What's the worst career advice you've ever received?

Stressful entrepreneur sitting in the office chair with a laptop on the table and holding his head

Earlier this month, the Scottish government's online careers advice service became a source of hilarity after advising an academically gifted 13-year-old to take up a career as a chimney sweep.

The Fife teenager, who is top of her year-group at maths, was told by the My World of Work service to consider jobs as a chimney sweep, acupuncturist, bodyguard or hairdresser.

And she's not alone. It's worth remembering that some of the world's most successful people were given terrible career advice.

After his first audition, for example, Sidney Poitier was told by the casting director, "Why don't you stop wasting people's time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?" Poitier vowed to show him that he could make it, going on to win an Oscar and become one of the most well-regarded actors in the business.

Marilyn Monroe, meanwhile, was told by modelling agents that she should consider being a secretary instead.

And back in 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after just one performance telling him, "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck."

And rather more recently, Still Game star Ford Kiernan revealed how a careers teacher once recommended he become an egg packer.

"I was called to his office and he asked me what I wanted to do. I said 'I would like to be a cameraman for STV," Kiernan told Herald Scotland.

"He went 'ah, no, going by what's available just now, probably egg packing would be the thing you would be better at'."

However, things don't always turn out so well for everyone. A survey last year commissioned by Arden University found that one in ten British adults regrets basing study choices on poor career advice while at school.

Earlier this year, MPs called for more to be done, and that schools offering substandard careers advice should be downgraded in Ofsted inspections.

"Young people and their parents need the best possible and clear guidance to inform their choices and decisions," said Iain Wright, chair of the Business, Innovation, and Skills Committee.

"With the skills gap widening, it is essential that young people are well-informed about the experiences, qualifications and training they need to pursue their chosen careers and that the guidance they are given is grounded in accurate information about the jobs market."

Unfortunately, this massage hasn't always been getting through. We look at some real-life examples of terrible careers advice.

Avoid computers
"In the early 70s I decided to major in computer science. I was visiting a friend, and his mother asked: 'What are you studying?' I said computers, and she replied: 'That's a mistake, there's no future in computers.' Evidently she worked in old-school data processing and her company was having lots of layoffs." (Reddit)

Think laterally
"I was seeking advice from my graduate institution's career center about alternative careers that could make use of the skills associated with my history doctorate so I didn't have to begin again from scratch. Their suggested alternative? Captain of a nuclear submarine. Truly." (QuickBase)

Bring cake
"The worst career advice I received was to bring baked goods to all of my meetings to avoid losing the attention of my employees. I originally thought that this was a fantastic idea. However, one of my employees was allergic to an ingredient in the brownies, and an ambulance had to be called after they frantically stabbed an EpiPen into their thigh!" (Business Insider)

Put your (imaginary) family first
"I should find a job with flexible hours so that I can come home in time to take care of my kids and husband (I'm not even dating anyone)." (Reddit)

Do a job you hate
"'Just major in finance. It's kind of like maths, but easier.' The ensuing five years of soul-crushing corporate work was less than pleasant. (Careersrover)

Don't take a pay rise
"The worst advice I've received was to not take a raise in salary when approaching the next tax bracket because it would cost me a net loss considering the additional taxes. It came from my macroeconomics professor in college, and I failed the course." (Business Insider)

Don't wear trousers
"The worst advice I've received is that a skirt is the only acceptable fashion for a woman in business and that pants can ruin a young woman's career. Apparently Hillary didn't get the same memo." (Business Insider)

And finally...
"'Do what you love and the money will follow'. I did. It didn't." (Business Insider)


25 PHOTOS
The 25 top quotes about career success
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The 25 top quotes about career success
"Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: opportunity."
"Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do."
"Youngsters have got to stop thinking about becoming the next Zuckerberg. It's a trillion-to-one chance. What they need is mater and pater to say, 'Get a job, son."
"The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on."
"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default."
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
"You've got to love what you do to really make things happen."
"Don't think what's the cheapest way to do it or what's the fastest way to do it, think 'what's the most amazing way to do it?'"
"You cannot delegate entrepreneurship – if you are going to make mistakes make them yourself."
"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
"If you're an entrepreneur and want to start a business, start small. You can start a business on your own or just with a partner or assistant. It's only when you take on your first member of staff that you're more than likely to encounter other problems."
"The entrepreneurial instinct is in you. You can't learn it, you can't buy it, you can't put it in a bottle. It's just there and it comes out."
"Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude."
"If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on."
"If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped."
"Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential."
"Whoever decides to dedicate their life to politics knows that earning money isn't the top priority."
"I made my money without sector expertise, contacts or capital. I never had a USP, never had 'first mover advantage' or invented anything, and I didn't even do anything unique or that someone else couldn't have done. What I did have was a Yellow Pages and some determination – and that's all it takes."
"Everyone gets knocked back, no one rises smoothly to the top without hindrance. The ones who succeed are those who say, right, let's give it another go."
"Every day, you have to prove yourself and convince - move forward and challenge yourself. And doubt all the time."
"It is no good getting furious if you get stuck. What I do is keep thinking about the problem but work on something else. Sometimes it is years before I see the way forward. In the case of information loss and black holes, it was 29 years."
"My dad said to me, 'Work hard and be patient.' It was the best advice he ever gave me. You have to put the hours in."
"Behind every no entry sign there's a door."
"Women need to shift from thinking 'I'm not ready to do that' to thinking "I want to do that - and I'll learn by doing it."
"Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They're about to announce the lottery numbers."
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