Recently a friend’s boyfriend returned from his college career center and told me he’d received the following advice: It’s OK to lie on your resume to land the job.
Did you just do a spit take? So did this guy.
I’ve found that when it comes to how much time people spent in their respective college career centers, answers vary a lot. Some people were in there all the time, and others say, “Wait, we had one of those?” One thing’s for sure, though: While the people who work there have the potential to be super helpful, some have given their students some really outlandish advice over the years. (See above if you’re not sold on that.)
Knowing that my friend’s boyfriend wasn’t alone, I reached out to dozens of people to talk about ridiculous things career counselors told them back in college. Here are six of the most common and cringe-worthy ones around that you might still believe to be true.
Lie #1: Your Resume Can Have a Few Little Lies
Yes, I’m still stuck on this one. Sure, we’re all probably guilty of a little embellishment on our resumes. (That one-time, GIF-filled company holiday email that turned into “Created key company-wide communication materials”...)
However, this career counselor told the guy above it was OK to lie on his resume because it wasn’t a legally binding document. Yes, you heard that right: You can say whatever you want on your resume because an employer can’t sue you over it. I’d love to hear how that’s gone over with people who’ve tried it.
But really: Do not try this. If you feel the need to lie to get your foot in the door, you’re probably underqualified.
Lie #2: Cover Letters Should Always Be Formal
It seems obvious, but it’s worth repeating: Every field and company is different in terms of what the industry standard is for cover letters. Not only should your application be personalized for each position you apply to, but it should also be written to exemplify the culture of the particular organization and industry. While general templates can get you started, you shouldn’t fill in the various blanks and stop there.
Lie #3: An Internship Will Likely Turn Into a Full-Time Gig if You Play Your Cards Right
This is one I heard from many people I talked to. I understand career counselors want to fill people with hope, but unfortunately, this is far from a guarantee, or even a serious likelihood. In addition to the obvious fact that every company’s hiring needs (and budgets) are different, there are a ton of factors that affect whether or not any internship can turn into a job, including, but not limited to:
- Whether or not the intern actually does a good job
- Whether or not the company has the resources to hire when the intern’s looking to find full-time work
- Whether or not hiring that person is a good fit for what the company wants right now
While there are many benefits to taking a post-grad internship, it’s a big decision (with big financial repercussions) and therefore should not be taken lightly.
Lie #4: You Have to Follow a Specific Career Trajectory if You Want to Succeed
One friend, who now works as a digital copywriter, was told she had to get experience in print before working in digital copywriting because “that’s how it’s been done in the past.” Facepalm. Every person has an infinite number of possibilities for climbing the career ladder, so boxing people in isn’t doing them any favors.
Not to mention that changing careers isn’t only an options these days, but 100% achievable if you have the drive to make it happen. In 2016, there truly is no such thing as being stuck on one path because that’s what you majored in during college.
Lie #5: LinkedIn Is the Only Professional Place to Network Online
Nothing could be further from the truth! Between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and who knows how many niche-specific networking websites, there are so many other places to meet professionals.
While you should have a profile (and a good one at that), you should also take the time to find out where your industry hangs out. After all, you can’t meet the right people if you don’t know where they’re having conversations. Just remember: Even if it is in a more informal environment, it’s still not anything goes—so never post anything you wouldn’t want a future hiring manager to see.
Lie #6: Alumni Will Let You Take Shortcuts Because You Went to the Same School
A friend who works for a successful media company recently told me that he started getting an influx of random students from his alma mater asking about jobs at said publication—only to find out it was because a career counselor was promising them that he would “score them jobs.” Um, what?
While it’s true that many alumni like to help out students and recent grads, it’s pretty presumptuous to believe that someone will just throw jobs at anyone who says, “We went to the same school!” Instead, reach out with a short email that includes specific questions and be open-minded to what alumni can offer you. Oh, and keep the college name-dropping to a single line. Chances are most won’t be throwing full-time employment your way on the spot, but many will agree to meet for coffee or at least hop on a call, which can in turn lead to bigger opportunities.
The bottom line: Attending the same university can get your foot in the door where it might not have otherwise, but it won’t be the thing to get you all the way.
While some of these may have left you shocked, others may have you feeling silly because you’ve believed them for all these years. Don’t worry: We’ve all been there. I mean, who hasn’t taken advice for years, only to wake up one day and say, “Huh, what have I been thinking?” Rather than worrying that you’ve been doing it all wrong, focus instead on getting it right now.