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Alexandra Levit

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The Corporate Freshman: To Succeed Today, Forget the Old Business Myths

Posted: 09/28/11 07:28 PM ET

This is not your parents' business world. It's not even your older sister's business world. The recent recession has toppled and transformed our ideas about just about everything. Massive change is afoot and many of us are still reeling from the work-force bloodletting that began three years ago and the downfall of companies we thought we all respected.

I went in search of the 10 biggest myths of business success that people believe to be true even though they don't work for 98 percent of all truly successful people. The time to debunk these myths is now because they are more dangerous and less viable than ever given this post-recessionary climate of ethical scrutiny and intense competition. If adhering to these myths didn't get you places before, it really won't today, when employers want to hire people with Puritan work ethics, people who want to do their jobs well without rocking the boat too much and who are strong representatives of the organization's culture.

Putting on blinders is not an option and you can't afford to waste time. You must throw away these myths immediately and determine what will work in their place.

Myth #1: Overnight success is possible.
Most people persevere for a long time and experience several setbacks before achieving an objective definition of success. You'll be best served if you are able to move your dream forward a little bit at a time, and are able to cope when things temporarily go south.

Myth #2: Controversy will propel your career.
Being controversial usually generates attention for a little while, but people will probably not trust you in the long-term. Instead, work to incorporate the tried-and-true values of honesty and authenticity into your daily work life.

Myth #3: Employers want you to be yourself.

While employers value the unique set of skills and experiences you bring to the table, they expect you to tow the line with respect to company rules and conduct. You won't get away wearing ripped jeans to a client meeting because that's your personal style, and you must learn to be politically sensitive and diplomatic even if someone has wronged you.

Myth #4: Being good at your job trumps everything.

You can be the most talented employee your company has ever hired, but if your contributions aren't visible and people don't value what you do, it simply won't matter. So instead of slaving over your job, spend a little more time devising ways to promote the great work you're doing.

Myth #5: It's best to climb the ladder as fast as possible.
Getting promoted year after year requires a near-constant vigilance as well as a laser sharp focus on work -- often to the detriment of everything else in your life. Higher titles usually bring longer hours, heavier responsibilities, and more politicking with them.

Myth #6: You'll get more money because you've earned it.

The media is full of stories of people who rake up six figure salaries because they played their cards right. But what about the unsung millions who came to the table with the same hand? More often than not, compensation is about business realities, HR mandates, and office politics -- not performance.

Myth #7: The problem isn't you, it's the organization.
People job jump constantly because of this one, but the truth is, the same situations crop up in Corporate America over and over. Don't take yourself with you. Learn self-awareness and change your own thinking and behavior instead of waiting for the company to adapt to your needs.

Myth #8: You won't get laid off, you're too essential.

I often tell people that they should aim to be indispensable at their jobs. But today more than ever company loyalty is a thing of the past, and while consistently trying to add value to your organization is a good move, sometimes it isn't enough. You need to be able to recognize when you're on the chopping block and take active steps to prevent a bad outcome.

Myth #9: If only you could break out of Corporate America, everything would be perfect.

Running a business is harder than it looks, and entrepreneurship is not for everyone. In fact, most people are better off working for large companies and receiving substantial perks, like benefits, discounts, and contacts, which you don't want to live without.

Myth #10: Do what you love and the money will follow.

Just because you have a passion for a particular area doesn't mean you will automatically make money doing it. Some things are better off left as hobbies, but if you really think an income is possible, keep your day job and test the waters first.

Want to learn more about how you can protect your career from these myths? Check out Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success (Penguin/Berkley, October 2011).

 
 
 

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