The workforce can sometimes feel like a dog-eat-dog world where winners win, losers lose, and everyone else is left by the road feeling disillusioned, disengaged or, otherwise, simply dissed. Still, you know you need to press whatever advantage you have against the competition, against the status quo and against indifference. If you are reading this, you’re likely in the arena and seeking to advance your career against unyielding headwinds with hopes that, in this New Year, you’ll experience greater levels of career success. But the truth is that this year will likely end up just like all the prior ones unless you change the game and have the courage to make different—even bolder—career moves.
Rather than spending your time following a rule book that causes you to spin your wheels getting nowhere fast, I suggest you throw it out altogether. Instead of trying to work through traditional and flawed career paradigms, I challenge you to break out of them completely because your next best career move can’t be found there.
Stop following outdated and obsolete career advice.
The best career move you can make to achieve success is to stop doing something. Absolutely stop following outdated and obsolete career advice.
Have you had internal struggles with wanting to break free, take more risks and try new things but also felt bound by old rules? Do old rules about risk, about change, about success and about careers create difficulties for you? Oh, the shame and conflict of it all. Have you ever been told to play to win but then ridiculed if you lose? What about change? Have you ever been told to be open to change but then pulled back because you were changing things too much and too fast?
Following the old (traditional) rule book has surely worked out well for some. But for many, many others, it has become an emotional burden, created career turmoil and led to hugely negative career experiences such as these:
- You end up working a job you hate for years because you took it as a placeholder thinking that something better would come along. Nothing better ever came, and now you feel typecast and stuck.
- You started working for a company you love but ended up miserable because you’ve been skipped over for promotions year after year or haven’t received the pay raises you thought you deserved.
- You love the work you do and the company you work for, but you don’t have flexibility with your schedule and find it more and more difficult to have any work-life balance.
- You are in a highly sought after or respected profession such as law or medicine, and you earn very good money, but you’re only doing it to accommodate career expectations or standards that someone else set for you. The old rules say to adhere to society’s pressures because happiness and fulfillment are second to money and status. You’ve sacrificed your freedom to choose, and now you aren’t fulfilled.
Try something new and different this year.
Challenge yourself to stop following outdated and obsolete career advice or outdated resume advice, and try these things instead.
Instead of waiting to climb the career ladder, just break the damn thing.
Yes, you can cut in line rather than patiently wait your turn. Better yet, skip the line completely. The rules about who gets up to bat next have completely gone out the door. If you have any doubt about this, just look at politics (younger upstarts have been taking out long-serving, experienced players every cycle).
But the same thing is happening in regular workplaces more and more too. Employers are looking for new talent with new, innovative thinking and ideas. They want hungry, competitive people with fresh perspectives. If you find yourself off on the sidelines trying to count up how many years you have to wait before you can apply for your boss’s job, you are setting yourself up for deep disappointment and regret. If you are serious about getting that job, I recommend you get your bosses job (the title at least) at another company if you have to. There’s no reason for you to wait many years—even decades—before you can advance up the career ladder. You have to explore other options, even outside the company if you must. Instead of working your way up the ladder, you can choose to shrewdly go around it.
Instead of quitting your job to start a business, add on a side gig.
If you have a strong pull toward entrepreneurship but also need to be able to pay your bills and have money for your business, don’t feel pressured to quit your job. You can do both and don’t have to feel guilty about pursuing something outside your “regular” job.
Also, you can take time to build up your business and client base before leaving your steady paycheck behind. Many successful entrepreneurs and business owners have done it that way. Do what works best for you and your family.
Instead of only applying for jobs when you meet 100% of the qualifications, go ahead apply if you only have 80%.
If you can describe how you can succeed in the job and clearly articulate the value you bring, employers are willing to take a chance with less experienced or less educated applicants. Focus your efforts on the stuff that’s harder to teach like so-called soft skills which actually are the harder skills to develop.
Help employers understand your strengths in areas where they most struggle to find talent. Persuade an interviewer that you bring a unique set of leadership, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, communication, negotiation or decision-making skills, and you just might get a real close look. Make employers view you as trustworthy with integrity, and you very well may take that job from more experienced candidates.
Instead of hoping that you don’t lose, go ahead and play to win by taking calculated career risks.
Successful people in fulfilled careers play to win while unsuccessful people just hope they don’t lose while trying to avoid risk at all costs. It is acceptable, even mandatory, to take more risks in this new career paradigm. It’s not just about risk for those who want to become an entrepreneur, but employees at all levels make career decisions that are risky so that they can advance in today’s environment and compete for the best jobs.
- Been on your job for two years and want to leave to work for a different company? Do it. Job hopping doesn’t have nearly the same stigma that it used to. Actually, the greater problems for your career today are the risks that come with staying in the same job for too long, failing to diversify your career portfolio and neglecting to keep your skills and talents current. Each of these will cause more lasting career damage than job hopping (so long as you put in approximately two years on the job).
- Want to walk away from a comfortable, good-paying job because you aren’t growing? Do it. What is the worst thing that can happen? If things don’t work out with another job, or you can’t take your side gig full time, just do what it takes to get another job.
- Want to quit your job to start your own business? Do it. If you can handle it financially and are just burning with passion to put all your energy in on starting your business, go ahead and take the risk.
- Willing to take a job with less pay so that you can make a career change or transition into a completely different career path that you’re more passionate about? Do it.
These are not radical suggestions. This is what the most successful people are doing today and what they have been doing for decades. It has become necessary for all of us to consider our careers against the winds of the future world of work. This includes diversified portfolios, multiple revenue streams, digital transformation (i.e., automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, etc.) and greater levels of employee competition. Are you playing to win?
Outdated and obsolete career advice won’t help you.
While outdated and obsolete career advice won’t help you, trying something new and different will. New and different will help you compete in this dynamic and ever-changing workforce, and the good news is that you get to decide for yourself what career decisions you make or don’t make. You also get to live with the benefits, rewards and consequences (the good and the bad).
Are you ready to throw out outdated and obsolete career advice? Will you ignore it, and instead try something new and different to advance your career this year? Or will you be sitting where you are at the end of this year griping about your employer, your job or your career? It’s a new day, and it’s all up to you.