4 Career Lies We Need to Stop Believing Right Now

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I bet you’re reading this to see if you’re living a career lie.

Your mother said you need a college degree to be successful. Your career guru also said it’s possible to earn six figures when you sign up for his online course.

I can’t give you all the answers you need, but I can tell you this. For every ten career advice you’ve heard, there’s a chance that one is a lie.

Let’s start with this one.

You need to stop being nice to everyone

There’s a saying that you can’t be too nice at work.

The moment you’re nice to someone, your boss sends more work to your inbox; your colleague becomes lazy; your intern pretends to suck at their job. You end up having to do it all yourself anyway.

Workplaces aren’t built for nice people. Well, that’s what they say.

I used to write product descriptions for a retail company. It was fun. I got to see new clothes before anyone else. Basically, it’s the kind of job that Andy Sachs would go for if she didn’t get the assistant job.

The only problem I had was working with a writer named Zack. He was lazy and entitled as fuck.

Here’s what happened. Zack wrote about a dress two days ago. Before any apparel is sold on the website, the marketing team has to check if the descriptions are accurate. For that particular dress, it wasn’t.

We received an email that went, “Hey guys! This dress doesn’t look like it has pockets. Could you double check?”

What Zack was supposed to do is retrace the same dress from our stockist area and confirm if the description was accurate. Guess what he did instead? He humoured himself with Harry Potter memes because he felt the marketing person should check it themselves.

Oh wow.

So when Zack refused to budge, and the marketing person needed the confirmation pronto, there was only one thing to do. Someone else needed to check it.

I had to get my ass up, find the damn dress and reply to that email.

I had to cover his ass many times.

You might be thinking, “Fuck being nice. Let him burn in his self-entitled mess.”

But that’s not how a retail company works. Time is money. The longer it takes for a dress or any apparel to go live on the website, the more expensive the warehouse costs become. Someone has to pick up the slack. Most of the time, it’s the nice person’s job.

The thing about being nice is that you will feel bullied after a while. You will hate yourself for being too nice. You wished you could be meaner and not give a shit, but you’re not built that way. That’s not what nice people do.

But here’s the part where nice people get their happy ending.

After my content manager got promoted, everyone thought Zack would be the new content leader because he was the team’s most senior writer. Guess whose name came up instead?

Yup, the nice girl (me!) won. Or more like, his lousy work ethics lost.

So being nice pays off too. You might think your kindness and efforts go unnoticed. Not going to lie, they won’t, especially when you’re working with people who don’t give two hoots about their work.

But sometimes, just sometimes, nice people (with a great work ethic) shine.

Of course, you shouldn’t be covering people’s asses all the time. View your niceness as an advantage and play your cards at the right time and situation. It’ll pay off, trust me.

You’ve failed if you’re not an overnight success

Starting a company from scratch is difficult. That’s why a lot of Malaysian start-ups don’t make it past their two-year mark.

I’ve never founded a start-up, but I’ve worked for many. The start-up that taught me the most about failure is this one.

Two years ago, John founded a start-up that aims to change the way we travel. It’s pretty much like Airbnb but better. That was how he described it. Despite how passionate he was, there were many factors that brought the company down.

He spent way too much money on website design. He refused to listen to opinions and wanted things done his way. And his egoistic attitude made other investors ditch the company within months of establishment.

In less than two years, John shut down his start-up. He also sent me and other employees packing without any compensation.

We’ve not chatted since, but sadly, he’s going through depression because of it.

Everyone has gone through some form of failure in their lives. Some are painful, while others cost us RM250,000 in venture capital. Despite it being the part and parcel of business, it affects the next step we make and the way we see ourselves from then on.

John also said that he wanted to become an overnight success, but truthfully, it’s a false belief. Every successful entrepreneur goes through hardships before they hit their big break.

Martha Stewart once went to prison for insider trading. Steve Jobs got kicked out from the company he founded. Jack Ma was deemed crazy before Alibaba became a success.

Failure is an experience. It can hurt you so much, but it could also become a trajectory to achieve bigger and better things in life.

John might not read this, but I hope he returns as a wiser entrepreneur someday. When that happens, I hope he realises that overnight success is only a myth. Failure, however, is the first step to success.

You’re underqualified

So you’re sick and tired of your job.

You’re doing the same meaningless shit. You’re craving for something different. You want a new job, a better boss and a hotter colleague to lust over.

So you secretly browse through the recruitment website when your colleague isn’t looking.

A-hah, someone is looking for an editor!

You have a bachelor’s degree. You have five years of writing experience. You have worked for several fashion and lifestyle websites. You have…ah, dang it.

They’re looking for someone with SEO experience.

You know a bit of SEO, but you’re no expert. So you skipped it and continued searching.

Two months later, you found out that your former colleague, Steven with the same qualification and experience got the job. The worst part is he doesn’t know SEO. You know this because you once taught him the difference between on-page and off-page SEO.

That frustrated person was me.

It was not only a sad reality for me but also to most women out there.

A few years ago, a Hewlett-Packard internal report shared that “men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.”

If you think that’s not true, take a look at your company’s organisational chart. How many women are there on the Board of Directors? Sure, there are many other factors that go into the BOD selection. But the way women view their qualifications might be one of them.

I’ve never worked for talent acquisition in my entire life. But I know that there’s not one candidate in the world who is 100% qualified for a job. If a candidate said they are, they probably lied in their resume.

Look at Donald Trump and see where he is, despite having zero political experience.

So this wakeup call is for you and me.

Go apply for that job! You might be lacking in some areas, but you’re going to learn a bunch of new things in your new job anyway. Grow some balls. Go for it.

The worst you can get is a ‘no’.

You’re a hard worker if you work overtime

My father told me this.

Bless his heart for working hard for the family, but I don’t buy this career advice.

For two decades of his life, he was working for the same company. Always the first to arrive and last to leave, he’s the most hard-working person I know. He even clocks-in on Sundays when he has work to do.

One time, I asked why he had to work on a public holiday. He said, “So my boss can see how hardworking I am.”

“How would he know?” I asked again. “Bosses don’t check punch cards. Also, it’s not like he checks the CCTV every day. For all you know, he might be out golfing.”

“He knows,” my Dad stubbornly replied.

And you know what my Dad gets every year? A Rolex watch and a glass trophy, that’s it. For all the family time and rest days he sacrificed, that’s all he got.

In a larger sense, what my Dad receives is a monthly salary that puts food on the table and pays the bills. That’s true. But in reality, he deserves more.

He deserves a family holiday without worrying about work. He deserves rest because his joints are starting to ache. He deserves to sleep in on a rainy Sunday afternoon because he can.

While my father works his ass off on weekends, his boss is probably vacationing with his wife or smoking expensive cigars.

That’s why I felt it’s meaningless to work overtime. Go work as hard as you want from Monday to Friday but take a breather on Saturday and Sunday. Weekends and after working hours are yours, so use it.

How many Rolexes do you need to remind you that personal time is important too?

You’d be surprised to know that many people do think that nice people never win the rat race, and overnight successes are real. No matter how well-meaning this advice may be, they’re not entirely true. It might even be outdated or irrelevant in today’s work culture.

The best career advice, however, comes from your personal experience. They’re the words of wisdom that are tailored only to you.

They might say that overtimers are hard workers, but you’ll know it’s a lie when your health worsens. You would also know that you’re freaking qualified for the job when someone else with less experience gets the corner office.

So whatever career advice you’ve heard, take it with a grain of salt. Your experience might prove otherwise.

For more articles on career, read So You Want to Be a Professional Writer in Malaysia? Here’s Some Advice from an Editor, and Career Trends in Malaysia – What’s Popular Today?

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After being raised on a steady diet of chic flicks and Mum's spaghetti, I've decided to do the things I love most. So I bade farewell to my desk job, moved back in with my parents, and started my freelancing career. You can either wish me luck or read how I'm coping with taxes and annoying aunties on In Real Life.
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