Junk Career Advice: 8 Red Flags That You're Reading Nonsense

Last Updated Oct 6, 2010 9:53 AM EDT

Bad career adviceNearly everyone has seen a less than riveting news story and wondered exactly how slow a news day it was. When it comes to traditional media, we all know that if there isn't anything earth-shattering to report, enterprising reporters will drum up stories about fall foliage, area honor students and the like. The internet is the same way, only with an even more insatiable appetite for content, and on some sites, even lower demands for quality.

The results are not always good for job seekers in search of sensible career advice. So how can you distinguish posts that genuinely aim to help from those that are just there to to fill space, spark controversy or generate clicks at any cost? Blog Work Coach Cafe offers eight red flags that the career advice you're reading is nonsense:

  • Beware of 'always' and 'never' or any such absolutes that don't take into account exceptions. If someone says always or never or gives you exact words to use, take that as a clue to put your own critical thinking into full gear.
  • Articles that say cover letters are dead. Sometimes online articles are more about disagreements between career "experts" (and of course generating site traffic) than anything you necessarily need to put into action.
  • Articles that say resumes are dead. Yup. They're out there too â€"- under the guise of newfangled, state-of-the-art thinking. Don't be fooled. This is pure hype aimed at getting you to read the article. Sure there are other ways â€"- most notably networking â€"- that can get you into an interview without a resume, but down the line there will most likely be someone -â€" even a protective HR department â€"- who will want to see a resume.
  • Articles that make creating a highly marketable brand THE answer to all your job search problems. It's certainly good to know who you are and make sure your resume and cover letter market you well--and branding can help you do that. But let's not get carried away.
  • Handy-dandy templates for cover letters or resumes or thank you letters. Guaranteed can't-fail templates are great for increasing traffic to a website, but NOT a great way for you to stand out from the masses.
  • Sites that say you absolutely need a job objective â€" while other sites tell you job objectives are absolutely passé. Remember what I said about words like absolutely?
  • Telling you to hyper-load your resume with lots of key words and key phrases to maximize SEO possibilities rather than making sure your keywords are targeted to your specific needs and make sense for you. Hard to make your resume tell a story when it keeps popping out obviously placed keywords.
  • Giving you precise instructions for how you should interview and what you should say. There are career sites out there that give exact answers that sound so wooden, so scripted, they make me cringe. When it comes to the actual interview, speak as if you are in a conversation (which you are) and not a fourth grade recital.
Of course, Work Coach Cafe is a content producer (as is BNET) and like the content producers it criticizes has an incentive to stir up controversy. So take this particular site's red flags with a grain of salt. Still, the post raises a good point. There is a lot of junk career advice out there. How do you sort the good stuff from the duds? And what are the dumbest career tips you've encountered online?

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user rvw, CC 2.0)

  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.