Inconvenient Career Truths

20 Inconvenient Career Truths


This post was inspired by Charlie Gilkey’s genius article, “20 Inconvenient Business Truths.” I read it and realized, in career coaching, I share inconvenient truths with my clients on a regular basis. I know it’s sometimes hard to hear these things but, in the end, they make you stronger. Here are 20 inconvenient career truths you should know about and learn from:

  1. Almost everyone starts at the bottom. Regardless of what you think you deserve, you probably will, too.
  2. There are no “right” answers for finding career fulfillment. Every path is different; every destination unique.
  3. It’s not enough to be good at what you do. Talent and skill will only take you so far.
  4. Work is not separate from the rest of your life. Compartmentalization is a myth.
  5. Professional growth requires discomfort.
  6. If you’re unhappy with your career, it’s up to you to change it. No one else controls your situation.
  7. Almost every job has a trade off. You’ll probably never get everything you want in one place.
  8. Achieving long-term career goals requires sustained effort and deliberate action. It’s no accident or coincidence.
  9. Your career is about YOU.
  10. A successful job search should take anywhere from three to six months. It’s not something that happens overnight.
  11. If you hate your job, it probably won’t get better with time. Sticking around because you’re afraid will only dig you deeper into the rut.
  12. Just as any successful business owner has a business plan, every successful professional should have a career plan.
  13. Money may be the reason you have to work, but it’s not the true motivation. People who wake up with joy each day are working for entirely different reasons. Money is simply a byproduct.
  14. Bad career advice is everywhere. If it sounds too simple to be true, it probably is.
  15. If you find yourself job hopping and nothing ever satisfies you for any period of time, it’s time to look at yourself. Most likely, you’re part of the problem.
  16. Every company has that person who gets away with slacking off, takes all the credit, earns more than she deserves, etc. The good news is that she’s not your problem. Let it go.
  17. If you’re not willing to invest in your career, why would any company be willing to invest in you?
  18. Most people change careers 3-7 times in their lives. That doesn’t mean you will.
  19. Layoffs happen. You may get fired. You may be “forced out” for reasons beyond your control. You’ll survive, and you’ll be stronger for it.
  20. No one achieves career success alone. The most successful professionals nurture their networks, show support and give more than they expect to get.

Do you have any to add? Please share in the comments!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Chrissy Scivicque

Chrissy Scivicque is the founder of She's a certified career coach, corporate trainer, and public speaker.


  1. Re: #10 – I work in IT and have had around 12 jobs in my 32 year career(so far). Prior to 1999, it took 2 weeks to find a job. These days it takes a minmium of 3 months and a maximum up to 2 years.

  2. In my 25+ year tenure in career services, I have found that the aversion to delivering hard truths to clients is pervasive enough to appear to be a conspiracy. My most recent experience was sitting with a prospective MBA student who had not taken a math course since his sophomore year in high school! I told him that he would likely be unsuccessful in our quantitative sequence for which we recommend a pre-calc level of proficiency and he added that he hated math and numbers. He looked at me and said, “So, you’re saying that I can do those courses if I apply myself.” I responded, “No, I am saying that if you take those courses without having had a math course in over eight years, you will fail.” One of my advisors said, “Don’t you think that we should support their dreams without taking sides?” To which I said, “No. I think we should help them reality test their dreams without taking their tuition dollars.” Being a career counselor/advisor does not mean conspiring with clients/students who are making silly choices. I would rather be wrong when someone succeeds in the face of enormous odds, that be right and keep my mouth shut while they fail.”

    • I wholeheartedly agree with you, Darryl. Those who are highly motivated will work extra hard, going over math books, getting math tutoring, to prove you wrong, so if they do, you can both celebrate. It will be your advice, albeit negative, that prepared that student to go above and beyond to achieve. For the rest, they will either listen to reason, or try anyways and most likely fail. Those who fail will then realize the wisdom of your advise. This is something I see over and over again in chemistry. They need the math background to succeed in chemistry. It is vital. Chemistry is tough enough without adding to that the learning of the math skills needed to apply chemistry concepts.

  3. “6… No one else controls your situation.”

    Untrue. Your BOSS controls your situation. If that relationship is not a benefit to your career you need to exit, stage right (or left), ASAP. Be careful though moving around in the same company. Some bosses are meaner than a junk-yard dog and will continue to attempt to retard your progress.

    • “Me” – sounds like a non-management person who needs to reread the rest of the article.
      Your statement is contradictory… your boss controls it but you can exit…

  4. Sounds like Charlie knows what it takes to be happy and successful! Many of these truths have been experienced by those who have been out there for awhile. You can add one more: “Be good to the people you meet on the way up, because you may meet them again when you’re seeking new employment.”

  5. #10 needs to change. 3 to 6 months is much too long. It didn’t take that long for our parents to be hired in most cases. These days there is so much competition and distrust that the days of on the spot hires are long gone or at least extremely rare at best. This actually makes life quite miserable and makes most of us question our worth. Today’s hiring practices try to prevent the wasting of company’s time by not hiring based on trial and error. You have to jump a zillion hoops and many times the person “most qualified” gets canned three months later while the one most capable based on spirit not experience could have been the best fit.

  6. Thanks a lot for summarizing this. My input is “Do what you love to do everyday and you will never have to work another day in your life.”

  7. Bulding your career or finding a job is a lot like getting in shape: both require consistent application of some basic skills and behaviors. there is no “magic recipe”. Personal trainers are there to guide you with knowledge that makes it as “easy” as possible, but the client still needs to execute (lift the weights).

    As I read each one of through these I’d start to get angry and then a smile would creep across my face as the “so true” reality of each statement hit me.
    Those who are young should try to heed and practice these words of wisdom, and those of a more mature standing in life, accept them – you KNOW they are true ;-)

  9. “The longer you live, the more you will learn” and also is “The more you learn the longer you’ll live”

    Also: Take care what seed you plant, you’ll spoon a 100 times more.

    Also: Action is the objective and money and others are just some of the results.

  10. Outstanding article!

    Suggested rewrite of #9:
    Your career success is not about you, it is about how successful you made your employer and the people around you.

    • Hank,

      Not always. I developed and formalized the QC department at a former employer. Their quality went way up MTBF (mean time between failures)
      I saved and made them big bucks. I did such a good job they didn’t need me anymore.

  11. Yes > it does hurt to be successful at a job > sometimes > but it is not your APTITUDE at work that matters > you guessed it > it will be quite your ATTITUDE THAT WILL DETERMINE YOUR ALTITUDE > now or anytime later in the CAREER PATH !!! I for one would very much like to give an honest days work ; sleep well and BE AS PROACTIVE AND PRODUCTIVE AS POSSIBLE > WHATEVER THIS TAKES !!!


  12. #20-something:

    You have priorities in life. You either work to live, or live to work. Either your life (family, friends, interests) are your priority, and work is the means to support them, or vice versa… the two are mutually exclusive. But unless you are driven by raging ambition to claw your way to the top, you will not look back at the end of your life regretting you didn’t spend more time at the office.

  13. Amen! Number 11 is my favorite. I worked at 2 jobs that ate a piece of my soul every day.  I stuck with them because I needed the steady paycheck.  I look back at those days and shake my head.  Why did I stay?  What was I thinking?  Find a career that matters to you.  It will make all the difference in your life!

    • I was also in a job in which I did well, but in which I was not happy. Fortunately, it became a stepping stone, though, to bring me back onto the path leading to a very stimulating career. It taught me the skills to excel in what I now do, something I never thought I would be able to do. Although some jobs feel like a waste of our time and happiness, some good can come from it, whether in training or contacts made.

    • I started a new career after raising my children. I was very good at what I did, but one day I almost lost my life in an auto accident. I became depressed afterwards, and it took me a bit of time and mulling over to realize that the depression was caused by the fact that I had used this career to create a more financially secure future; it had enabled me to pay off car loans and the mortgage, and I was laying up money for a more comfortable retirement. Almost losing that future made me realize that my career did not feed into my passion, and that I had lost the last few years to invest in a future that was not guaranteed. I used that career as a stepping stone into something I enjoyed more, which ultimately lead me into my current career, one which I truly enjoy.

      • All of my compliments and admiration dmj: how you reacted to your depression and got where you are shows you are a special person.

    • One reason is personality or social intelligence. If you are not pleasant to be around and/or don’t know how to work and play well with other; no matter how talented you are, you are not the person others want to work with.
      Also, most jobs require you to work well as part of a team. Superstars can sometimes alienate others and actually decrease productivity as a whole. Watch the movie Miracle (hockey movie), a whole team of really good players, but no superstars.

  14. This is very good “stuff” – wisdom that will survive time.  Will be must read for my 18 year-old son.  In fact, I’m going to recommend that he prints it, saves it, and pulls it out at least once a year and reads it again. Thanks for sharing!

  15. I think everyone has fallen or has exemplified one of these “Career Truths” personally I know have. The goal I have learned is to accept we ate human and will make these mistakes but the key is to learn from them to prevent them from occurring over again

  16. Nicely Done Chrissy. I would add grow up and get perspective. If times are bad remember it is only a job and don’t let it consume you.

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