It made me stick in a company where I was doing the same job for 7 years.No chance of promotion or getting an oppourtunity to learn new skills/talents.I spent 7 years in a steel company learning data entry only.When the accountant left I was supposed to know his job whithout him having taught me anything.The new accountant who came was not knowledgeable and wanted to use my knowledge to gain credit.When this failed he poured out his frustrations on me.The other staff too had been trained to know only what they were doing nothing more.I left for another company only to resign in less than a year due to pressure exerted on me by the accountant who was a very stupid fellow with no knowledge.I was unemployed for several months afterwards.
    3.I started ACCA hoping to become a qualified accountant and earn a lot of money.I was “advised” by a businessman to join a famous college in the UK.I had not taken accountancy as a high school subject and for a few months before I left for the UK I learned from a private tutor.I never really followed my instincts or do some serious searching on the ideal career for me.I believe i would have done better in the sciences had I taken them at A-Levels instead of the Arts.I blindly followed some of my classmates and friends.I found ACCA so difficult I barely scrapped through the first level.Then I returned to my home country and continued studying while woking fulltime due to finanacial constraints.I never did finish ACCA and to date remain a wiser tech savvy part qualified accountant.i believe I could have made a brilliant IT technichan.

  125. Eric S. Mueller

    The absolute worst job advice I’ve ever heard happened a couple of years ago while I was in a job that went beyond sucking. I was talking to somebody at church, who asked how things were going. I mentioned I was tired of my job and wanted to look for another. His response? “You should consider yourself lucky enough to have a job in THIS economy!” Yes, that’s exactly what I wanted to grow up to be, stuck in a crap job in a crap economy and considering myself lucky.

    The worst job decision I ever made was staying in a crap job because “I have to put food on the table” and waiting too long to look for a better job. The road ran out from under me and I found myself laid off.

    I graduated college in my 30’s, so my experience was a little different than graduating at 22. I still have the student loans though; I just had more industry experience prior to the degree. When I told the company I worked for that I got a degree and asked if I could get a promotion their response was “That’s nice. Congratulations. No way.” I floated resumes and left.So I’m somewhat within my 5-10 year vision.

  126. Stickypurplecat

    Picking the most ridiculous piece of advice is tough, but I wound up settling on “Wear a suit.” The guidance counselors/teachers in my high school spent four years vomiting this phrase out at kids because they figured if they could get it drilled in our heads the Craigslist penis effect would kick in and they’d get the job by virtue of not showing up in ragged jeans and sneakers. This might get you in the door at a fast food joint, but whenever you’d ask these people what happens AFTER you show up in a suit at an actual interview they never had an answer.

    I’ve been told before that if you work in the Midwest you must “pay your dues” and gain seniority/experience before going after promotions or jobs that offer any sort of prestige. The reasoning behind this is that companies will always favor the cubicle blob that’s doing 25-to-life over the up-and-comer because ambitious people cause problems and seniority is an easy qualifier for lazy management to use when reviewing for promotion. Because of this advice I would actually look for “entry level” positions when job searching, and drifted through 3 jobs before realizing that my career (and income) had flatlined and I wasn’t going to get anywhere by settling for an easy job.

    Since then I’ve focused on being a top performer and found that not only was work more satisfying, management is ALWAYS more responsive to those who approach their work with enthusiasm and they take special care to get to know you and recommend you for promotions without having to schmooze anyone. Making it a point to not only mention- but demonstrate the desire to be challenged and exceed expectations has been a great tool in interviews and it’s led to better job offers and several competitive bids between companies despite the fact that I have no college education and only a few years experience.

  127. Martin Focazio

    1. What is the most ridiculous piece of career advice you’ve ever heard?
    “Keep your head down, your mouth shut and don’t make waves” – A friend at Microsoft, when I asked him how I might handle a difficult scenario in my job. I disregarded him, I poked my head into places it wasn’t supposed to be, I opened my mouth with ideas I had for how I wanted my company to adapt to my career, and I upset a few apple carts instead.

    2. How has bad career advice kept you from achieving your goals?
    For a while, I thought that I wanted stability over all. I was at a job where I couldn’t change the people around me, and I knew I had to change the people around me to be happy. My job was well-paying, safe, and draining my soul. In my mid-40’s I made a move.

    3. When you graduated college, where did you think you’d be in 5 or 10 years? Where are you now? Please share a specific story about the difference between expectations and reality.

    I dropped out of college, but I’ll still use my post-college timeframe as a reference.
    My single biggest thing about thinking about the future, in general, is that I tend to not be overly specific. I’m not about targets as much as direction. Still, I have expectations, and interestingly, my expectations and reality have meshed nicely. This will be rather specific, and a tad long, but I hope it’s a good read and will help others.

    When I left college, I had been studying technical theater – set and lighting design, special effects, etc. – I was really into the back stage crew stuff. For the most part, work in that business was freelance – you’d get a “gig” and do the show, and when the show was over, you’d look for another gig. At the end of the year, I’d get 30 to 40 1099 forms from all the places where I’d worked. The point was that you didn’t get a gig based only on what you knew how to do, you also had to maintain a strong interpersonal network, because sometimes a show would suddenly need more people because of a schedule change or a problem – and your name needed to be on the list of “good people” that could come in and hang lights or bang sets together or set up a stage. You also learned how to compensate for slow periods – the weeks and weeks where there was no work at all. Saving was survival. The stage and theater stuff transitioned into film and television, where the money was far better, the hours far longer and the work more complex, and still it was gig-to-gig, and still at the end of the year, I’d get a stack of 1099 forms and a huge tax bill to pay. But what I also get was a set of expectations about what it means to work and earn money. I never had “job security” back then – you worked your ass off and no matter how good you were, at the end of the project, you were unemployed. No hard feelings, no “I deserve more work” no expectations that the company that hired me to work 18 hour days for 8 straight weeks owes me a damn thing at the beginning of week 9. Thus, my expectations about work were set early: Don’t expect an employer to take care of you. For me, those expectations – set in the 1980’s and early 1990’s – were seen by others as cynical, even destructive, yet, amazingly, it’s turend out to be one of the things that has kept me gainfully employed in a job with benefits and great pay doing what I like – because I think that deep down inside, my expectations are always that I’m only as good as my last project and only worth something to the company I work for if I’m maintaining a good relationship with my peers in the company and the industry. Reality has caught up to my expectations. The sad, sad state of career advice (business cards? blogs? what???) is, to me, all rooted in this perverse expectation that people deserve a job. While my empathetic and nurturing side feels bad for the suckers who think 10,000 resumes and job fairs and “networking events” are in any way useful for getting paying work (or even a “job”) I look around me at the people I work with and I see a fundamentally different mindset that knows jobs and work and careers are three different things. That’s a mindset that bad career advice will never let you develop.

  128. Laura

    This post came at an auspicious time, as I’ve left one position as a career counselor for a small liberal arts school, and am about to start a similar position at a top tier research university. I can tell you that I’ve never given any of these points of advice to a student. Generally speaking, the most ridiculous advice that I hear around me seems to be from people who insist that resumes need to have objectives-very few people could write a good objective to save their lives.

    I’m excited to see how this Dream Job program develops. Too many students have come to see me only to work on a resume, but no thought and research behind their career interests. And too often, these career interests are externally imposed on them, e.g., I want to be a lawyer because that’s what my dad does, and often times they are a bad fit for that student’s capabilities.
    I’ll definitely be watching and using this material to kick my own work up into high gear!

  129. Ryan J. Riehl

    Worst advice: “If you won the lottery today, what would you do tomorrow?” No joke, a career counselor asked me that my freshmen year. I told him I would stay in school, because I didn’t know what else to do. He just made a face and moved on.

    That screwed me up because I kept trying to answer that question through introspection. I thought I had to come up with a better answers. So, I picked an easy liberal arts major so I could figure things out. Of course, no one suggested building a valuable skills set, experimenting with different activities, building a network, and testing. I certainly didn’t think of any of that.

    Five Year Plan at graduation- Get a good job, give back to society, maybe travel, maybe get married, maybe grad school.
    Now- I have a interesting, but low-paying marketing job at a nonprofit. Single, no grad school, traveled only for AmeriCorps.
    When I graduated, I had good experience in leadership and working for my university. I thought because of that experience, I would surely land a job. I shotgunned dozens of resumes and cover letters to every higher education job in fifty mile radius. I got two interviews, but my interview skills sucked. It took two and a half years to get this, my first full-time gig.

  130. Michael

    Late to the game here…

    But this was the best advice I ever got… from Think and Grow Rich.

    Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to cut all sources of retreat. Only by doing so can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a burning desire to win – essential to success.

    Once you remove all reserve options, back-up plans, etc, you’ve got no other option than to succeed. Mentally, having no choice but winning its a very powerful thing.

  131. Brent

    1) Make sure to wear a white under tshirt under my white buttonup shirt when you interview.
    2) Using “What color is your parachute” workbook to find my “passion” I got stuck on the write 7 stories about when you enjoyed a task/working — I’ve been deeply procrastinating on this part of this workbook for more than 6 months.
    3) At 10 years I thought I’d be a full fledged doctorate scientist, probably teaching at the Air Force Academy. I’m currently unemployed (Air Force veteran). When I was about to get out of the Air Force I applied to a number of doctorate programs in a field where I had limited experience and wrote terribly bad personal statements in which I did not at all address the idea of what research I would do, I was not accepted to any of the programs.

  132. David E

    Worst career advice I got: was considering architecture school, and an engineer told me, “well you better be really be good at math…” (my least favorite subject.) But later he made a comment about what skills people who work on an ambulance need, and as an EMT I realized he had NO IDEA what he was talking about. made me realize he just loved to sound smart by telling young people how things worked, even when he was just guessing.

  133. Adam

    1- You need to be a business major in order to get a job other than customer service or sales

    2- Coming out of college in 2010 I actually somewhat believed the advice from step 1. This is a classic case of disqualifying YOURSELF from opportunities by not using testing to actually confirm/deny assumptions. For this reason I interviewed for a lot of jobs that were entry level in the fullest sense of the phrase, and which would add little value to my skills.

    3- When I graduated college I was full of insecurity because the next 5 years seemed clouded. I really wasn’t thinking about where I’d be in the next 5 to 10 years. Law School was a thought but not anything tangible to me. I think at the time I envisioned myself at a company I liked in a management role that would lead to promotion after promotion.

    It’s only been a year and a half since I’ve graduated but I’m at a company where I don’t see much a future for myself. The salary structure is completely rigid and there is a culture of “wait your turn”, not “do great things” in order to be rewarded (positionally and financially).

    My expectations were that there are great opportunities at every company as long as you “work hard” and “take opportunities when they present themselves”, but via IWTYTB I’ve learned these are code words. First…what does “work hard” really mean? And “taking opportunities..” is a passive barrier constructed where the onus is not on you to be a top performer.

    You also learn that not all companies are moldable for each person. You need to systematically search and locate a job that is right for you based on testable criteria that you’ve laid out as the variables to measure your happiness in a position. The reality is that the reality that’s been portrayed to you is a bunch of shit, and no one’s really given you concrete, specific, tested advice on how to find the right fit for your Dream Job.

  134. Anders Kjaersgaard

    1. You need to do the things you hate, before you can do the things you love.
    2. Didn’t learn the RIGHT things, that kept me running around in the fog. I was advised to study x education. I wasted 3 years on that.
    3. Just out of college.

  135. Geoffrey Williams

    Dude, Ramit that was possibly the most well written article I’ve ever read. Honestly, every paragraph I felt like you were specifically talking about problems I have and trying to talk me down from the “feel-good” candy of blaming other people.

    You have a sobering and truthful voice on the business and financial world that honestly reminds me of a Carl Sagan explaining the universe to people trying to understand (Sans the “Just had sex” ha!)

    Ok, I’m done expanding your ego…

    1. The advice I ALWAYS get when I ask anyone over 40 about job advice.
    “Did you get a college degree?”
    Me: “Well, most in the technical field don’t need a degree just skills”
    “No! Don’t be a loser and get a degree from (Big Uni in our state)”
    Me: “But they don’t even have what I want to do as a major”
    “Doesn’t matter! Major in anything, then you will get a job”

    2. Well, I didn’t take it. I got accepted into Emory but they had nothing of what I wanted to do. Instead, I went to a cool two-year college and learned how to do web programming because I’ve always wanted to build great websites (I love reading and building random landing pages). Not saying I will never go back and get a degree from Emory, its just I never saw how “Just get a degree ANY degree and you will get a job you want” really helps.

    3. I would LOVE to be working at a medium sized e-commerce website and basically be in control of their web presence. From front-end (landing pages, opt-ins) to back end ( setting up merchant accounts and databases).

    After getting experience with a live business, my dream would to be start my own e-commerce website.

    • Cc

      Dude just do it! Ask around who needs a website and offer a discount, everyone needs a website. In all my years as a web designer I have never had trouble selling a website, especially a discount priced trial site. Seriously, just talk it up and people will come to you in no time.

  136. Wendy Werpetinski

    I am dying to know – who are the people that are lying to you? I have seen this theme of betrayal before in my reading about the different generations in the workplace (I am a Gen Xer), but it never says who was doing the betraying. Several of you have mentioned this – who was it who was telling you you’d make a million in your first five years out of school? That would make me mad too, but it never happened to me, so I’m really curious about how it happened to your generation. Can anyone shed some light on that?

    • Elaine

      The Millionaire dream… mainly the American mindset where we celebrate the individual and look at examples of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg and other anecdotes of people that started companies with wild success. It’s nothing new, 100 yrs ago the dream/anecdotes were there too (Carnegie, Rockefeller, Hearst, etc).

      Other bad career advice… People who are close to you but don’t know the world beyond their own experience, but we trust them because they’re older. Usually anyone at least 20 years older who was unhappy with their choices and recommends a different route, or who was successful in their field but are unfamiliar with different fields or the how the current job market and information society differs from when they were young.

      Parents, Our Parents’ Friends, Our Friends’ Parents, Aunts/Uncles, Grandparents, Older Cousins, Teachers, the US Education system, College Professors, Guidence Councelors, Uni Career Sevices office, University Promotional Material, (something else I’m missing?), and collectively… the media.

  137. Laura

    1. Worst advice: that I should get a Master’s degree. I have several friends I graduated college with who are now in a Master’s program, and I just think “Why waste time with more school when you could be gaining experience?” I can’t think of a single job in our field that requires anything higher than a 4-year degree… it’s all about who you know and your experience. Who knows? Maybe they’ll prove me wrong.

    2. “Send out as many resumes as possible”: I wasted a lot of time with this, and my husband is now doing the same thing. I didn’t land an awesome job until I made a contact that got me in. I’m now getting my husband to work more on getting help from contacts as opposed to looking online.

    3. When I graduated college in 2009, I pictured myself working as a concierge at a luxury hotel. After landing two simultaneous high-paying yet stress-free jobs and reading PF blogs, I realize I was a sucker at 23. In 2012, I want to make bank and learn to play the game so I can look back and say “Hey, I was a sucker at 25, too!”

    **Note: I have to somewhat disagree that having an online presence doesn’t help land jobs. I got a very good side hustle that pays as much as my day job just by having the kind of blog they were looking for… to be fair, I realize I’m the exception to the rule. I’ve also gotten some pretty sweet travel deals from Twitter followers.

  138. Stephen

    1. What is the most ridiculous piece of career advice you’ve ever heard? Be specific please.

    ANSWER: “Follow your passion, and the money will follow.” What do people do when their passions don’t command economic rewards? Like playing guitar? Singing? Poetry?

    Even worse advice: “Do what you love. You’ll be poor but happy!”

    2. How has bad career advice kept you from achieving your goals? A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE PLEASE.

    “Poor but happy” and “follow your passion” have left me with too many options, vague concepts, and few concrete targets or clarity. That leaves me stuck, gunning my engines.

  139. Chris Parsons

    1. “Don’t worry about your starting salary, just find a job with good benefits and a steady paycheck”.
    2. Took a job after college graduation with good benefits and mediocre pay – worst of all, it was for a company that doesn’t reward hard work or results, only seniority.
    3. For starters, I thought I’d be making about 50% more than what my job offers actually were. I thought having a decent college degree equaled good pay, and in my imaginary world (since college students get absolutely no view into the real world), I thought that meant $60k+. I thought that with 5 years of experience I would be managing a team of people (with a nice bump in pay), quickly impressing and climbing the corporate latter, and with 10 years I would be a Manager of Managers (making the big $$$, relative to my age). I’ll hit 5 years in a few months, and have had 1 promotion, which is to supervise (not even “manage”) a single staff employee. I make 30% more than when I first started – not terrible raises, but not what I envisioned for myself either.

    PS: Every time you curse, I like you a little more…

  140. Wolfram

    1. “For a successful career in Academia the number of publications and citations is the only thing that matters.”

    2. My primary obstacle was obliviousness about the game being played around me. I cannot blame specific advice, rather the absence of it. I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know.

    3. I thought I’d have a stable position as a University Professor in my field, do great research and am happy and fulfilled by it. Instead, I learned that the reality of being a researcher was:
    * The Academic track record, merits and accomplishments play only a minor role.
    * Some senior researchers bully juniors, boosting their own records.
    * Scientific and ethical standards cannot be enforced and even severe plagiarism and fabrication of data is more common than I ever could have imagined.
    * There *are* examples of ethical, meritorious and accomplished researchers. Unfortunately, they are rarely the ones who wield executive power.

    I was disgusted by the situation and eventually left Academia and started my own business. Initially, I was clueless and sucked a lot. Then I discovered IWT and thanks to Earn1k I’m doing quite well now. I would never have imagined I would or even could be an entrepreneur a decade ago!

  141. Aaditi

    (1) “We want you to work at the best of your ability.” – desi dad. I think this was code for hyper-specialized med.
    (2) analysis paralysis – I’ve tried other things that I like BUT DOES IT REFLECT MY BEST ABILITY
    (3) When I graduated college, I thought I’d figure out my career path between 5-10 years. The idea was to alternate project-based employment (like political campaigns) with travel stints (1-2 months) until I “figured out the rest of my life”. Right now, after 3 such cycles, I’ve taken up my first FT “permanent” job for the health insurance as well as to support my goal of an uber-trip. I’m happy about my path so far though sometimes envious of neighbors’ salaries who chose lucrative fields or permanent positions straight out of college. Then again, growing as a traveler has become very important to me – which wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

  142. Heidi

    A few years ago, right after I accepted a job offer I got another interview for a position that was 100% in line with my interest. They gave me an offer that basically made it my “dream job” at that time.

    Worst advice: I told a close relative about the situation and he told me to “be responsible and take the first offer since you’ve accepted it. Don’t burn the bridges. If you deem yourself professional, you must honor your words…” blah blah blah.

    Had I listened to his advice, I could have been stuck with an okay job, mediocre salary, and a good chance of getting laid off within the first 2 years (that particular company laid off some people and it was on the news).

    Instead, I called back the first company and explained the situation. Them, being professional, accepted the explanation and thanked (?) me for calling them back (they said some people just don’t show up on the first day).

    Today, I have my skills, experience and working at a great company — that’s because I was being RESPONSIBLE TO MYSELF. Being professional is one thing, but no way in hell I would sacrifice my future for that.

  143. Gowri

    Worst bit of career advice: Follow your passion, you will live a fulfilled life.
    My passion was making things work, especially electronic gadgets. Dropped out of engineering college because I did not get a seat in Electronics, did a cerrtificate course in TV repair and joined a TV company as a staff service technician. Trust me, I was in seventh heaven when I laned that job, I was doing what I loved and was living my passion! Was paid a pittance, made to travel all over the place, lived a hand to mouth existence out of a suitcase for about 5 years before I realized that living a fulfilled life required money…..
    How shitty career advice kept me from acheiving my goals: I was given to understand that following my passion and excelling at it would lead to career growth in leaps and bounds. This did not happen. Kept repairing TVs, became real good at it and found that the demand to repair more TVs just kept increasing disproportionately compared to the salary hikes. Till it dawned on me that by superiors were under the impression that ‘ all this guy knows is to repair TVs and likes what he does so he is not going to do anything else. Give him a paltry salary increase every year, some words of encouragement now and then and he will lap it all up, just because he likes what he does and has not bothered to upskill himself educationally.or vocationally, for that matter.’
    When I graduated where I thought I would be in 5 or 10 years.
    Ha! I did not graduate, dropped out of college because I wanted to follow my passion. Saw myself as a manager handling Service operations for a big electronics company 5 – 10 years down the line, when I got my first job. Man, was I naive! Thankfully, I got over ‘living my passion’ when reality kicked in. My friends who had completed their graduation were getting well paid jobs while I was still slaving away as a solder monkey. Took a long deep look at how things wer, spat on myself in disgust and started looking for a change, any change would be better than slaving away for a pittance, just to keep up the pretence that I was ‘living my passion’
    Did a course in computers and networking. Then got a tech support job with a reputed computer company, worked there for some time. Then found a better paying job as a frontline agent in a call center, providing tech support to the customers of an US based ISP. Definitely not my passion, but it paid better than the TV and the computer repair folks. Next priority was to finish my graduation, which I have almost done. Have also completed ITIL certification which was paid for by my employers and now work in the project management division. I have also moved up the ladder in the organisation that I work for, and am now a Team Lead. Not making as much as my college mates, but I am getting there. I wish with all my heart that I had relegated my passion to the basement as a hobby to be indulged in during my spare time and had focussed on the real world scenario, I guess I have lived my passion to the fullest and am now focussed on living my life. No regrets though, I have put all that crap behind me and once my graduation over, next step is MBA..

  144. computer consultant

    I can definitely relate to reddit comment about not wanting waste time/energy and this being a bigger deterrent to actually do something than the actual fear of failure.

    Almost everyone who went to college has/had a notion that a job will be guarenteed to them.

  145. Chris Ennen

    During my senior year in undergrad I was in a class with a guest lecturer for the day. I was focused on getting into the oil and gas business, and all the job postings I saw had requirements of three to five years industry experience. I had a job offer that I was going to take so I could get the experience. I expected that I would be able to get a better position in the industry after three years of working. I was also accepted to three different graduate school programs. The guest lecturer told us his story and said he took the same position I had a job offer for right out of college, and spent six months there before he quit and went back to graduate school. After the class I asked my professor about this and he said I would be fine and to go ahead with the job offer. That was the worst advice I was ever given. I took the job, and six months after decided to go back to school part time to get my graduate degree.

    My professor’s advice has cost me five years in a job that I don’t like where I’m not getting the job experience that oil and gas companies are looking for. It has also cost $13,000 in college tuition and fees to earn my graduate degree which could have been significantly less if I was going to graduate school full time and been more focused on finishing in two or three years.

    When I graduated I expected to be in my first job for three years and then move on to a different job that I would really like. The reality is I’ve been in the same job that I don’t like for five years without much hope for leaving until I finish my graduate degree.

  146. Doka

    #1 – To start a blog related to the field you want to get into. I didn’t actually do this, but what a waste of time!!! Kidding me??

    #2 – I was told to show how I “stood out” by putting my various interests and skills on my resume. No one will ever flat out tell you “We didn’t pick you because we can’t tell wtf kind of job you’re wanting to get here”, but that’s the result you get.

    #3 – Its only been … less than 1 month since I graduated college, lol. But in 5 years, I see myself having an online business in a field I actually really like. I am getting my Master’s degree. The difference between me and other people (I hope) is that I am getting my Master’s in a field I think I’m really good at, that I really enjoy (whether I was getting paid or not), and that I am realistic about. It’s also a field that is really easy to take online and learn how to make 6 figures with (even with all my competition).

  147. Caitlin

    I loved your video about passion in your third point. You are so right. You made me realize that I had the right steps, but I was putting them in the wrong order. That realization made my day. Thank you so much!

    As always, I deeply value your posts and love your hilarious/spot on/incredibly useful perspective!

    My answers:

    1) If you do what you love, money will automatically come.

    2) Bad career advice messes with my expectations. I end up focusing on aspects that don’t matter, which only leads to frustration. For example, I can’t stand working from an office. Even though I learned this about myself within months after college, I was always told to climb the corporate ladder and once I had the corner office, then I’d love my job. I believed this for a few years and worked hard to get promoted. Two years ago I realized how ridiculous that advice was, decided that loving my job in the present moment mattered to me, and I’ve been self-employed ever since.

    3) When I graduated college, I was still brainwashed to believe corporate America was the only way to go. I expected to be in a management position and rolling in loads of money. Present day, I’m not making as much money as I had expected, but I have more freedom and I’m more aligned with what I personally want for my life, rather than what others have told me to do. For example, when I graduated college, I thought money was the most important aspect of job satisfaction. Over the last few years, though, I’ve learned that freedom and flexibility are far more important to me than extra cash. This realization was what put me on my current path and I’m living a richer life because of it.

  148. Garrett

    Worst advice ever: why are you looking for a new job, you already have one that pays as much as I was making when I retires.

    The advice doesn’t inspire or provide any direction to where to move next. I know it’s my fault for not moving on when I know this is not the place for me.

    I had no specific plan after graduation, I learned to start planning where I want to be in the 1 year of grad school that taught me one thing I didn’t want to do. From there my plan was to get a job that I enjoyed and pay off student loans, not going as quickly as I expected and not as fulfilling as I was hoping.

  149. Jonathan

    Wow. All I have to say is these comments are somewhat depressing.

    I grew up in a family that never really gave me advice, but supported whatever I wanted. Due to the lack of advice, I was always skeptical of anyone who ever gave me any (i.e. dumb guidance counselors, news/blogs, books) This skepticism allowed me to only pick and choose the good advice rather than listening to everything. So I can’t say I ever really followed too much bad advice.

    1. The college with the highest US News ranking is the best one to go to.
    2. N/A
    3. On track. I expected a business/tech degree to lead me to a high-paying, challenging career, which is what has happened.

  150. Raul Felix

    I’m not a college graduate and I am a U.S. Army veteran. Currently working as a contractor overseas (cause it pays really well) while slowly doing my degree online. Probably one of the worse career advices I’ve gotten was that employers care about your military experience. They don’t, unless you have a very specific job. Most of my military experience went underneath “Oh, you jumped out of airplanes, are a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and have been on over 250 missions, but how does that prove that are capable of being a (bartender, secretary, bank tellers, personal assistant.)” Yes, I was so desperate for a job that I was applying for jobs usually done for people with only a high school or lesser education. I have no regrets of joining the military because I got my GI Bill, cool life experience, and now have a job as government contractor. But if you want a job in the private sector, it doesn’t mean a single thing.

    • K00kyKelly

      Certain employeers do highly value military experience, specifically defense contractors. Take a look at Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, etc. They need people on board who understand the culture and how to communicate with the military.

    • C

      The federal government gives preference to veterans. Go to . First, look at the job series to see what qualify for, create 1 or more resumes and search agents. There are no guarantees. Being a veteran gives you points towards being selected.

      One note of caution: Being shot at tends to make one a straight-shooter. We tend not to be appreciated, to say the least. I’m one because I’m autistic and don’t even know where the party line is.

  151. Wendell

    Worst career advice: You can do anything.

    Result: Tried running a painting business, did engineering internships, and worked at a small internet startup, only to end up purusing a law degree. I wish I would have picked one industry and dedicated myself to it until I had a good basis for finding problems that could be solved by starting a business.

    Now: working as an attorney for a company for much less than market rate for attorneys at firms, no partner track.

  152. Jessica

    1. What is the most ridiculous piece of career advice you’ve ever heard? Be specific please.

    When I gave my two week’s notice at a job, my manager told me that becoming a contractor/consultant with only two years of experience was the worst mistake of my life and I’d be unemployed within a year and I should stay. I’ve been at my contracting job 4.5 years now and customers ask for me by name to be on their project. Many of the much more experience engineers I worked with changed companies to the new one I went to and when discussing the old manager they often bring up what a HUGE mistake I made, and laugh. I love my job.

    2. How has bad career advice kept you from achieving your goals? A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE PLEASE.

    It hasn’t. I honestly feel like everything I’ve done up to this point has led me to exactly where I am right now and I love it.

    3. When you graduated college, where did you think you’d be in 5 or 10 years? Where are you now? Please share a specific story about the difference between expectations and reality.

    When I graduated I thought that in 5-10 years I’d still be working for the big Aerospace Company I started working for, hustling my way up the ladder, earning that pension with my loyalty… HA! When I actually started working in the industry it quickly became obvious that I did not want to manage people and I really just loved the work but hated all of the corporate politics that went along with it. Not to mention the company demonstrated on many occasions that it had little to no loyalty to its employees or desire to grow those that showed great ability. Contracting was a natural fit and something I didn’t really even know existed while I was in school. Luckily I worked with several who mentored me. Best thing that ever happened to me was sharing a desk with a contractor.

  153. julia

    Worst career advice: go to university! You’ll figure out what you want to major in while you’re there.
    How has bad career advice kept me from achieving goals?
    By downplaying the importance of job search/self-marketing skills. I stuck myself in a bad cycle of bad jobs/bad experience/bad job history

    I had no idea where I’d be in 5-10 years. That was a big part of the problem.

  154. Rosie

    In my second year of law school I went to a social to meet previous “successful” graduates. I ended up talking to one woman in particular, standing beside her bedraggled looking husband, who told me the worst career advice I’ve received so far: expect to work 6 days a week, 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day for your $150,000 paycheck. After 6 or 8 years, you may get noticed for your efforts and get promoted. You may even make partner. Then you can take 2 weeks (yay!) vacation. Maybe. This is how it is. This is what you want. This is why you go to law school. Isn’t it? When I went back to school the next day, I thought I saw a sign hanging above the law school I’d never seen before: ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE.
    2. The second worst advice, graduating into the dot-bomb world in Silicon Valley: take whatever position you can. It is more important to work and gain experience than it is to find your dream job. Build your resume, build your experience, then, and only then, will you be able to even think about what you really want to do. The first job I got was for a soulless banshee more bent on ensuring my continuing enslavement than building my “experience”. The second place was worse, their incompetence staggering in both its depth and breadth. What they neglect to tell you is that working for the wrong self-centered morons can destroy your career as well as build it: these idiots will be your future “references”. Integrity is often more important than experience in the long run, but rarely will you get hired on reputation alone. One bad reference can torpedo your career for years.

  155. terry ann liberrian

    3 – first time, i thought i’d go to law school and be a lawyer 5 years out. when i worked at the law library and met the profs and students…well, let’s just say it was a much less appealing option. second time (masters in library science) i thought that in 5 years i’d be managing a branch. so, here i am, at the 6 year mark and i KNEW that i did NOT want to do that any more.
    morale is: every time i think i’ll be doing something in 5 years, i find out it isn’t really what i want to do.

  156. Sarah

    1. The worst career advice i was given when i graduated college was in order to get a job i had to create a list of 100 companies i wanted to work for and mass email my resume out to 10 companies a week. Then follow up with a phone call. I spent a lot of time writing cover letters and making phone calls and I didn’t get a single interview or job offer.

    2. After finally finding a job because i “knew someone who knew someone,” I landed in a job i didn’t particularly care for in an industry i didn’t really want to work in. But it had a decent starting salary, full benefits and was an actual offer after 6 months of searching. The horrible career advice that has kept me here has been along the lines of:
    –“but you make good money and in this economy you would be crazy to look for something else.”
    –“And you have a pension, a PENSION. No one does that anymore why would you leave?!”
    –“So what if you’re not happy there, a job is a job. You’ll just be unhappy in a new job and not have a pension.”

    I am now going on my 6th year with the same company.

    3. After graduating college I had big plans. My friends and i laugh now about how we were sure we were going to be making 6 figures in a job we loved with a nice car and house by now. It’s been 6 years since i graduated and though I am not struggling financially I am still several years away from 6 figures and worse i am hardly happy in my career. But, too afraid of the risk involved with looking for something else and the potential for having to take a salary cut to do something you love. I do have a pension afterall 😉

  157. Rosie

    My friend was told that in order to get a job he had to blast his email to 10 jobs per week and follow up with a phone call, too. I guess for that “personal touch”. I believe he even paid for this advice, and the crappy excel spreadsheet with the “carefully screened employers”. Turns out, one of the guys on this list that he sent his resume to had died about 3 weeks prior. When he followed up with the phone call, the receptionist (apparently a family member) burst in to tears. Oops.

  158. Dave K

    1. “Take whatever you can get right now.” I did and now have a job with no room for advancement other than to quit.
    Quiting is not easy since they pay for my healthcare. My mom would also kill me.

    2. I have wasted hundreds of hours email blasting my resume out. It got me nothing but
    low paying mediocre jobs.

    3. Graduated spring of 09 with good grades/Fortune 500 internship/multiple leadership positions. I thought I would have had a decent semi-enjoyable corporate job with a business starting on the side.
    I am currently miserable at my $13 an hour slave job.

  159. Megan Cassidy

    The first paragraph about the business cards is pretty terrible. I loved getting them and felt super fancy, but they ultimately won’t lead to anything unless you make the right contacts and follow up.

    Bad career advice I followed…taking the first job offer I got, because the economy was bad. The salary was terrible, but hey, it was a job. I ended up enjoying it, meeting amazing people and it set me up for the awesome, fulfilling job I have now.

    Five years ago, I figured I’d be working at a local TV news station, in a city I didn’t really want to be in, getting to ready to move to someplace more desirable. I figured I’d be itching to get to my next job and make more money. Now, I’m at a company I can see myself being at for a long time, living halfway between Boston and New York, and not wanting to go anywhere. I’m one of the lucky ones.

  160. Tiffany

    The worst career advice I ever got was/is: “Be thankful you have a job”. I received this advice from close family members and co-workers when I revealed that my job was literally making me sick and I was seriously considering quiting. Of course I thought they were right at the time after seeing unemployment claims rise and rise. But then I thought, I work for my paycheck, exchanging time for dollars. My company is not doing me a favor but paying for a service — it’s a fair exchange!

    I have been out of college for two years now. I went through a competitive five year co-op program and graduated with two degrees. I earned those degrees for myself and not to go work for corporate for 50+ hours a week. I am not a bad employee but I feel I will ultimately make a better employer.

    I took the leap and started an online pet accessories business last October that has been a success for me: as determined by my level of happiness and the extra income. I am also starting a new career in Real Estate. I’ve got to get out of my job!

  161. Robert

    Most ridiculous (in retrospect) advice: Be good at lots of things – then you will always have some kind of employable skill.

    This same bad advice hindered me for years. The time it took just to be “proficient” in multiple programming languages, networking technology, and databases…..well, I didn’t get much sleep, and since I was spread so thin, I never became an expert at anything – which kept me from excelling.

    The advice to be a generalist plays on fears, but it kills high performance results. Generalists don’t make big bucks, are generally considered easily replaceable, and at least in my experience, are FAR less satisfied in the work. After all, the juicy projects are going to go to the expert, or at least the best available, not someone who is simply knowledgeable. Could have save myself several years of heart ache, time, and effort, by using the generalist idea to find an area of need or interest, and then diving deep.

  162. john

    Worst career advice I’ve received was to take what you can get and always have a backup plan. This type of advice is like telling me I am almost certain to fail. I think advice should focus more on how to succeed rather than what to do if you fail. I agree with your take on the endless shit for career advice online and in books. Get a list of companies or cusip numbers of industries you are interested in and mail out resumes? Are you fucking kidding? I feel career advice has prevented me from pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors as my parents were risk averse and always emphasized having steady income rather than pursuing a building a company and wealth on my own.
    When I graduated college with a finance degree, I thought for sure a job in trading or banking would be easy to come by, not that I felt entitled, but because I thought that’s How it worked; get a degree, land an interview, prove you’re at least smart enough to do the job and charismatic enough to communicate with clients and higher ups. I was hoping within 5 years I’d be doing due dilligence and m&a work of some sort. The reality was that I had no idea how to play the game, it took me years to figure it out. I went back to school for a masters degree after a couple years, landed a job at a big 4 acountjng firm , and am now trying to get on track to move laterally into finaical services but I still have a ways to go and have a lot more about the “game” to learn to not just navigate it, but make it work for ME.

  163. Jessica Nelson

    The worst so-called advice for those planning for their career I often heard is to make a choice between vocation schools and universities.

    It sounds like if you choose one, you will never have the chance to get the other. That’s ridiculous!

    These days this choice is becoming easier. Vacation schools and universities all have their online programs now, so you can learn anything you want anytime. Here are the links I found for more info on them:

    Both of the two options are good in their own way. Simply speaking, the decision largely depends on what you’ve planned for the nearest future.

    If your priority in education is getting a job soon, then vacation schools will be enough for you. If you just want to make continuous improvement on yourself and your studies, undoubtedly get yourself into campus. Universities are kind of well-rounded education for a person’s life-long time, so requiring you to spend four years or more will be reasonable.

  164. wake up

    Because this post is critical of Ramit, it will probably get deleted by Ramit as he deletes everything critical of him. So Read it while you can!

    “In true IWT style, we have an extraordinarily rigorous process for studying advice: We buy every course, product, and book. We study them intensely, keeping blind notes and comparing them. ”

    I call Bullshit on this. Thats a pretty strong statement to use the word “every”. Please list all of the products, courses, and books you have studied (and by studied I dont mean just looked at their reviews on amazon).

    1. Cards are good for networking, taking down a phone number / emails, thats about it. Everyone has a smart phone now, so you can do that with a smart phone also. But all of this is naught unless you follow up on a conversation with an email/phone call etc.

    2. The author is saying that the person is on the right track, not sure if there was more to the article since you only included a screenshot and made it look like thats all there was to it. But following that with concrete examples of how you did that in the past is the way to go. Did the author provide any frameworks of how to do that? We dont know from your screenshot.

    3. The only people that can really follow their passions are people who are already rich and/or trust fund babies that can afford to not have a steady income. Someone that needs to put food on the table and/or is in debt can only take minute baby steps on the side, if that.

    4. Don’t keep every door open. Close doors that are keeping you down. This includes so-called friends or addictions that are sucking the life out of you. However free yourself to open NEW doors and quickly assess whether they will be of value to you.

    5. Building an online presence with a professional blog is great advice. You can set yourself up as somewhat of an expert in a specific area if you do it right. Isn’t this the very thing you are doing Ramit??? This is terrific for networking and people (recruiters) will be knocking on your doors. Once you get some traction you can setup your blog to make a little bit of money as well..

    “I’m mad because this terrible advice is written NOT to help people, but to drive pageviews. If one of these writers helps literally zero people, it doesn’t matter — they still get paid. In fact, I am changing “Doesn’t matter, had sex” to “Doesn’t matter, got paid.”

    Aren’t you doing the exact same thing with this article??

    what kind of a douchebag posts an “I just had sex” video? anyone that would post that hasn’t had sex in 6 years. It’s like when a wide reciever on an 2-14 football team gets his first catch for a first down in the last game of the season and does an elaborate celebration. C’mon son.

    Interviewing / Negotiation skills are essential , but you can’t do those if you can never get an interview.

    “Then when the hot girl doesn’t fall all over them for having good grades or being an engineer or whatever, they get bitter because hey, man, I’m smart and I majored in a real major not that liberal arts crap and so on. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do! They feel entitled to have the girl of their dreams just because they’ve checked boxes and do the “But I’m a NICE GUY” thing and when that doesn’t happen, they get more and more angry and settle into the “Women are just crazy bitches!”

    Please stop stealing material from pickup blogs. That whole industry is pathetic.

    • Wolfram

      @wake up: You are very aggressive in your writing style. I agree with your point on “every product on the market.” On the other hand, your comment on the “I just had sex” video is immature and undermines your credibility.

      I don’t understand what you write about points 1-4. Is that anything but a recap or do you have any point?

      About point 5: I can confirm from my own experience that having a blog/website does NOT get recruiters and/or clients to find you! Depending on what you are doing a blog/website/online portfolio can be helpful to establish credibility and trust with people that already know you. But I found that starting a blog to farm for leads as you suggest is completely ineffective!

  165. Joseph

    1. “Even if you fail a subject in college, you’ll get a job offer after you graduate because you’re majoring in Electronics Engineering.”

    2. I was young when I heard that, about a year from college. While I didn’t plan on failing any subject (I did anyway), hearing that made me believe that I could take it easy. I ended up having being average throughout college, and really disappointed I didn’t do more.

    3. It’s still less than a year since I graduated. I spent 8 months after college preparing for and passing the licensure exam. Right now, I’m applying what I can from IWT, though not very well yet but I’m getting there.

  166. twong

    On taking responsibility for myself…

    I feel like I have been taking responsibility for myself up to attending university. Compared to the kids who were just messing around and not studying hard to get into a good university, I was doing, and EXCELLING

  167. twong

    On taking responsibility for myself…

    I feel like I have been taking responsibility for myself up to engaging the workplace when “doing well in school” didn’t get a good life. Compared to the kids who were just messing around and not studying hard to get into a good university, I was doing, and EXCELLING at, everything my parents told me to do. So why wasn’t I being responsible for my future?

    On people giving me untested career advice…

    I noticed that my parents and relatives who are parents have gotten awfully silent after I started engaging the workplace post-university. When I talk to them about finding a job or not liking my current job, they don’t have much useful to say. These were the same people that seemed so all-knowing and authoritative when I was in grade school and high school.

    I’ve also noticed that my parents and relatives who are parents have trouble correcting their kids who don’t do well in school. They sigh, throw up their hands and complain about their kids at dinner but they don’t know how to fix them. This makes me wonder whether or not parents are just lucky to have kids who are naturally studious or can be made studious with minimal intervention.

  168. Alexis Grant

    So true — I actually had a post in my queue about how bad most career advice is, but you beat me to it! This is why I focus on providing GOOD advice on my blog and those I edit ( We all need it!

  169. Brolin

    1.) Graduate college with any degree (doesn’t matter) and you will get a job. Too many guys in my fraternity took this advice, and now wonder why they can’t get out of their jobs to get a career.

    2.) Didn’t affect me, thankfully. However, my mom’s advice was get something that is tangible (i.e. teaching certificate, CPA, even something from a trade school, etc.). I listened and added accounting to my finance major. Now I am on track to get my CPA a few years after graduation while I am at consulting firm now.

    3.) Only been graduated for three years, but I thought I would be trading MBS on The Street when I started school in 2006… However, I learned rather quickly that dream was dead. 5 year plan changed to climbing the consulting ladder. The 10 year is still the same to have built my side business (more research is needed to see if its viable) to the point that I can do that or sell it while trying to become partner. The goal is to keep the soul because I have something else to fall back on.

  170. Ramit Jr.

    This is terrible:

    “You should tip yourself. Why do we stand in line at places like Starbucks and buy overpriced lattes and throw the change in a tip jar? If I saved that tip, I could have $3 extra a week.”

    $3 a week x 52 wks a year = $156 a year

    Feeling good about yourself, feeling generous, and not being a dick: likely to unleash more positive emotions and motivation that will net you more than $156 a year.

  171. david marsh

    The worst advice? “Just get your foot in the door.” This sounds reasonable at first, but then you realize what an amazing waste of time this is – aim high to start with. It is true that you can have an impact on an organization as you are earning your stripes, but (to me) you are not trying hard enough if you get the first job that you interview for with very little negotiation – what were you stretching for? What did you leave on the table?

    The effect it had was to slow down my career progression – I did steadily advance, but I feel like I should have stretched more. I got comfortable at several steps along the way, like a frog being slowly boiled in water…

    I thought I would be running a company – Ha. It seems (again from a non-CEO perspective) that it is easier to start something and lead from the beginning than try to work your way up a slippery ladder. Of course, when I graduated, I had no real concept of what being a CEO would really entail, either. There is a tremendous price that most CXO level positions demand in terms of personal life sacrifices, and most CEOs (I only know a couple) seem to lost the battle to maintain a healthy balance.

  172. Joe A.

    “Follow your passion and you’ll figure it out!”
    “Just work really hard and you’ll be successful.”

  173. Justin McClelland

    This post was spot-on. I think SOOO many people are lead astray with bad career advice. Hopefully your tips that you just gave will open some eyes. But for me…thank God for entrepreneurship.

  174. Nelson

    1. Go to school, try to get a professional job ie. Doctor, lawyer, accountant and if not, try to get a good white collar job at a bank or some office.

    2. Well, I finished school 8 years ago with a diploma in corporate finance and paid my own way working in the summer and after school at menial jobs at $10/hour. My first job out of high school was as a proprietary trading firm based out of Las Vegas because my passion back then was valuing stocks. What I found out was that I hated day trading, I hated trading on the West Coast (getting up at 5am as the market opened at 6:00) and I hated staring at a computer monitor all day to trade 100-1000 shares on some crappy stocks for a $0.05-$0.15 move because that was the strategy mandated to us because the firm was getting paid by the trading volume commissions. I hated that we weren’t actually valuing stocks, but trading for the sake of trading. I’ve done much better in the last 5 years valuing stocks and taking longer term positions. I learned that there is a vast difference between trading (similar to counting cards at the black jack table all day) and investing in a real business and collecting your share of dividends and earnings over a longer time frame. (Yes, that includes the horrible crash of 2008 when you could have doubled or tripled your money in wonderful businesses by now.) My next job after that was for a financial planning firm that used to be a life insurance company. Again, because my passion was in stocks and valuation. What I found was that the financial planning industry sells a lot of junk to the public. I never felt good selling a portfolio of junk segregated funds that would under perform an ETF for less fees to the client. The only way to make decent money was to in my opinion rip your client off. Although you would put together a proper financial plan utilizing all the insurance and investment portfolio that would normally be fine, when you implemented a solid financial plan with junk and over priced products, with fees, very high fees tilted toward the company-that felt bad. On a risk adjusted basis, the client was making less than the market. The life insurance, critical and disability insurance was good in theory, but telling a client that they would retire with their desired lifestyle on sub-optimal investment vehicles really made me feel bad inside. So I left. I then moved onto general insurance. I’m bored out of my mind. Selling low margin, high volume and getting less than half the commissions on the products I sell. Making money for people I don’t really like or respect, but doing it because I’ve built up a clientele that has followed me around all these years and not wanting to throw away my years and years of sacrifice. I really do want to poke bicycle spokes in my eyes and do something else. But the available jobs, the high paying jobs, where you just get to go to work, turn off your brain, doing something completely different just seems like a green pasture on the other side of the fence. Always unattainable, and always wondering if it really is greener over there rather than staying with the devil you know.
    3. 5-10 years after college I really thought that I would be in my own business-not a business within a business, but my own business. Possibly my own fund like Warren Buffett. I really though that. My other idea would have been selling items on TV like K-tel, or Billy Mays. Creating and selling products like a Tim Ferris muse. A real e-myth business.

  175. Jeff Crews

    I am fortunate enough to have a great job. However, I used to read success stories (and still do) of some very successful people. Not only did it motivate me when I was younger, but it also showed me ways to be successful. The job I have now was not my passion, but now it is! PASSION!

  176. SW

    1) Not to beat a dead horse, but I would say the worst piece of advice I’ve been given is, “Follow your passion. The money will follow. Just do what you love to do!” Well, shit. I don’t have an answer for that. A close second is the invisible script that states to always take the highest paying job offer. This is built into people’s desire to gain social status and to avoid being viewed as a failure for having a job that pays less than their peers. But is a shitty job for an extra 5k worth it? No way.

    2) The passion advice has made me second guess my decisions to the point of inaction because I think “Do I REALLY want to do that? I’m not 100% sure.”, and inaction in this case is actually worse than following through on any of the given options. I used to be very passionate about a few things growing up. I wanted to be an engineer who worked on robots or cars. As I became older and went on to college, my passion for specific niches waned and went away. As I gained experience through internships and seasonal jobs, I began to realize that I cared more about the type of job I had and the type of coworkers and bosses I worked with. I didn’t particularly care what type of industry I would end up in. Rather, I cared more about whether I was being kept engaged with what I was doing and being given enough responsibility to make an impact but still push myself to learn more. Over the years, all the emphasis on “follow your passion” that has been drilled into me has made me pause and think way too many times. I would think, “I don’t have a specific area that I want to work in, so I don’t seem to have a specific passion, so I’m clearly doing something wrong.” Then I would just sit and try and think my way to my passion and never actually go do anything. Clearly, the wrong approach. But I’ve been sucked into the invisible script to the point that it’s always running in the background of consciousness, even when I realize it’s a load of bull. I know that if I get out and look around there will be plenty of opportunities for me to make an impact and continue to grow as a professional.

    3) Honestly, I was burnt out on college and was just ready to move on. Since I “had no particular passion” that equated to me not really having any idea where I wanted to be in 5 years. Three years later, I’m still at the same job, enjoy it, but I’m starting to itch for a new challenge. I still don’t have any grand career scheme. Is that bad? Am I suppose to have a grand career scheme? I suppose it would help to at least have a goal to work towards. Whether or not I get there might not even matter.

  177. Hooker

    Without being too specific, I identify with this post a lot. When I graduated college and went into health care, I was given advice from practice coaches who hadn’t actually been in practice for 20-30 years. Most of their advice, I found, was outdated and ineffective.

    I don’t know how it happens exactly, but it seems that once an “authority” writes an article or book about steps that need be taken, the advice is copied and disseminated again and again until it’s simply accepted as fact…even though it may be incorrect.

    Nice article….again.

  178. Martine

    The worst career advice I ever received was to get a job. I’m doing much better on my own.

  179. Kevin

    –Worst advice: If you want to learn filmmaking, you NEED to go to film school, spend $40,000 a year, and expect to be the next Spielberg when you graduate. Forget about how technology and the internet has completely made it plausible to do without film school.

    –“You just need to FIND your passion” (as if its hidden in a cave) has made me spend hundreds of hours doing writing exercises writing down my likes/dislikes, remembering things I liked to do as a kid, and every other BS thing to “figure it out” (Think Steve Pavlina’s advice of write down things until one thing makes you cry…and BOOM…thats your passion!) A year later and no results, I realized how insane this is.

    –I attended college with all intentions of getting a degree, but with the film school example above, I wound up dropping out, starting my own business selling rare books online (I know random). After 4+ years of my biz, I am ready for a switch…I expected to be working in a career “making things” whether it be films, web design, carpentry, etc. & working with other people. Running a business solo might be cool for autonomy purposes, but sucks social wise.

  180. Matt Hartrich, New York

    Just keep sending out resumes until someone responds is bad advice that some career counselors give. It prevents you from taking a focusing on companies that better match your skills and doing more than just sending a resume.

  181. LaughingMouse

    1) Get on LinkedIn!
    2) My goals haven’t been all that well defined, ever, but I think the detriment to this advice is exactly what you have been talking about on a lot of the other points, which is: No one tells you HOW to do it well or even WHAT to do! So I have a profile on LinkedIn. So I friended, or connected, with everyone I know, hell I friended people I met once, way back, at that thing, you remember? But now what? How do I leverage this into a job?!?!
    3) When I got my BA in Social Work in 2000, I believed I would work in social services “helping people.” I believed I’d get married, probably get a house and knock out a couple kids. I initially focused my “helping people” on teens and the jail systems, but a variety of political changes here in WI shifted me farther and farther from that and fully, completely, 100% into “I gotta pay bills, I gotta have a job!” Instead I am still single, making my living as an insurance agent, which I actually really enjoy most days, and occupying a lovely 2 bedroom apartment that I love. In most ways not where I expected to be and not happy about it. But in a few ways life is better than I might have imagined for myself. My reality is far, FAR away from what my expectation was 10 years ago.

  182. Annette Walker

    Thanks for being a voice of clarity. Your advice is good. People who want to succeed should take it seriously.

    Ok. Toss up between 2 true stories. I’ve had lots of bad advice. These are 2 early ones that taught me that even those I should trust could be way off base.

    ME: I am going to major in engineering with a specialty in computer simulation and human factors engineering.
    MOM: You can’t do that. You are a girl and stink at math. That is the stupidest idea ever.
    DAD: You can’t. To get a job in a train yard, you have to know someone. You don’t know anyone and it’s just not possible to get to know them.

    ME: Woo hoo! I got accepted to Stanford and a scholarship to study computer science!
    DAD: College is a rip-off. No one should go to college.
    SCHOOL GUIDANCE COUNSELOR: Bad idea. You should be a forest ranger. That is what your aptitude tests show.

    I still run things by my parents. It’s a litmus test: if either thinks it’s a sucky idea, I’m on the right track.

    I did get the degree, not from Stanford (alas), and, later, an MBA.

    • K00kyKelly

      Major kudos for sticking to your plans.

      Check out SWE (Society of Women Engineers); I hear Stanford has an awesome section.

  183. Chris Proctor

    Question #1 – The worst career advice I ever got was from my own father. He told me that I should do is major in accounting. That was what he did. He said that no matter what, I could find a job doing lots of things with an accounting degree. He thought the idea of being bored stiff by accounting had no basis in determining what I should do.
    Question #2 – Luckily, I did not take my father’s advice.
    Question #3 – However, I kind of got stuck in the job that I am in. I decided to get a graduate degree in 2004 and have not been able to break out of the job that I was doing prior to it. My biggest problem that I have been told is that I don’t have any experience doing the job I want to be doing. I am currently in Marketing, and that is all that people see. When they realize the background that I have, they are surprised and impressed, but still side with people with experience.

    The biggest frustration for me is that I don’t want to have to start at the bottom. I have a lot of life experience and work experience that I think should count for something. Also, my finances are such that I couldn’t take a pay cut by starting at the bottom. The career that I have chosen pays quite well, so I could start in the middle or lower middle and still be making what I am now, I just can’t seem to break into the industry.

    • K00kyKelly

      Major kudos for sticking to your plans.

      Check out SWE (Society of Women Engineers); I hear Stanford has an awesome section.

  184. Shea MacAran

    The worst carer advice I ever got was that you “have to have a college degree to get anywhere”. Bullshit. Ask you need it’s to be self motivated and willing to think outside the box. If youre not, no amount of college degrees will save you.

  185. Socorro

    Have your read Tony Beshara, The Job Search Solution? He is the top job recruiter and helps people find jobs.

  186. L. Marie Joseph

    I’m right where I want to be! I kept fighting until I found a career/pay/culture that my attitude, background and skills fit like a hand and glove. I took a lot of risks worked nearly free just to get the knowledge. I love the I.T. field because it’s the future and heavy in demand.

    This world is shifting, more college educated people are the ones needed. Skill up or you’d be left behind. It’s just that simple. Gen Y are making their on rules, no wonder only 7% of them work for corporate America. You have to change with the times

    Great videos!!

  187. Arti K

    About expecting those self-assessment tests to reveal your dream job.. I took one of those just after high school, and based on my unique combination of empathy, mathematical ability and artistic interests, the test suggested that my top job choice should be … Funeral Director.

  188. jack foley

    Passion is an interesting context..

    Yes it is true that you shouldn’t go after a passion that doesn’t pay but I do believe that if you work on your talents – they will make room for you…

    think about how you can provide a service incorporating your passion..

  189. drg

    What is the most ridiculous piece of career advice you’ve ever heard? Be specific please.

    The most ridiculous career advice I got was from a presenter at a conference about the IT industry. I asked him about his take about employees and social media and whether or not it was a good thing to be on it. During his presentation, he discussed very thoroughly how he believes social media will affect business and flat out said that all businesses need to be engaged in social media (whatever that means). To answer my question, he said that he would never consider hiring anyone that he couldn’t find through google. I thought this initially made sense, but tons of people spend more time producing something than on social media and he shut out a huge portion of potential leaders and game changers through this.

    How has bad career advice kept you from achieving your goals? A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE PLEASE.

    I spent far too much time focusing on doing tests to determine what my idea job should be. It was entirely irrelevent and my time would have been better spent interviewing people from different fields to gain a better understanding of what people do and what I may be interested in.

    When you graduated college, where did you think you’d be in 5 or 10 years? Where are you now? Please share a specific story about the difference between expectations and reality.

    As I have yet to graduate, I will answer as to where I thought I would have been 10 years back. I don’t think I would be doing a business degree, and the difference between business and my initial degree in engineering cannot be understated. I don’t think I would have learned the importance of understanding the soft skills had I graduated from engineering. My expectation when I graduated from highschool was to coast along, finish my engineering degree and start working as an engineer, get married (somehow find someone), buy a house and live happily ever after.

    Reality is a bitch, and things definitely didn’t go that way. Dropped out of university and worked crap, dead-end jobs for a few years before I started to turn my life around and reapplied to business. I am now graduating top of my class, debt free with a decent job lined up with a great company.

  190. Shev

    The worst piece of advice I received: “Keep your options open” which worked towards me taking generic courses and nothing specific. That was when I was in the eighth grade. 3 years later, when I was deciding on a graduate level course, someone who influenced my decisions then (members of the family) told me take up XYZ as a career since it is “not stressful”, “you will have good quality of living”..

    It was only at 20 years of age and jolted by the terrible choices that I had taken in the past that I took decision-making in my hands. At 23, I am now a graduate with a specialization I don’t want to make a career in, working 6 days and earning $300 a month and no direction in life.

    I don’t blame anyone, they all meant well for me. What went wrong was that no one understood me and I didn’t stand up and take decisions myself.

  191. Sarah

    1. My employer said I should take a pay cut to relocate and have more “opportunities”. Really they just wanted me to be a sucker and take the paycut with absolutely no guarantees. I stayed in my current position and location, and so far, it seems they at least respect me for not taking their crappy offer. And by staying where I am, I have the cushion to spend time on this Dream Job track and hopefully make a better path for myself in the long run.
    2. Bad career advice: “You can do whatever you want” (based on my scores in “Career Interests” tests). Well, I guess I can do whatever I want, but it was really frustrating to not get any guidance on what I should do. I wandered around doing administrative stuff for quite some time when, if I’d known how to pursue it, my talents and intelligence would have permitted me to be much further along by now.
    3. When I graduated from college, I thought I’d be in some kind of leadership position at an nonprofit, working for an awesome cause that would win admiration by friends and family. Well, that was delusional in SO MANY ways, I cringe to even have to admit it now. Reality: I did an internship at a nonprofit, and found through networking that virtually every org in my city is run by self-righteous, self-serving, manipulative corporate dropouts, with whiners as their minions. Sorry to anyone out there who works in nonprofit, but I found that when not bound by the laws of supply and demand, people really don’t have the same social pressures to keep them from treating their colleagues or their customers very well. The “cause” just becomes an excuse to be a jerk. More reality: Now what do I do with my sociology degree? Thankfully, I stumbled upon an entry-level technical job that seems to have put me on a path that’s led me to additional opportunities.

  192. Edie

    1) Have a mentor or do a job shadow! This was one of the silliest and worse done advice EVER, because there was no follow up at all.

    2) Bad career advice kept me from having a sustainable career because I tried to follow the rules of academia in the working world. It does not work, and retarded my career for a crucial 5 years.

    3) Ten years ago, I envisioned being a water scientist, happily doing tests for water quality and helping set water use policy. This is not what happened. Instead, I traveled the world, took on a couple of jobs that supposedly safe (the job were not safe) and finally kicked myself into doing documentary filmmaking.

  193. Jessica

    1. I think ‘go to school and get good grades and everything will fall into your lap’ is pretty much the winner there.

    2. I’m sure that me waiting around expecting to get some great job because I’m so awesome or not wanting to have any career experience because I wanted to focus solely on my studies is a biggie there.

    3. I figured I’d AT LEAST be employed, probably as a teacher somewhere in a school. No one even told me what it took to BECOME a teacher. Just that if I had a degree I could teach. Now I’ve learned that there are other classes that I *should* have taken plus PRAXIS tests. You always say ‘well I can fall back on teaching if ‘X’ doesn’t work,’ but even THAT’S a pain in the ass to accomplish. Of course, right now I’m only about nine months out of college, but I thought I’d be employed doing something by now. NOT A LICK.

  194. Augusto

    Dear Rami….
    I have been trying to set-up a strategy to get people in what I think is a very good and profitable business…is about networking ….but what do you think is the best way to establish it…via Internet ….I am talking pure Internet….

    Thank you

  195. claudia rowe

    Unpleasant opinion follows so apologies in advance:

    A lot of these posts are whiny blather. ALL of us received poor career advice, all of us have worked, at one time or perhaps even two, in jobs that made us want to eat our own livers, all of us had terrible career advisors, well meaning, clueless mentors and parents who were out-of-career-touch.

    And, I assume, none of us are dead yet and are mostly prospering in or, at least, maintaining our jobs.

    I came from a long line of doctors/surgeons or economists. Because it never occuirred to me that life could be different, I became an economist (also, at school Economics was easy and I aced every exam). I realised far too late that what I should have done was architecture. So, I left investment banking, re-invented myself as a management consultant (took 5 years of big 5 consulting experience and networking) and now I’m self-employed and take on one 6 month consulting gig per year and the rest of the time I design, renovate and flip properties (like a pretend architect!).

    Even now, ex-colleagues and disappointed (but loving) family memberrs tuttut at how “She could have been a contender” in that tone of voice that really means, “I’ve ruined my life”!

    As much as like Ramit et al’s advice, and read it daily, I think there’s a lot to be said for sucking it up and just getting on with it. All this whining about bad career advice, or bad advice in general, I don’t understand how it’s useful.

  196. GG

    The whole “Be yourself and do the job you’re passionate about” schtick. Who knows what the hell they’re going to be good at in the real world when they’re just coming out of education? How many people figure it out only when they’re 30, 40, 50? How many career counselors and employment advisers even _know_ what jobs are out there in the real world right now, much less what they actually entail day to day or what the genuine skill sets are? Do they actually talk to people from all over society every day, or do they just have their “job categories” charts from the 1950s?

  197. Erika

    I’m finally in a job (freelancing) that I am passionate about — intellectually challenging, money is good, and flexibility is fantastic. It only took me until now to find it, and I couldn’t have done it without finding some good coaches and support on the way.

    The “What Color Is Your Parachute” and personality test routes never worked for me (I’m supposed to be a social worker??). If I was reading this as my 10- or even 20-year-ago self I would take your course in a heartbeat.

  198. Brian Johnson

    I’m 23 years old. I was my high school valedictorian. Got lots of scholarships to the business school of my choice. I chose business school because I figured I wanted to own my own business. But of course I had to go to college. You can’t be the valedictorian and not go to college. So I went. I even graduated early. Got my degree in marketing (probably the easiest degree to get, by then I didn’t have much faith that I was accomplishing anything.)

    Trying to get into the job market, I quickly found that nobody wanted to hire anyone without any experience. Which didn’t really make sense to me… How did anyone get a job? So I tried and tried for 6 months. Finally I found a job through a job placement agency, which charged me $2500 that I didn’t have for it, but I made it work. The job was at my local home improvement store, but it was the “Manager Trainee Program.” It was “like an internship.” Sounded okay to me, and either way, I had to start paying my loans back so I didn’t really have a choice.

    Turns out it was just a sucky job at a home improvement store. It was horrible. Bad hours, bad flexibility, little growth. But I got what I could out of it. And then, by chance, I had the opportunity to work directly under the owner of a web design company. I took it immediately, and over the next year, I learned everything I could.

    I have since started my own web design company, and am loving it. I am starting to see some success, and more importantly, the future is looking so much brighter.

    If I had known what I know now, I would never have even gone to college. In high school (or earlier) I would have focused all my time on learning website design in my spare time, and then starting my own company right away. School isn’t going to make you good at something or even qualified for anything. You have to just do it on your own. Nobody is just going to GIVE you anything. Anyway, I thought it was relevant to this post, a lot of what you said just made so much sense to me, and I thought I would share my story.

  199. Judith

    I’m graduating right now and started this week looking for a job. So far, I still have to figure out which one was the good and which the bad advice, but already I know that “with a degree in business you can do whatever” is completely bullshit. Unfortunately a degree in business often is not even wanted in business jobs – I want to work in international sales at a company in a technology field (everything from cars to machinery would be fine), and often they want engineers in the sales department (but why??? I just spend the last four years learning how marketing and sales work, especially when different cultures are involved, and the companies are looking for someone who learned to develop and build the products??).

    Another thing I always hear is that I’m a woman, and women, per se, are not interested in anything technical. Um, if I wasn’t interested in the field, would I be applying? Should I instead try to get a job at a fashion company even though I’m glad to be able to not mismatch the colours of my clothes?

  200. Career Guidance

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  202. Dee

    “Leave my shoes out of it!” haha that did make me laugh!True often interests turn into passion.

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  205. Dillon

    1. The most ridiculous career advice I have been given was from my mom two days ago. She said: “Well just take something even if you don’t like it and then you can always change jobs after that.” So basically she said to sell yourself short and justify it to yourself with the expectation that something better will come.

    2. Bad career advice came in High School when I was constantly reminded about the average starting salary of whatever I wanted to study. Not saying it’s bad to consider the marketability of a degree, though I would argue that struggling through something you don’t enjoy will not end in a good job.

    3. Although I graduated 6 months ago and have had a great time attempting a start-up and traveling, I now find myself unemployed and with a diminished network an unsure of what I want to do in the future. largely afraid that I will work a job I hate and become depressed.

  206. Jeff

    Seven years unemployed! (no, really, 7 years!) 8 kids, thankfully 3 moved out. I went to psy grad school, got sold an unlicensed psy degree that no one wants to hire. (95% of the therapist/counselor jobs require state license or license eligible) I didn’t figure this out until one year into it. With my at-home-foster-care-mental disorder experience, I figured employers could use my experience as good skills. Wrong! Total of 3 interviews this year, one interview in 2015. None in 2014. Otherwise no call back on applying to jobs, mostly its as if no one receives my resume. My wife says to call them but calling HR seems like an insult to them since they acknowledge receipt of my resume and repeat the job ad and their process. Government jobs take months to get, let alone the required written test. Government welfare helps us since my kids are special needs. I am 54 and a healthy marathon runner, but to no avail (age discrimination?), I cannot conclude a reason for my unemployment difficulty. It has to be me. I’ve rewritten over 50 resume’s and same of cover letters, redone my LinkedIn account and avoid negativity on all social media. Still, nothing. Most people are unemployed at the most 3 years. Long term unemployment is usually 2 years. No me. When I passed 7 years unemployed, it just went by…
    wife blames me, says I’m doing something wrong. duh.

  207. Daisy

    I really enjoyed this article. Somehow the bitter rant really cheered me up. I especially like how you called BS on following your passion. If I followed my passion, I would wrap Christmas presents 365 days per year, making myself unemployable for 11 months out of the year.