4 Pieces of Career Advice You Can Officially Ignore

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by Rebecca Santiago

Essential tips for getting ahead in your first job. Turns out some of them are pretty surprising, right? They are--and that's why I started wondering about some of the recommendations floating out there that are still considered sage work advice for career girls...well, are they still DOs?

I decided to run this theory by Alexis Sclamberg, an anything-but-hokey self-help expert and motivational speaker who rocked the house at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. She knew exactly what I was talking about. After her previous career as a prestigious but stressed-out attorney led to "a total meltdown," Sclamberg got her priorities in order, began to help others do the same, and even set to writing an upcoming book on the topic called Borrowed Wisdom: The Best Advice They Never Tell Us. Here, she dismantles a few not-so-true career and life truisms and offers advice that's actually worth following.

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DON'T always follow through.

"People always told me to follow through on everything: if you make a commitment, stick to it," Sclamberg says. She remembers how, as an attorney, she would often prioritize her sense of commitment over everything, including her health. "My body would physically rebel against the experience of going into work. When I walked in the door, I would get a stomachache, and I was chronically fatigued," she says. And yet, she pushed herself to keep at it.

"I think a lot of people think, I put in time or energy or money, or I'm just scared of what people will think, so I have to do it," Sclamberg says. "My advice? Don't follow through if it's not working for you." Of course, it's one thing to flake on your ten-year plan and quite another to up-and-quit your job in this economy. As you hunt for a new gig, try folding projects and tasks that make you happy into your workday and indulging in much-needed you-time at home. Permission to marathon Catfish: granted.


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DON'T blindly do what you're good at.

"A lot of people will tell you to do what you're good at--like, if you're good at something, you should do that. And that's where a lot of people get stuck," says Sclamberg. That's not to say you should ignore your talents unconditionally, and obviously, if you love what you're good at, go for it.

But as Sclamberg points out, you might not like what you're good at, and that's totally OK. "We're all good at a lot of things, but that doesn't mean we should be doing them," she says. So if your natural proclivities don't align with a career path that excites you, remember that while aptitude is a wonderful thing, it's definitely not a mandate.

DON'T always follow common sense.

"A lot of people tell you to follow common sense--to be rational and logical and reasonable about the decisions you make in career and life. But that's, like, the worst advice you can get," Sclamberg says. She is wary of applying the pro-con list mentality to major life decisions, and says prizing your head over your gut in these situations "will absolve you of doing what you really want, and what's really right for you."

So, the next time you're confronted with a weighty choice, dare to get a little imaginative. Sclamerg says, "Sometimes you need to be irrational and illogical, and sometimes the stuff that seems to make no sense makes the most sense because it feels the most right." You could take this one very practical job with decent benefits, but you could also do some other totally risky, crazy thing you had barely even considered before. Which fits better? Is the crazy thing just crazy enough to work?

DON'T sacrifice everything now to get where you want to be.

Not every minute of every day at every job is going to be fun, and Sclamberg acknowledges that. "Sometimes at work, you have to take a job you don't want to get a job that's better. You might have to work your way up," she says.

Even so, she says complete and total misery at work will keep you from reaching the next level of achievement. She insists, "You can't sacrifice your happiness or your sleep or your sense of daily fulfillment and think you'll get what you want to get." If you're moping through business hours and burning the candle at both ends, "You'll burn out," Sclamberg says, "and you'll lose the sense of joy around your eventual goal." So, if your entry-level is making you feel kind of blech, try to to prioritize your needs--that means saying no sometimes--and insert happiness into your day wherever you can. "It can be something as little as eating your favorite lunch," Sclamberg says.

DON'T wait to sleep till you're dead.

You'll notice Sclamberg mentioned sleep in the previous tip, and that's because she means business about it. While most of us know we need to shoot for eight hours of shut-eye, we've all had crazy-eyed friends proclaim that they'll sleep after exams or a particularly stressful week at work. And sometimes it really does seem like it might be better to stay up one night in order to stress less the next day.

But Sclamberg holds that a full night's sleep every night is one of those things you really can't afford to skimp on. "It's so overdone, but true--you just have to get enough sleep," she says. "If you're not getting enough sleep, then you're not going to function at your best. And it's not one of those things you can compromise for a little while and then catch up on it and have it be OK." The takeaway: if it's past midnight right now, shut your laptop. We promise Glamour.com will still be here in the morning.

Taking these tips with a grain of salt, do you agree with Sclamberg's list of DOs-turned-DON'Ts? What's the worst career or life advice you've ever received? Let's talk in the comments!

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