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Five Reasons Your Mother Is Hurting Your Career

Mom Talking photo from ShutterstockI realize I am treading on thin ice here, hoping to not get too much hate mail. After all, most people love their mothers and appreciate the many things their mothers did for them out of the goodness of their hearts. So, why would I pick on your mother? Because she may have given you some advice that doesn’t really work  for you in today’s employment world.

Mom (or dad, if he was a more influential parent in your life) was born in a different time. Her advice, although well intentioned, was based upon what she learned in another era. Mom did her best based upon the information she had available. However, some of that advice may be obsolete. See if you can relate to any of my five examples of how your mom’s advice may be hurting you in your career:

1. “Get a good education.” High school diploma: check. Undergrad degree in something meaningful: maybe, but many people get 4 year degrees when a 2 year associate degree or training in a trade would be better. Graduate degree: probably not, because far too many people today were not taught the law of diminishing returns (or choose to ignore it when they see the XYZ University billboards that promise fame and fortune.)

2. “Study something practical, like accounting or mathematics. You have a talent for working with numbers.” Maybe, maybe not. Charting your life course and education by following a talent can be misguided. Equally important are passion/motivation, income potential, work/life balance, etc. Be careful about falling into the talent trap.

3. “Get a job with a well established bigger company, where there will be more security.” Can you say “G.E.”? Their policy was cut the bottom 10% every year. And large companies continue to discover how bloated and inefficient they are… little by little. This can mean four rounds of layoffs before they get to you. Why live with that looming over your head? Growing small and mid-sized companies offer more security.

4. “Don’t jump around between jobs. “ If mom meant jumping every year, then yes. But, jumping jobs every three years or so is fine in today’s market. Since most jobs don’t last three years anyway, no one will get nervous with this and you can make proactive job changes that get you more of what you want… sooner.

5. “Work hard, do a good job, and you will be rewarded.” Maybe, maybe not. I discuss this last-century belief in the last chapter of my book Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!). Be careful. Many companies today reward hard work with increased workload and no additional compensation. Better people skills, insightful political maneuvering, and increased self-promotion tend to pay bigger dividends than hard work.

Mom meant well, but we all have to live, experience, and evaluate in order to grow. I hope that my challenges to mom’s advice will get you thinking about these and other beliefs that may be holding you back in your career. If you feel any of these are not working for you in your career, examine them carefully and consider scrapping them. Good luck and best wishes!


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