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One Piece of Career Advice That Will Always Be True

career advice
Matt Hudgins
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Published on May 5, 2016

During your job or internship hunt, you will likely be exposed to hundreds of pieces of career advice. These often unsolicited little nuggets of information can sometimes be helpful but can also be misleading, inaccurate, contradictory and completely overwhelming.

Take resume tips for instance – what exactly are you supposed to believe? Remove personal information. Make it personal. Remove graphics. Let your creativity shine. Use bullet points. Use paragraphs. Keep it to one page. Don’t restrict yourself to pages of paper. Make it optimized for Applicant Tracking Systems. Make it optimized for your reader. Highlight the company. Highlight your position. Use an objective statement. Don’t use an objective statement. With all of these competing words of wisdom, it’s no wonder you have 80 versions of the same resume on your hard drive!

The good news is that there’s at least one piece of career advice that will always be true. OK, there are definitely a few others (don’t show up late for an interview, don’t forget to spell check your application, always write a thank-you note, etc.), but this one will actually help when you’re feeling overwhelmed with the job hunt. It helped me when my career counselor, Danielle Manning at the University of Puget Sound, shared it with me. So what’s this unicorn piece of career advice she shared with me? It’s simple: There’s an exception to every rule.
At face value, this advice might seem a little “no duh,” but if you really take it to heart, it will make the career hunt much more manageable and way less overwhelming.
Maybe you want to apply for a job that’s a little above your experience level, for instance, but were told once never to apply for something you don’t meet the minimum requirements for. While this advice generally holds true for most positions, there are certainly exceptions. Maybe you know someone on the hiring committee. Maybe you offer a unique skill that would give you a competitive edge over the other candidates. Maybe your military experience or graduate degree makes up for your lack of professional experience. Not every job description is written in stone. Some are wish lists, some are bare minimum expectations and some are even guesses from a hiring manager who’s never hired someone before.
Another example is with company culture. You’ve probably been told to always dress professionally for job interviews, but wearing slacks and a tie might actually be a turnoff to hiring managers at more casual and creative environments like design firms, but that doesn’t mean you should always wear jeans and tank tops when you interview at design firms (actually, please NEVER wear a tank top to an interview). Some businesses are formal, others are casual. The important thing is to match yourself to the culture of the company you’re applying for, but always do so in a respectful way. Similarly, some companies will appreciate a formal, traditional cover letter. Others will want to see your creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.
No two jobs or companies are the same, so why should you accept one-size-fits-all career advice? Advice from family and friends and resources like WayUp can be incredibly valuable as you search for the perfect job or internship, but remember that something you hear or read in one setting won’t always be true in other settings. There’s no one right way to get a job or develop your career, so don’t let hard-and-fast rules and requirements discourage you from applying the way that works best for you and your specific situation.
Matt Hudgins

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