5 erroneous bits of career ‘advice’

Working extra hours, maintaining a work/life balance in the office and coasting a bit more with each promotion are common fallacies in today’s working world, the author asserts.

Though it’s been popular the last few years to razz millennials for being lazy, narcissistic and entitled, I’ve seen those behaviors attributed to every age group.

With drive-thru restaurants and subscription services for everything from groceries to diapers, we expect to have what we want when we want it. However, we can’t expect to be effective or successful if we apply the instant gratification equation to the working world.

To do good work, it still takes the basic building blocks: dedication, honing your skill set, listening to constructive feedback, improving and growing.

How do we do this in a digital age, a world that promises endless opportunities for instant gratification? Here are five recommendations you should reconsider as antidotes to ineffectiveness:

1. “If you don’t like your job, just find a new one.”

It’s a common misconception that if you’re unhappy in your job it’s simple to abandon it to do something else.

Slow down.

Before you jump ship, consider what you don’t like about your job. Is your job the problem, or is it your attitude? A new job may sound appealing and perfect, but it could also end up feeling the same as your current position.

Try changing your attitude first; if you find that your job still seems to be the culprit, then consider looking for new work.

2. “Don’t work too hard.”

Since when shouldn’t we work too hard? Consider this: Who defines “too hard”? Growing up, my dad worked from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on weekends to provide for his family. Nowadays when you work at that pace, people think you’re crazy.

I’m not saying you should work the hours my dad did (although it got him very far). I’m saying you should show up and give it all you’ve got. You’ll feel more accomplished and fulfilled.

3. “The early bird gets the worm.”

This is another fairy tale. I know people who rise early and are working by 5 a.m., but don’t produce as much as their co-workers who get in at 8 or even 9 a.m.

It’s not about being the first person in and last person to leave. It’s what you do during those hours that creates your success. We all have the same hours in the day.

From an early age, it’s been ingrained in us to be early risers. Early birds supposedly are more productive and successful and have stronger work ethics. It’s great to arrive early to work, but that’s less than half the battle. It’s what you’re doing during the hours that sets you apart.

If you’re showing up early to take long coffee breaks, play around on social media and read the newspaper, you aren’t being productive. Learn to capitalize on your most productive work hours. Learn, too, how to describe your optimal working style to ease any team tension that could potentially arise.

4. “Success gets easier. Just keep going!”

There are ways success can become easier: by building a strong network, putting systems in place and so on. Yet there’s always a new challenge around the corner. The higher you climb, the harder your challenges become.

When I was a receptionist, my challenge was picking up every call on a 15-line phone system by the third ring and deciding what to do for the caller. When I was a recruiter, my challenge was finding great candidates for employers. As a sales rep, my challenge was finding employers in search of talent and ensuring we provided them with quick and quality service. As an owner, it’s all those challenges, plus many more.

People have an assumption that the higher you climb, the more money you make and the easier your job gets. Truth is, success is tough to achieve, and it stays tough. This is why so many don’t make it.

5. “Find a work/life balance.”

This one issue seems to be the topic of many blog posts, HR conferences and expressed needs from employees. You can achieve a work/life balance.

Here’s how: When you’re at work, be at work; when you’re home, be at home.

With the distraction of cellphones, it’s easy to get sidetracked at work with a “like” here, a “follow” there, and an “Oh, I’m just going to check Betty Ann’s page.” Save all that for your lunch break.

When you’re at work, be focused and productive in order to maximize your time. You’ll end up having less work to take home with you.

For those already maximizing their productivity, you have to decide what you want. Climbing the ranks isn’t always an 8-to-5 job. People can preach it all they want, but what I’ve seen in the working world is that expecting to get ahead often requires extra time in the office. Focus and dedication are your go-to responses.

Every one of us comes to the business world with preconceived notions about how work should work. We may expect to have to work far harder than we end up actually having to work. We might expect to walk in the door and right up to the corner office. The danger here is when we refuse to let our perspectives grow.

No matter what our initial misconceptions are, we can be prepared. Evaluate how you think things should go, ask lots of questions, and let go of expectations that simply aren’t true. If you show up ready to have your mind changed and ready to do the work, you’ll do fine.

Stay true to your roots, don’t get trapped up in the hype, and just keep moving forward. That’s the best advice I can give you on your journey to true career bliss.

Nicole Smartt is the owner of Star Staffing and the youngest recipient to be awarded the Forty Under 40 award. Her book, “From Receptionist to Boss: Real-Life Advice for Getting Ahead at Work,” can be pre-ordered on her website at www.nicolesmartt.com. A version of this article originally appeared on BusinessCollective which, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

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