If there's one thing I've realized about the professional world, it's that much of the career advice you get in high school is absolute bunk. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that much of the "useful career advice" you get from professionals is also pretty rotten.
Useful career advice is often never really spoken about among professionals, or may even be guarded like a coveted secret. Speaking as someone who is tired of bad career advice, I think that these little snippets need to see more airtime in the professional world.
Don't show loyalty to companies, because they won't show any to you.
Back in the past, companies were expected to be loyal to their workers. However, that's no longer the case. Layoffs happen all the time, companies often underpay their best workers, and the truth is that great people often get thrown under the bus in the name of greed or politics.
Simply put, the vast majority of companies these days do not and cannot show loyalty to their employees. As a result, the most useful career advice is to be loyal to yourself first, and not to put all your eggs in one basket.
Due to the mainstream corporate culture and the way businesses are structured, this career advice is often taboo to actually say — especially if you're discussing your career path with an HR department.
It really isn't what you know; it's who you know.
Sometimes, the most useful career advice also can be some of the harshest. This is one of those times.
Bigger names will often not hire total strangers, and the more competitive your industry is, the more you're expected to network your way to the top. As a result, your actual qualifications won't matter as much as who you know in your industry.
We all have heard about companies that were legitimately owned and run by a large group of family and friends. Yes, it's looked down on, but the truth is that that's the way things are in many industries. If you don't network, getting to the top will be a lot harder — if not downright impossible.
Don't burn bridges unless you want to drown.
This is another one of those pieces of seriously useful career advice that most professionals won't dare admit. However, behind closed doors, there are millions of stories that prove the importance of keeping connections positive.
We've all heard about a former coworker who asked to return to their jobs but were turned away after they were the worker from hell. We've all heard about a high school bully or even a former workplace bully that gets turned down from a job because their victim is now a manager there.
These things can and definitely do happen.
Sounds petty? It's really not; toxic people make toxic workplaces. At times, victims may be worried about having you hurt them again. Payback isn't just something you hear about in mobster movies, and at times, a burned bridge can wreck your career.
If you want really useful career advice, be civil to people and try to stay motivated at your job — even if it sucks. If you can't be civil with them, protect your assets and leave.
Just because there are anti-discrimination laws in place doesn't mean that you won't be judged and discriminated against for legal or "gray area" issues.
We live in a society with a lot of people who believe that we live in a post-discrimination society. Much of the useful career advice you'll hear from professionals will tell you to call a lawyer if you notice discrimination based on race, creed, sex, or orientation. This is good advice.
What most professionals won't tell you is that you can and will be judged by potential employers on other attributes, and that, at times, it can cost you a job.
In the past, companies have been known to reject applicants who had kids, had tattoos, had strange hair colors, or even weren't considered to be pretty enough for the job. Believe it or not, this is totally common and legal.
Sadly, you can and will be judged for being who you are. It's something you need to get used to.
Lastly, remember a career you hate cannot buy happiness.
This is the most useful career advice I ever received, and it was given to me while I was going through what I felt like hell. I was a major in a field I detested, surrounded by people who accused me of being a product of nepotism, and regularly found myself getting bullied, excluded, and taunted by my classmates.
Because my stupid ass expected to be happy once I got a job in the field I hated so much. I thought that being paid $100,000 a year would make me feel better about all the bullying, and as a result, I put myself through a program that was causing me to cry because I dreaded going back to school again.
It actually took a friend at a nightclub sitting me down as I cried and telling me that my career was not going to make me happy to make me realize I was building the bars to my own prison.
I dropped out a month later and chose a career that makes me feel rewarded — even during stressful times. I do my job better, I am more focused, and I also am more relaxed.
So, hopefully, this useful career advice will save others, too.