Ignore This Outdated Career Advice (and What to Do Instead)

Ignore This Outdated Career Advice (and What to Do Instead)
Photo: fizkes, Shutterstock

When it comes to landing — and holding onto — a job these days, much of the conventional wisdom you learned growing up has been rendered irrelevant. Forget the advice that you have to keep your personal and professional lives totally separate; what’s the protocol for following your boss back on Instagram?

I’m hesitant to engage with the generational battle that pits Baby Boomers versus Millennials versus the growing force of Gen Z in the workplace. (I deliberately left out Gen X, because getting overlooked is Gen X’s whole thing.) Still, it’s hard to take professional advice from someone who started their career from a classified ad in a newspaper and a firm handshake.

So, what career tips stand the test of time, and what needs to be put to rest? Toni Frana, career services manager at FlexJobs and Remote.co, tells Lifehacker some of the most outdated advice their career coaching team keeps seeing around.

Outdated: Always write your resume and cover letter using formal language

This is a tricky one. While you should always proofread your application materials for spelling and grammar, the same-old “to whom it may concern” language doesn’t exactly help you stand out as an applicant.

Updated: Cater your language to the company

As you research a company and its culture, try to align your resume and cover letter accordingly. Frana advises that as you write your cover letter and resume, “use language that matches the tone and voice of the company or industry you’re applying to, which, in turn, helps demonstrate that you’re a great fit for the company.” For instance, overly formal language could be a turn-off for a scrappy start-up. On the other hand, don’t risk cracking jokes in a cover letter to a team that clearly takes itself seriously.

Outdated: Bouncing from job to job looks bad

You might have heard that “job hopping” will ruin your resume. While older generations could count on staying at the same company for decades, millennials and Gen Z aren’t facing that same guarantee. Frana says that “sticking around in a job that makes you miserable does neither you nor the employer any good.”

Updated: Make the gig economy work for you

Don’t be afraid to restart your job search if you find yourself in a bad fit. According to Frana and her career-coaching team, “people that hop from job to job or even career to career are no longer viewed with suspicion.” If you are jumping around, make sure you can explain your reasoning in your next interview. Even better, make sure you can explain why your range of gigs will benefit your future employer.

Outdated: When your interviewer asks about your weaknesses, offer a strength

The idea of always spinning your weaknesses into strengths is a long-running punchline. “My greatest weakness, you ask? That I care too much. That I’m a perfectionist. That I work too hard…”

Frana points out that while this sounds like a good idea in theory, in practice, it doesn’t actually work: “There’s a chance you’ll come across as arrogant or lacking self-awareness about your true weaknesses.” Give your interviewer some credit when it comes to detecting your B.S.

Updated: Be honest and prepared to improve

Bringing up your weaknesses in a job interview sounds like a disaster, but you can make it work for you. “Acknowledging that you have a weakness and are aware of it goes a long way toward showing the hiring manager you are willing to examine what you’re good and not good at,” Frana says.

When you’re preparing for your interview, take the time to come up with an answer to the notorious “greatest weakness” question. Your answer should honestly acknowledge a weakness, and then immediately move onto all the ways you’re working to overcome it.

Outdated: Keep all your social media private

Whether or not you want your boss to follow you on social media, it’s unrealistic for many of us to keep our private lives entirely separate from our work personas. Many of us even consider our coworkers to be friends, and it feels like antiquated cubicle-logic to pretend like you don’t have a life outside of work.

Updated: It’s OK to be a person

As long as you’re comfortable, it’s usually OK to interact with your coworkers across social media. Obviously you’d be crossing the line by tweeting nasty comments about a coworker, or posting beach pics when you said you were sick, or anything else that compromises your integrity as an employee. Don’t be shocked if you face consequences at work for that sort of online behaviour. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to like your manager’s tweets. In fact, social media can help remind your team that you’re a multi-dimensional human in and out of your place of work.

Conventional advice that Gen Z should still adhere to

There are for professionalism that are timeless, and most of these come down to respect. Gen Z are typically more fearless around critiquing their workplace (which I believe is a positive cultural shift), but there are still guidelines for staying civil.

For instance, Frana brings up the so-called “great resignation” and the trend of some employees abruptly left their current roles in what has been referred to as “rage-quitting.” Frana says that “it’s always better to leave on good terms — even when you ‘hate’ your boss or disagree with your employer.” Frana goes on: “While you’re looking for a new job, try to cope with your situation as best as you can and focus your efforts on creating a career search action plan. There’s really something to be said about taking the high road and acting as level-headed and graceful as you can be.” Channel your resentment from your last job into motivation for your new one.

And finally, there are plenty of tips and tricks for remote work that all the generations learned all at once over the past few years. if you’re nervous for the first day of your new remote job, here’s everything you need to know about putting your best foot forward.

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