Putting Common Career Advice to the Test

While career advice is given with great intentions, it is often not supported by evidence. It is often anecdotal or hackneyed and contradictory. There is now more evidence to show what constitutes good career advice. This includes which mindsets should be used while navigating your career. Some are powerful and effective, while others are at best ineffective, while some can be disastrous. These authors discuss which of the four most prevalent career mindsets affect objective career success, subjective job success, and employee job outcomes.
There is no shortage of advice about how to succeed in your career, especially when you are transitioning to new or different ways of working. How can you determine which advice is worth your time?

Researchers have identified the top four pieces of advice that people believe are essential to a successful career after decades of research. We did a meta-analysis on all field studies that were available since 2006. This allowed us to determine how each piece of advice relates to different career outcomes. The study included 175 independent samples from over 63,000 people in various occupations and career stages around the globe. We were able to identify population-level patterns and decide which pieces of advice are most rewarding. This was done by breaking down the relationships between each of these four pieces of advice.

Objective career success (i.e. salary, status, promotions).

Subjective career success (i.e. career satisfaction, well being)

Job outcomes for employees (i.e. job satisfaction, organizational commitments, turnover intentions and withdrawal)

These are the four most important pieces of advice, and data shows how effective they are in achieving success in today's job market.

You can take control of your career

This piece of advice calls for a self-directed mentality. It means that a person takes full responsibility for their career and doesn't rely on their employer. This advice has the greatest overall positive impact, compared to the three others. It is also universally beneficial for all outcomes. People who have a self-directed mentality are more likely than those who do not to have greater subjective and objective career success.

People who are fully in control of their careers are more likely have higher morale (i.e. higher job satisfaction and organizational commitment), better job performance ratings and lower withdrawal behavior (e.g. turnover intentions). The best advice for both employee and employer is to develop your skills and bring your own parachutes.

Recommendation - Someone who is not self-directed assumes that their career development will be managed by their employer. This may have been true in the past but it is no longer true today. This is partly due to the fact that companies must adapt quickly to new technologies and increase competition caused by globalization. This requires employees to be able to move quickly to learn the new skills and knowledge required by 21st-century organizations.

We recommend that you actively seek out training opportunities to expand and strengthen your knowledge, skills, abilities, and capabilities. This could be done by taking training courses that are relevant to your career. You could also mention that your company is best to support your career growth, due to the positive effects on employee morale, performance and lower withdrawal rates. It is important to take responsibility for your professional and continuing learning. Elon Musk's advice to his employees was to think of ways you can improve and push yourself to be better.

You can network outside your company and industry

To be able to seek out professional relationships outside your industry or organization, you must have a limitless mindset. These individuals are more likely to achieve objective and subjective career success. However, this could lead to them withdrawing from their employer which could impact the perception of whether they should be hired. Although a limitless mindset can be beneficial for your career, it's not as effective as being self-directed. Its beneficial effects on career outcomes are much less than those of being self-directed.

Recommendation - Consider building a wider social network beyond your industry, department, or organizational silos. This could be done by inviting people to lunch outside of your work area, volunteering in your local community, developing non-work hobbies, and attending conferences or events outside your immediate field. Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, echoed the advice. Say yes to new friends. But, it is important to focus your attention on being self-directed. It will give you more value in terms of how your energy is used.

Follow your passion

Values-driven is a person who makes career decisions based on their deepest personal values. They also look for careers that are in alignment with their core values. Our findings show that this advice should not be taken lightly as it is likely to yield smaller, incremental, meaningful life dividends than the people believe they are investing in. These results demonstrate that this mindset is not statistically different from zero in relation to objective success, and has the weakest relationship with subjective success.

Recommendation: Follow your passion with caution. This mindset is often misunderstood as a strategy to make more money or secure happiness. This trade-off could be exaggerated. This mindset is often a good thing. However, it doesn't make people any happier. Instead of focusing on passion, consider that every job requires both meaning and competence. Kathryn Minshews, founder of The Muse, advised that everyone has the ability to find work that aligns with their passions. However, it is unrealistic to think that there is one perfect job.

You are ready to grab the next job opportunity

Mobility mindset is a person who seeks out new opportunities and changes jobs, regardless of whether their current job is good or not. This mindset is not conducive to objective career success and can be detrimental to subjective career success, according to research. This mindset can also lead to lower morale, performance, and more likelihood to quit their job. It is costly for employers and could make them unattractive.

While it might be tempting to look for the next opportunity right now, being prepared to leave at any time is a poor strategy for future and current job success. The negative impact of a mobility mindset on your subjective career success is only one-third of the positive effects of a self-directed mindset. The negative effects of being mobility-minded are almost equal to the positive effects of all other mindsets.

Recommendation - Don't be too excited to switch jobs. Instead, focus on your job and excel at it. Mobility-mindedness can lead to a "grass is greener" mentality, which can make you unreliable. These findings could be especially relevant when you consider the Great Resignation, a time in which workers, particularly Generation Z and Millennials, are actively looking for new jobs and quitting their jobs. Although the relationship between mobility-mindedness and the Great Resignation is not clear, we recommend that individuals carefully consider the potential consequences of such a mindset on their career prospects.

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While career advice is given with the best intentions, a lot of it is not based on evidence. It is often anecdotal or hackneyed and contradictory. Remember that not all career advice is equal. We recommend that you take your own parachute, have fun with the journey, not be too fussy about where you are going, and don't be too eager to get to the next destination.