The Top Four Career Lies

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There are many “facts” about finding a job that people – typically those lucky people who haven't actually had to find a job in over a decade – repeat to job seekers in an attempt to help them get ahead that simply aren't true. Some of these things might have been true at some point in the past, but most of them are sheer fabrication.


I'm not saying that the people who say these things are liars – far from it actually. I think that they too have been deceived and honestly believe these little gems because someone told it to them.


So, what are these job search lies? Here are the four biggest:


Self-made” people exist. Here in America, we are constantly hearing stories about so-called “self-made” men. The ones who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and became successful. For some reason, this idealized person who came from the most humble of beginnings and without any outside help, earned millions, has become an icon that we should all look up to. Of course, this person simply doesn't exist. No one can rise above their circumstance without some help. This is especially important to remember when you are out of work and trying hard to better your situation. The “self-made” person couldn't have gotten to where they are without the help of many, many people. What about the teachers and librarians that helped him get through high school? What about the police department that made sure that his town wasn't overrun by crime? How about the people that gave him his first job and taught him valuable skills? You see, no one person is an island. We all need help from time to time and it's the bonds we build and the relationships we create that help us to be successful.


Hard work and skills will always be rewarded. We'd all like to think that all it takes to make it in this world is hard work and the right skills. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. Look at the difference between the salaries of the CEO of a large company and the person who cleans their office at night. Both work hard, but their compensations are extremely different. It's important to know that just working hard isn't enough. However, you can decide what you want to achieve – flexibility, happiness, money, power or influence – and work toward that.  The point is that just working hard isn't enough. You have to know what you want and them decide what you're willing to do to get it.


Money brings happiness. This is one of the most harmful lies of all. Success and money don't make people happy. I know that it sounds crazy, but there is a lot of research to prove this. Just ask the wealthy. Being happy is simple – in fact it's so simple that we often overlook it. You can be happy just by deciding to look for reasons to smile. If you want to be happy, focus on building happiness and look for ways to be successful doing what you love. Don't use monetary gain as a primary motivation.


Achievement will bring you success. This particular lie is sort of true. Achievement matters, and it's an important part of being successful. That being said, achieving something isn't nearly as important as most of us think. What really helps to boost success is who you know and what they think of you. Building lasting connections with people who are successful is that best way to become successful yourself.


Hopefully, these lies will help you see that instead of beating yourself up for not being strong enough to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or for being too lazy to find a great job, you should concentrate on networking with others and reaching out to your family and friends. We are all connected and no one gets to where they are without the help of those who care about them.


Have you heard any of these lies? What other lies have you heard? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Image Source David Castillo Dominici /


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks, Barbara. I appreciate the feedback!
  • Barbara R
    Barbara R
    I found this to be very helpful and true
  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for the great discussion here. @Debrah, exactly, networking is a great skill and it can get you so much further than hard work and talent on their own. Knowing the right people and having friends in the right places isn't required, but it sure can help!@Ted, some of what you said is very true. Working hard can pay off. It's an important skill and for most of us, having a good work ethic is just part of what makes us great employees. That being said, not everyone who makes a big salary or who has a great job works hard or has valuable skills. I think we all know someone who is great at what they do, but for some reason, they just can't get ahead. Maybe they lost their job after 25 years and can't find another. Their lack of success has nothing to do with their work ethic or skill level. And we all know someone who tries to do as little work as possible, but they still keep their job. Maybe their father owns the company or they are good at sucking up to the boss. Whatever the case, their hard work and skill level doesn't have much to do with their job security. My point was that just because you are good at what you do doesn't mean you'll be successful and not having a job doesn't mean you're a loser. You have to know what you want, and then work toward achieving it. The guy that does nothing because his dad owns the company is working toward what he wants, which is having more time to do nothing. Someone who takes a lower paying job in order to have more free time to devote to their family or to a hobby isn't less successful, they are just working toward their goal, which is having more time for non-work things. Some people work long hours and will do cut-throat things in order to get promoted into a higher paying job, because their goal is to make more money. So, my point is that hard work on it's own doesn't always mean big rewards.
  • Jackie C
    Jackie C
    I too lost a job after eight years in state government along with my whole department.  So much for the time I put in there for job experience.  TN is getting rid of all mid aged people and hiring probably vets and college students with loans (like you could pay anything but regular bills with their salary).  Internet web sites are continuously sending out the same job openings like they were new jobs.  Have not heard from the first site about an interview date yet.  By the way, I see why some of you don't have jobs because you can not spell correctly.  I can spell and no one has offered me the first interview because of my age 59 1/2 even though I work out and eat the right foods to keep healthy in order to keep my weight down to a respectable level.  College is good for stress and weight gain in this county!  Who has time to study and work out unless they go to college in their twenties. There is the answer to the obesity problem in this country.  All students need gym classes to work off calories and stress!!!!!!!
  • Glenn W
    Glenn W
    I think these "truths" are accurate.  None of these have ever applied to my work circumstances
  • Debrah S
    Debrah S
    The points made in this article are generally true.  However, when one is socially uncomfortable around others, it makes Networking difficult, to impossible and therefore one's career can become impossibly handicapped.
  • Ted G
    Ted G
    Ok. Here are the facts: The private sector pay scale is based upon supply and demand just like the products that are sold in it. If the demand is high for a particular skill and the supply of employees who are able to perform that particular job is low, the pay will be much higher than a job that can be filled by someone with little or no skills. Hard work is rewarded don't let anyone fool you. You have to learn to sell yourself to an employer and highlight your past experiences that have made a difference in the job you previously held. Every employer basically wants to know one thing about you: Why should they hire you? Meaning what do you bring to the table that will make a difference in the bottom line of the company? Education is important, but all of us have access to education in this country. It's what you do above and beyond everyone else that matters. It also matters how you get along with others.
  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for the comments. @Sean, I agree that it's better to have enough money to live comfortably than struggle to survive. Of course it is. the point I was trying to make is that just having the money won't make you happy. You can be happy, even when you're poor. If you want to be happy, then be happy. @jonathan, what you've accomplished is phenomenal. Congrats on all of your success. You are a great example of determination in practice. Still, I don't think you did it by yourself. To say so would be completely forgetting the contributions of a guidance counselor or admissions agent that helped you decide on a college and a major. The student loans and financial aid that allowed you to afford the tuition. Your wife who probably gave you tons of moral support and more. Maybe your boss, who paid you $7.50 allowed you to have flexible hours to complete your studies, making it possible for you to have a job while getting your education. Also, your parents probably helped you get where you are. Even if you don't think they were good parents, they put you in school and gave you the opportunity to get a high school diploma. Also, lawmakers that made it illegal for your parents to put you to work in a coal mine or factory at age 8. My point was that it takes help to get anywhere. Once we accept that fact, we can be grateful and look for ways to help others be successful as well. It was never my intention to say that people can't achieve great things by being determined and working hard. We all deserve credit for having achieved what we have. My intention was to point out how we are all connected. Many of those self-made people will be the first to tell you that they didn't do it by themselves.
  • Leonor S
    Leonor S
    Nowadays, "Get your degree and you could go anywhere" could be a lie, don't believe it,unless you know someone who really knows of your skills or just know you personally, who can give you that "go pass" into the workforce. Some college promise you 90% job placement, be careful of that, too, another lie.  
  • H. L. W
    H. L. W
    I whole-heartedly agree with your statement about "self-'made". Of course they had help or caught a break somewhere along the way. Universal or all inclusive  statements like "hard work will always be rewarded", leave room for the opposing argument. We know or at least we should know that the degree of recognition or reward is subjective to the perception of the individual giving the reward.Which is a pretty good segue into my comment about happiness and success, these are two of the most subjective topics we could bring up.Happiness is that subjective level of personal satisfaction when applied to one's emotional well-being.Success, on the other hand, is that subjective, double-edged level of satisfaction as viewed by the achiever, from the inside, and by the rest of the world, on the outside.In closing, I'd like to offer this axiom - Character is who you are.   Reputation is who others think you are,
  • Sheila S
    Sheila S
    Could only have been written by a true Democrat.
  • Jacqueline R
    Jacqueline R
    This is the most realistic article that I have read in years....Obviously there are some responding that have not had the potholes that some of have had and that's ok.  But for those of us who have gone back to school, that are single mothers and have student loans and no job title to match, thanks for putting this information out there.  For me just to know that I am not alone in this struggle is just liberating.I went back to school to get an MBA 2009  after getting laid off from a plant job of 10 years  raising 2 teeenagers on my own.  so in that situation where I dI had to take any job to pay the bills.  I did get a severance and thought I'll get another job no problem.  Well this was in 04 when the bottom fell out of the economy and I have been working temp job after temp job after contract employment every since.  I am fortunate to be working at all...really...Right now I am working on an appointment, whatever that means? so far its been 3 years and I have my fingers crossed as I apply for everything in my field which is HR...over 200 applications in all with this employer and 2 interviews with no job yet.  Seems the issue is while a couple of my "temp jobs" were in HR.  That was 3 years ago, so while I do have the edcuation in HR, noone want to talk to me because I have been out of it for 3 years and I guess I'm rusty or something. I continue to try and I encourage others to do the same.  Thanks again for the article.  It obviously is not for everybody, but for me, it hit the mark.
  • Mark B
    Mark B
    You are very wise for a "self-made" person - lol; great article.
  • Donald K
    Donald K
    Finally someone writes the truth.
  •  Sean S
    Sean S
    I agree with most of your points, except the one about  money and happiness. While money isn't the end all, be all, trying to get by without sufficient money is a lousy way to live. Another job search lie: No discriimination according to age, etc. Try being 57 and older and applying for work, especially professional level work. No doubt you're looking for work because you have been "downsized" (read that as age discrimination) by yoyur last employer in favor of some less skilled 30-something. But bring up the subject of age discrimination and all you get is denial. It's real and me and my age group are living it.
  • Jonathan C M
    Jonathan C M
    Most of those are not lies.  Take it from someone who made 7.50 an hour married and put themselves through college on the president and deans list every semester. In this country if man wants to be something we will give him every oppurtunity necessary but don't believe the lies that anyone was given an education you work your ass off for it. The difference between the CEO and the cleaning is bull it is fair and I am speaking from personall experience I was the 7.50 now I am an engineer and besides goverment assistance no help from the outside on top of that I did it with a wife at home to support too. So from someone who has been there if u don't want to clean offices you want your name on them pull your boot straps on real tight buckle down and reach with all your might for the stats that is the only way you are going to get there
  • Eliezer M
    Eliezer M
    We are all self made. Only the successful are willing to admit it.
  • Sean K
    Sean K
    #1 is untrue. There are inventive, self-made people who exist. We don't need more of the Obama mantra that we need government taking from the rich to redistribute to their lackeys.#2 is false. In the argument, the author has conveniently ignored SKILLS.#3 another falsehood in Western countries. While true that people in less developed countries might be happier, once folks are exposed to wealth, they're happier for it.#4-a bit vague. Isn't success an achievement? Isn't an MBA or degree in Pharmacy and achievement? Isn't holding patents an achievement.
  • DJ M
    DJ M
    Re: Self Made Person -If what you write is true, then everyone who came up from challenging beginnings should be a millionaire, or at least very successful. You  dismiss any individual credit for perseverance. Of course we all live in society and are impacted by and impact the lives of others. But how do some people excel when we all are helped by others?
  • yohann s
    yohann s
    great thinking but still no answer to real success.
  • Alan C
    Alan C
    Seriously.  Only just that it took the CEO twenyfive years to learn his job, and thejanitor three weeks
  • Martin T.
    Martin T.
    This article is great if you want to sit around and feel sorry for yourself about why you are unemployed and can't find a job.  All this article does is verify your excuses for why everyone else is successful and you are not.  #1.  True, self made people did have help from teachers, firefighters, etc.  but didn't everyone else in that class, community etc.  To say that they aren't self made because they received help from others is ridiculous and short sighted.  If that were truly the case shouldn't everyone be successful.  And how do you explain the people that are successful in spite of poor teachers, unsafe communities and lack of guidance and direction.  #2  Here's a better idea, be lazy, do the minimum, don't give any extra effort and see if that gets you ahead.  To say hard work is not rewarded is such an incorrect that statement that its almost humorous.  I've worked hard my whole life and although it was not always rewarded, when it was, it was the collection of my hard work, not a single incidence of it.  #3  Yes, money will not bring you happiness but affords you the luxury of being able to do the things that do make you happy.  i.e.  Give your time/money to the local food shelter, fly home to see your aging parents, grandparents, buy a friend or relative who is struggling a new couch or give them a place to stay for awhile, take your wife on a relaxing vacation as a reward for keeping a wonderful home and doing a wonderful job raising your family.  Try being happy when your broke. I suppose its a little easier when you have government assistance and you don't have to work to pay rent, buy food, or pay for a cell phone.  I suppose sitting around all day watching reruns of the Jerry Springer Show or Judge Judy provides happiness, but not the kind I want. #4  Achievement and success are synonymous, aren't they?  If my son achieves a 100% on a spelling or math test, isn't he successful?  If I achieve a raise or promotion at work, aren't I successful?  If my son tells me randomly that he loves me and we are best friends, am I not successful and haven't I achieved a great relationship with him?  Striving to achieve is what makes us successful.  Reading this article and buying into the belief that what you achieve is not as important as who you know will only get you exactly where you are right now.  Your achievements are what get you recognized by the people that will help you be successful.  (I can give you over a dozen personal experiences I have of this, if you care to hear them).  Again, if you don't agree, sit around and try to convince someone that they should give you a job because you went out of your way to shake their hand regardless of the fact that you didn't achieve anything.  In closing I will say this:  To Sandy S. the woman who commented that she is now begging for a job at a fast food chain I say, don't beg, tell them with humility why you are more than qualified for the job, how your experiences translate to you being the best employee they will ever have and then gladly take the job when it is offered.  In 6 months you will be the manager and in 2 years you will be the district manager and making plenty of money.  And why, because you are self made, you worked hard and you achieved many things that made you successful.  Or you can all sit around and feel sorry about how you can't find work that is up to your qualifications because you don't know the right people, don't believe you should work hard, and don't try to achieve anything.  While your doing that I'll be out there pulling up my bootstraps, getting my hands dirty, achieving things, and meet people that can guide me or provide opportunities for me to be successful.  Try to keep up.
  • Ariana B
    Ariana B
    well said.
  • M. Joseph W
    M. Joseph W
    Sound information. Most of my network has either retired or died and it looks as though I'll have to work until I can't  anymore.  When I call the few that are still around, their answer is that they're not in the loop any longer. Any information on re-establishing a network for "more mature" folks?
  • Michael H
    Michael H
    You're recycling this socialist bull by Obama and Elizabeth Warren on self-made people and you're wrong. Government is more an obstacle than a help to most people.

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