For many young people today, the most trusted source of career advice is their parents. Unfortunately, a lot of parents are giving a lot of misguided advice to their kids.

Today’s workplace is very different from the one baby boomers navigated. But often they don’t realize that, and think the “classic” advice still applies. It doesn’t. Here are the five worst pieces of advice that parents dole out.

Get a graduate degree
It used to be that people went to graduate school as a surefire way to achieve the American Dream. Today, graduate school generally makes young people less employable, not more employable.

For example, people who get a graduate degree in the humanities have little chance of getting a tenured teaching job.

And when it comes to an MBA, the value of the degree plummets if it’s not from a top school, even though the cost of the degree continues to skyrocket. So instead of opening doors for you, the degree in many ways forces you to settle for a job that pays well enough to pay back your student loans.

Law school results in one of the few graduate degrees that can make you more employable. Unfortunately, it makes you more employable in a profession in which people are unhappy. Law school rewards perfectionism, while law practice rewards good sales skills.

This dichotomy, combined with the reality that practicing law isn’t all that glamorous, means that law school should be something you do only if you’re driven to — it’s not the safety net indecisive career seekers wish it was.

Don’t job hop
The advice parents give about job hopping comes from the days when human resources people were in charge of job interviews, and hiring managers ruled the world. But today, job hopping is standard. Most people will have eight jobs before they turn 30, and that’s a good thing.

Young candidates these days have more power than interviewers because there’s a shortage of people to fill entry-level jobs. Unemployment among the college educated is less than 2 percent, young people routinely have more than one job offer, and 70 percent of hiring managers say they feel like they need to convince candidates to take their jobs. Clearly, this is a time when young people are in charge.

Job hoppers are bad for companies because high turnover is expensive, but switching jobs a lot is very good for employees. It builds skills faster, constructs a network more effectively, and helps you figure out what you like and what you don’t like. Most important, regularly switching jobs helps you maintain passion in your career — which, in the end, benefits companies as much as it benefits the passionate workers cycling through them.

Don’t ask about time off until you have the job
Everyone has a personal life that exists separately from their job. You can’t schedule your cousin’s bar mitzvah around a product launch, and you can’t clear your calendar before you take a new job.

So when you’re figuring out which job to take, be upfront about what sort of time you expect to be taking for yourself. If you want Tuesdays off for kickboxing class, then say so. If you have a vacation planned for two weeks after the proposed start date, then say that. Some jobs have unmovable start dates, and sometimes your personal life will preclude taking a job.
That’s OK. Why bother with the absurd job-interview song-and-dance where you pretend that your personal life doesn’t matter, and that only getting the job matters? You wouldn’t want to work for anyone who had that attitude, so why pretend to have it yourself?

Don’t have gaps in your résumé
It’s so common for people to take time off to explore after earning their degree that universities have people who specialize in helping students find after-college non-work/non-school learning opportunities. As long as you’re learning and growing — and not endangering your life — then gaps in your résumé are merely you finding another way to discover the world. In fact, you’ll be a better employee for that.

The people who don’t flounder at all after college and go straight into a career they stick with make up less than 12 percent of the population today. Research shows that they’re generally less creative in picking a path that’s right for them, and more willing to take paths someone else has established. But each of us needs different things from our work — we have to make our own paths, and we need breathing room to do that.

If there are no gaps in your résumé, it probably means you didn’t take any time in your life for reflecting. Sure, you can do your reflecting in the shower or during a boring meeting or on an invigorating run. But grand thinking requires grand amounts of time.

Often, we need to separate from everyday life in order to see possibilities far outside what we’re doing. So make gaps, and talk about them in job interviews like the learning experiences they are.

Earn enough money to pay rent and buy food
One of the smartest career choices you can make after graduation is to move back in with your parents. This isn’t possible for everyone, but those who can do it have a distinct advantage in their entrance into adult life. It’s why more than half of college graduates are choosing to move back home.

At present, entry-level jobs don’t pay enough to cover student loans, health insurance premiums, food, and rent in the kinds of cities young people like to live. Parents will say, “When I was a kid, everyone could pay their rent when they got their first job.”

That’s probably true, but since that time, real wages have fallen, school costs have outpaced inflation, and health care costs are astronomical for people who don’t get insurance through work — which is a large portion of fully employed young people.

Young people who need to support themselves without any help from family are necessarily limited in career choices — they have to have a job that pays well in order to live. That’s why 60 percent of graduating seniors move back in with their parents after college.

But the best way to figure out what you really love doing is to try things and worry about pay later, when you know what you like. Moving back in with your parents allows you to take a job purely because it’s a good opportunity for personal growth and self-knowledge.

Many baby boomers stayed in careers they didn’t like for 20 years. A good way to not repeat this in the next generation is to explore many careers before you choose one.


The people who don’t flounder at all after college or an online MBA and go straight into a career they stick with make up less than 12 percent of the population today.