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The 9 Worst Pieces of Advice for College Graduates

Written by Peter Jones

When you’re a new graduate, everybody and their uncle has advice for you. And everyone you talk to will assure you that their advice is the key. They can’t all be right. Avoid getting advice fatigue by keeping a keen ear out for some of these clunkers. They’re usually well-meaning, but can often knock you off your path.

Here are 9 of the worst (and yet very common) bits of advice to college graduates.

1. “Go to grad school”

Do not pass “go.” Do not collect $200. Delay the inevitable. Stay in school and get more degrees and be guaranteed more money when you graduate the next time. Sound good? For some, it is. For some fields, a Master’s or even PhD will be required. But for others, it’s just an expensive place to hide out from the real world. Unless you’re truly passionate about a career or field of study that requires advanced degrees, do a bit of soul searching to make sure grad school is right for you before you decide to apply automatically and end up wasting years and thousands upon thousands of dollars on something you won’t use in your future career.

2. “Just show up and ask for a job!”

You’ve got a dream job or a dream company. Right? Everybody has a goal. But sometimes the well-meaning grandparent or drunk uncle will tell you just to go on into that office and show them what you’ve got! They’ll have to reward your gumption and enthusiasm with a job! Right? Wrong. This is a rookie move which will betray your lack of experience and knowledge of how the work world works. The more conventional job search route, albeit slow and sometimes frustrating, will work out better for you. 

3. “Hide your tattoos”

It probably used to be true that tattoos could disqualify an applicant. But that’s not necessarily the truth now. There are plenty of industries and more creative fields where your individual style could be an asset in showing how well you’d fit into a company culture. Use your discretion, obviously. But on occasion, it’s okay to bare your ink.

4. “You need to get a job in your industry right away”

In other words: if you get an interim job that doesn’t have anything to do with your chosen profession, you’ll have killed your chances before you’ve even begun. Not true. If you can’t find a job in your dream field right away, then you can and should look for jobs in other industries or fields that will give you a boost in skills or experience that can easily translate into the job you ultimately want. Learn as much as you can, realize that diversifying your talents and experience might even make you an asset someday, and keep an open mind.

5. “You should teach”

Did you study humanities in undergrad? Does no one understand why? Think you have no viable career prospects? Write you off before you’ve even begun your professional life with the assumption that teaching is the only job available to you? Unless teaching is actually your calling, smile and nod and walk away.

6. The Get Rich Quick Scheme

Again with the drunk uncle. Or the corner-cutting acquaintance who tells you about that opportunity just too amazing to pass up. Avoid any shortcuts that people dangle under your nose. There is no instant wealth or renown to be had without hard work and perseverance. Don’t stop chipping steadily away at your goals, and don’t put all (or even most) of your savings into an investment opportunity, no matter how enthusiastic your bro is that it’s the next big thing. 

7. “You have to give it your all all the time”

100% or 110% all day every day for the rest of your career is actually impossible. Certainly there are times when you’ll need to go all out, and times when you’ll have to work even harder than that in pursuit of a particular project or goal. But there are other times when you’ll need to take your foot off the gas and catch your breath. It’s okay to slow your pace now and again to avoid burnout. Just choose your moments carefully so as not to interfere with your goals and progress toward meeting them.

8. “Follow your bliss”

Do what you love and love what you do, right? Well… sometimes it’s not quite so easy as that. While following your dreams is always a good idea, don’t just expect that everything will fall magically into place because you’re pursuing something you care deeply about. You still have to be smart. Save money. Strategize how to be on solid financial footing and don’t get lazy. Risks are one thing. Being stupid and expecting the money will just fall out of the sky is another…\

9. “Get a stable job and stay there”

This is the advice of a dying generation. A stable job is great. Job security, benefits, good money. All great. But settling isn’t. If you get stuck in a job you don’t really enjoy and which doesn’t challenge you too soon in your career, it could really hurt both your productivity and your earning potential. Not to mention your qi. Find a balance between following your bliss and providing for yourself and your future. If you hit that sweet spot, then you’re good to go. Steady sailing from here on out.


About the author

Peter Jones