Career Career Advice I Didn’t Take—and You Shouldn’t Either 

Not all insights from parents, teachers and mentors—or even our besties—are worth heeding. Here, an HR expert weighs in on what’s relevant and what to disregard.

By Ricklyn Woods Illustration by: Pui Yan Fong
PUBLISHED 01/08/2024 | 5 MINUTES

Women entering the workforce—and even those years into their career—are often greeted by a barrage of advice to “help them succeed.” Although much of this counsel is well intended, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s helpful. I know this from my 15-plus years of working in human resources, as well as from my journey from a single mom with a GED to a successful HR consultant and coach with two higher-education degrees. 

Based on my professional and personal experiences, here are some purported words of wisdom I suggest you disregard:

“Taking a contract role or temporary job—instead of a permanent position—is a waste of time, and it looks bad on your resume.” 

Here’s the fact: There is always a chance that you’ll lose a “permanent” job. And contract/temporary jobs can come with the possibility of regular full-time employment. Early in my career, I left a regular full-time job at a medium-sized company to take a contract job at a much larger Fortune 500 company. It was risky, I suppose, but worth it. After two weeks in my new role, I was offered a regular full-time role with benefits. That ultimately positioned me for my next job as a recruiting coordinator, which was the start of my career in human resources.

“The harder you work, the better your chances of getting a promotion.”

This is not always the case. Sometimes internal promotions are less about the quantity of work and more about the quality of your work relationships. If you are the first person in the office and the last person to leave but aren’t networking with others, you could get overlooked for advancement, no matter how hard you work.

“You have to work in the field in which you got your degree. If you don’t, your education was a waste of time and money.”

The pursuit of a higher-education degree is as much about gaining knowledge and life experience as it is about landing a job post-graduation. Students and alumni should look at their educational experience from a holistic perspective.

Sure, while earning a degree, you’ll gain knowledge specific to your major. But you’ll also develop so-called soft skills—which are incredibly important to workplace success—such as the ability to think critically, manage time, work with others and solve problems. These can be applied to many different jobs and careers, regardless of the degree earned.

“Job hopping is bad.” 

There was a time when this was true. However, many employers no longer view multiple job changes as a bad thing. In fact, employees who stay at one job for more than 10 years are often at a disadvantage compared to competitors who have moved around a bit.

Employees who change jobs are continually growing. They’re exposed to new tools, glean fresh skills, meet new people and expand their professional network. I know this from first-hand experience as I was a serial job seeker myself. 

“At a certain point, you’ll be too old to change careers and should remain in your existing field until retirement.” 

This couldn’t be further from the truth. While age discrimination and bias exist, many companies welcome older workers who can bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the workplace. In April, at age 45, I transitioned from a human resources manager to a career advisor. My collective work experience, spanning more than 20 years, prepared me for this move.

To be clear, changing careers is not always easy at any age. Such a shift takes a great deal of self-awareness and strategic planning. You might have to continue your formal education or volunteer to get needed experience. While working in human resources, I got a certificate in personal development coaching and began working with clients part-time, for free. This helped me gain the skills and confidence I needed to transition to my current role.

Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.

Ricklyn Woods is a career coach and certified human resources professional who serves as a career advisor at her alma mater, the University of Phoenix.


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