The Worst Career Advice I’ve Ever Received

woman at a computer, worst career advice

“Just get your foot in the door.”

This is about the worst career advice I’ve ever received.

This statement implies that if you land a position in a company, you’ll have full reign to “move about the cabin” once you’re in. At one point, I believed my well-intentioned relatives spouting this unsolicited career advice upon me at every holiday soirée.

Luckily, my desperation and insincerity were apparent despite my best efforts to mask them. I was turned down for the job. However, it may have been the biggest favor my current employer has ever done for me. Yes – my current employer.

Over a decade ago as I approached college graduation, I applied for an entry-level project manager role at my now-employer in Cleveland. I got an interview where I acted SO INTERESTED in project management, but I didn’t land the gig. There is one thing I cannot do and that is successfully avoid procrastination and manage any timeline, whatsoever.

Fast forward a few months to a more focused job search and I landed my ideal role at a competing company in town – doing what I really want to do – my passion. Fast forward again a few more years, and I was propelled into my current role where I’m livin’ the career dream and doing what I want to be doing at this stage of my life! Seven years strong (and hoping no one ever unearths HR’s files from that failed interview many years ago!)

I’m now sitting at the other side of the table, decoding fact from fiction and evaluating employee candidates. You may have heard it before from job candidates:

“I’m passionate about a lot of roles in the company, but this seems like a really great company to work at and I’m willing to do any job here.”

I’m trying to determine who really wants to work in my department. Not my company – but my department and our specific, rapidly-shifting, fast-paced, data-driven practice. Hiring managers are looking for someone dedicated to a specific position. We want to know your true strengths and passions and to feel confident that you’d be a good fit. The investment in onboarding and training a new employee is significant. To feign interest in a position simply to get your foot in the door is not only bad for the company financially – it’s bad for your career (and thus you — financially) too.

Here is an example: If I had taken the initial project manager role with my current company with the hopes of switching roles, it could have been a very unproductive couple of months or years for both my employer and myself. It could have resulted in a poor perception of me as an employee, which would have left me worse off when applying for my dream job. Perhaps I might have left the role a few months in for a better-fitting position. Or worse – I might have wasted several years doing something I wasn’t passionate about, hoping a merciful manager would move me to the department I really wanted to work.

You owe it to yourself to wait for the right opportunity.

If you are applying for a position at a stellar company, but in a department you’re not really interested in, you may be able to fake it through your cover letter, and maybe even through your interview. A few weeks into your job though – WE ALL KNOW.  If you’re interested in working at a company in a specific department or role a better approach is to leverage your network and meaningfully connect with individuals in the industry, learn about your desired practice, and improve your marketability through training or professional development.

THIS is the best way to get your foot in the door.

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Elizabeth Abate

Elizabeth Abate is a lifelong Clevelander, Media Director at Marcus Thomas LLC, wife, dog lover, kombucha snob, crazy plant lady, sauerkraut fermenter, crafter extraordinaire, Bridge Builder, overuser of the hands emoji, and did she mention that she loves her dog?

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