We asked and you answered — here are 33 of the worst pieces of career advice you've ever received

We asked and you answered — here are 33 of the worst pieces of career advice you've ever received
Here's the worst career advice you've ever received - Business Insider

"Follow your dream" isn't just cliché — it's often just plain wrong.

The Office Michael Scott Jim Party
Not all career advice is created equal.
The Office US/Youtube

Everyone likes to give their two cents about other people's careers, but sometimes it's better to just keep the change.

On Monday, we asked readers to tell us the worst career advice they'd ever received.

Judging from the responses, big companies are overrated, "don't work hard" is disturbingly prevalent advice, and adhering to the old cliché "follow your dreams" can lead to a nightmare of a career.

Whether it's too trite or just out of left field, some career advice is best discarded.

Here are the top 33 worst pieces of advice people have been given.

Some answers have been edited for clarity.

'Don't take a raise'

The worst advice I've received was to not take a raise in salary when approaching the next tax bracket because it would cost me a net loss considering the additional taxes.

It came from my macroeconomics professor in college, and I failed the course.

— Trey Talley, Dallas, Texas

'Fake it 'til you make it'

No! If you're unhappy, you shouldn't have to punish yourself for the sake of income. Life is far too short to be doing something you dislike. If you're unhappy, don't suffer.

Sure, give it a chance, but know when to make the call for your own happiness. Never stay stuck, and don't be afraid to make a change if the occasion calls for it.

— Anonymous

warren buffett
Getty Images / Bill Pugliano

'Pursue your dreams and everything will follow'

The advice that most parents give is genuinely the worst advice anyone can receive. Not everyone can be a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffett, and it's hard to try to be someone you probably are not capable of being.

I've been lucky enough to have supportive parents my entire life. Still, I wish that they sat me down a little earlier to learn just how important money and quality of life are. My last semester of college, I learned that lesson during an advising interview with my department head. I wish every day my parents had told me four years earlier.

The line that stuck out to me was: "When you have a family one day, you'll appreciate working somewhere in an industry that will pay and appreciate you for who you are."

— Richard, Miami, Florida

'Stop by for a résumé critique'

I once had an on-site interview at Microsoft, scheduled in the late afternoon. Redmond traffic at that time is particularly bad, so it took me about an hour and a half to get there. I was desperate for a job at the time.

The hiring manager sat down and told me that he didn't think I was right for the position (even before he brought me in). He just wanted to bring me in to tell me what was wrong with my résumé.

His heart was in the right place I suppose, but why that couldn't come from an email or a phone call instead of a wasted afternoon in traffic, I'll never know.

— Anonymous

'Take the job for the experience'

Always remember to move forward for greater challenges when your time is up and your company no longer values your efforts.

— Jane Avery, Colorado

glass of water

'Do everything your boss says'

My boss said to me: "If I ask you to get me a glass of water, it is your duty to get it for me."

— Anonymous

'Do what you love and the money will follow'

I did. It didn't.

— David A. Holland, Dallas, Texas

'Don't rock the boat'

The worst piece of advice I ever received was, "Don't try to invent a new way for how to operate the business. Go the old, traditional route."

— Sagov Rustam, Russia

Geneva Vanderzeil

'Pants can ruin your career'

The worst advice I've received is that a skirt is the only acceptable fashion for a woman in business and that pants can ruin a young woman's career. Apparently Hillary didn't get the same memo.

— Shannon, Minneapolis, Minnesota

'Be a "yes" man'

— Anonymous, Austin, Texas

'The right way to make more money is to stay at one company and get steady raises'

Anyone in tech can tell you that this career model is dead. Companies now favor "performance-based compensation" over raises, so their employee outlay falls when the company struggles.

If you want more base salary, you have to be willing to make a big move.

— Anonymous

woman relaxing on beach
Flickr/Cristian Bortes

'Put in minimal effort'

I worked as a waitress in Canada, and I got told off once for doing something wrong. One of the guys from the kitchen gave me some advice:

"Always put in minimal effort when you start a job so that you are appreciated when you work really hard. If you show up and work your hardest right away, you're going to get in trouble when you slack off and never be appreciated — that's what I do."

— Samantha, Brisbane, Australia

'Work in a big company'

The worst advice I ever received was to work in a big company that offers high pay and great retirement benefits.

— Anonymous

'Majors don't matter'

This is bad advice: "It doesn't matter what your major is. Just get a degree."

— Anonymous, Wisconsin

law and order uk
Wesley Taylor via YouTube

'Go to law school — it's a good all-purpose credential'

Many thousands of dollars of debt later, I discovered that, although I was up to the cognitive demands, temperamentally I was completely unsuited for the highly competitive, often antagonistic nature of law practice. So I left the law.

— Anonymous

'Think big'

Here's some bad advice: "Get a good job with a big company!"

— Neal, St. Louis, Missouri

'Follow your passion'

You will always have many different passions you will want to pursue, but many of those passions are not viable career paths. Pick a career path that accentuates your strengths, and a successful career shall follow.

— Robert R.

Computer Old

'Give up on computers'

In the late '80s, my dad asked my mom and sister why I spent so much time programming. He said, "It's useless. All of the programs have already been created."

— Pancho, El Paso, Texas

'Think only about the money'

At my first job out of college, my manager was full of lousy advice. She would pull me aside and give me sly insults disguised as constructive criticism (except they were never constructive).

The worst advice she ever gave me was during a one-on-one meeting when she said, "You know, when you're considering whether or not to say 'yes' to a project, you should really consider how much money you make."

I was a salaried employee and was making an impressive wage for a recent grad. I couldn't believe that, as an aspiring and energetic marketing professional, I was being told to say 'no' to projects strictly based on my income rather than the importance of a project or the opportunity for professional growth.

— Ashley, Boston, Massachusetts

'Work overtime'

"Work overtime to show your loyalty and ability" — that's the worst advice I ever got. Working overtime could actually lower your productivity.

— Edith, Hong Kong


'Bring baked goods'

The worst career advice I received was to bring baked goods to all of my meetings to avoid losing the attention of my employees.

I originally thought that this was a fantastic idea. However, one of my employees was allergic to an ingredient in the brownies, and an ambulance had to be called after they frantically stabbed an EpiPen into their thigh!

— Kari Mcintosh

'Don't make waves'

My dad gave me this terrible advice: "Get a steady job and stay there. Don't make waves or try and stand out. Keep your head down." 

— Anonymous

'Don't reenlist'

In the early 1970s, when I was barely out of my teenage years and in the US Air Force, a military career counselor told me not to reenlist. He assumed that since I was single, there were better opportunities in the civilian job market since I had no one to support.

However, I reenlisted long enough to retire at 39 — the earliest age allowable by regulations according to my circumstances.

It was the best decision in my life. Over the years, I have met ex-military members who wished they stayed in until retirement for the benefits I now appreciate.

Military retirement usually means that you have opportunities and experience to work in several civilian careers afterwards, which turned out to be true for me.

— MSgt AB, ret., USAF, San Antonio, Texas

Bill Gates
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

'Give up on Microsoft'

In the early '90s, a bunch of people told me Microsoft's golden days were done and it was stupid to join the company. I ignored them, had an amazing experience, and made millions of dollars.

Most people don't know about companies, and you should ignore their predictions.

— Anonymous

'Work it out'

Worst advice? "Stay and try and work things out with a bad boss." The best thing to do in that situation is to leave ASAP.

— Anonymous

'Study what you're interested in'

When I was a kid, I was always told that you should get good grades, work hard, and study what you're interested in. I didn't follow this advice, but most people did.

Now, most people my age are unemployed or underemployed. You've got to make a living before you can have fun.

— Anonymous

His Girl Friday

'You don't need to go to journalism school'

I studied sociology for my bachelor's degree. This turned out to be terrible advice!

Employers really do want you to be trained in the basics of the business you're trying to get a job in. Going into journalism without a journalism school degree required me to take a yearslong detour through local newspapers and trade magazines before I got a job I really loved.

Half of the value of journalism school is the contacts and internships — which I missed out on.

My advice: Get your undergrad degree in the field you want to be in, and if you want to study something else, do that as your master's.

— Anonymous

'Follow your dreams'

I have had lots of dreams!

I've dreamed of being a doctor, an FBI agent (even though I'm 5-foot-0), a scientist, and a forensic anthropologist. I even once dreamed of being a cartoon from the Winx Club (a children's TV show).

The problem is that sometimes dreams aren't where your passion lies.

So instead of "follow your dreams," how about "follow your passion"? My passion in graphic design might have set me up for a more successful career path (at least I think).

— Pa Vang, Lansing, Michigan

'Go to college'

I was told that going to college is the only way to get a good job. That's awful advice. 


UC Berkeley graduation
Facebook/UC Berkeley

'You don't need experience as long as you have a degree'

The worst advice I've gotten was that earning a degree would open lots of opportunities for me, even if I didn't have any work experience. That's definitely not true.


'Be a big fish in a small pond'

I was dating someone whose family owned a local business in the same town in which she was born and raised. I, on the other hand, had grown up as an expat, living abroad, traveling the world.

I recall one evening, when the urge to move on was particularly strong, when her mom asked me, "Why do you want to live in New York City? Why do that when you can stay here and be a big fish in a small pond?"

I had been successful with a local startup, but I knew this wasn't my place. I needed to move around, shake things up, compete on a grand scale. The relationship finally ended, and of course, I was outta there!

Some people worry about things they don't understand, especially when you don't conform to their version of "normal." Do what you know in your heart is right, even if that means leaving others behind. You'll be better off. 

—Adam S., Atlanta, Georgia

'Problems tend to solve themselves'

Somebody once told me that "things always straighten themselves out." That's not always true. 


hard hats
Robert Scoble/Flickr

'Girls don't do geology'

In high school, my teacher and I were looking at options for work experience. I wanted to do geology. My teacher told me,"Girls don't do geology."

While I didn't go on and study geology, I joined the mining industry. I would like the teacher in question to know that girls can do geology and engineering and other trades. Women form close to 25% of the employees in the mining industry.

I'm so glad people like this are no longer a part of the education system as we look to encourage more girls into STEM.


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