There’s a lot of career advice out there — but not all of it is sound. If you’ve ever spent a few months looking for a job, you’ve no doubt stumbled across some of the most common job search myths.
Many of these myths stem from the idea that there’s a one-size-fits-all approach that will help every job seeker. But your job search is as unique as you are. What works for your colleague might not work for you — even though you’re in the same industry and might have similar career goals.
Here are some common job search myths that you can safely discard:
Job Search Myth #1: You should pick a career path and stick with it
The pressure to hone in on one’s career path starts early. People have probably been asking you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” since you were a young child. (We really ought to stop asking kids that, by the way.)
The idea is that you should settle on a career sometime during your teen years, get educated in that field and go from there. The correct path to success, you’re told, means making a decision, getting trained and then launching your career. You should be settled into a cozy entry-level position by your early 20s, and you can work your way up from there.
But, what if you don’t want to stay in the same career forever? Let’s say that you reach a point where you’ve learned all you can from a career track and you feel ready to take on a fresh challenge. Do you have to stay with your original career? Not everyone knows themselves well enough when they’re in school to choose a path. Some need experience in the working world in order to settle on what they’d like to do.
The rule that you have to pick a career and then stick with it forever is ludicrous. Plenty of people experience success when they make a career switch later in life. In fact, researchers have found that most older adults who want to change careers succeed. It’s never too late to try something new. You can change careers, as long as you’re willing to learn. The transition might not be easy, but it is your right and privilege to make a professional change at any point in life. You absolutely don’t have to stay in the same career forever.
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Job Search Myth #2: The harder you work, the more you’ll accomplish
There’s definitely a lot to be said for hard work. The idea that “you have to work hard to be successful” is generally true. However, there’s more to it than that. Focusing too much on working hard could actually hold you back professionally in the long run.
Working happily, even joyfully, may be just as important as working hard. Happy workers are more productive. They’re tremendous assets to their coworkers and their companies. As a result, finding ways to really enjoy your work could benefit your career in some pretty major ways. You’ll form stronger connections, do a better job and enjoy yourself more at work overall.
Working too hard, on the other hand, can backfire. Chronic stress is terrible for performance. It effects your ability to focus and manage your time. It can even have a negative impact on your health.
If you want to do yourself and your career a favor, try focusing on working happily instead of focusing on working hard. In the end, you just might find that you actually get more done by honing in on this objective.
Job Search Myth #3: There’s a “dream job” Out there, Waiting for YOu
Do you apply for a lot of jobs online? If so, you know that the return on investment for online applications is low. You might send in 20 resumes without so much as a phone interview. But don’t waste time dwelling on the ones that got away. It might help you to know that many of those jobs probably didn’t turn out to be as great as advertised.
Job seekers come across a posting that seems fantastic and then they drive themselves crazy trying to get the job. But, can you really know if the job will be as great as it sounds? Probably not, says Ask a Manager‘s Alison Green.
At Slate, Green examined the myth of the “dream job”:
Some of this might be the cynicism that naturally develops when your inbox is full of strangers’ work horror stories, but most of it is the reality that you just can’t tell from the outside whether something is a dream job—or whether it’ll end up being a nightmare job, or a just-OK job. The things that make people think ‘dream job,’ such as the type of work or the prestige of the company, can quickly be trumped by a horrible boss, toxic culture, crushing workload, or any of the other factors that will turn a job you were excited about into one that you dread coming to every day.
The truth is that every job comes with its ups and its downs. No job is perfect. The attitude and energy that you bring with you to work every day has a huge impact, though. Being happy at work stems as much from that as it does from the work itself. So, instead of focusing on finding your dream job, which doesn’t exist, focus on doing the best job you can.
Job Search Myth #4: Work is work
Perhaps the most destructive myth about finding a job is this: Work is work. It’s not play. It’s not fun. You aren’t going to like it. You need to work to make money and that’s all there is to it. You can look forward to evenings, and weekends and the occasional vacation. But, you can’t and shouldn’t expect to be happy at work.
These ideas are, quite simply, wrong. You don’t have to be unhappy while you’re doing your job. In fact, you shouldn’t be. Work can be play. It can be fulfilling and inspiring. It can make you feel energized, not drained. You can look forward to going to work rather than dread it. So, don’t accept the myth that “work is work.” Because it doesn’t have to be that way.
Job Search Myth #5: A company can be like family
See if this scenario sounds familiar. You’re in a job interview. You’ve answered a few questions, maybe delivered your elevator pitch or talked about where you want to be in five years. Now, it’s the hiring manager’s turn to pitch you on the company. He or she looks you right in the eyes and says, “This company is just like family.”
Did you feel the urge to run? You might be having a good instinct. Because the fact is, no company is just like family. Of course, you hope to develop close relationships at work. You might even make friends there — real, outside-work friendships that last for years. But when it comes right down to it, your organization doesn’t love you. You have a professional, not a personal relationship.
Think about it this way. At the end of the day, employees are replaceable. The next guy might not do the job as well as you. It might never feel the same at work after you leave as it did when you were there. Your coworkers can miss you like crazy and the company may even suffer as a result of your absence. But, they’ll move on and so will the company.
The connections you form at work can be real and powerful. The work you do can be meaningful and fulfilling. However, no company can be “just like family.” It’s asking too much of an organization, and yourself, for a job to fill that role. Instead, focus on finding a job that you love but that still allows you time for your actual family. Cultivate friendships and interests outside of work. Having a balanced life will serve you well professionally.
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