Do not waste your time trying to impress people who do not care for you. Most of the career advice that you will hear comes from ancient times that, actually, never existed. Make a commitment to discard what makes little sense. It is time to reshape your strategy according to reality.
Pick up a pen and piece of paper and write down the names of unsuccessful persons you know. Chances are that your list will be quite long. Look at the names and ask yourself some hard questions. Recall their individual circumstances, assess their challenges, and question their excuses.
The fundamental misconception
Some men and women in your list will be intelligent and educated. From those, a few might deserve being recognized as brilliant. Others will be highly motivated and enthusiastic. How come that they are not progressing in life? The primary reason of their failure might be their belief in false ideas, such as overwork and career planning.
Let me put forward some controversial truths. These are the kind of statements that you might have heard before but that you were too quick to discard. Reality can be disrupting, but you will benefit from acknowledging facts as they are. You might want to sit down before you read further.
It is wise to recognise that some markets are actually closed to outsiders. Ignore the propaganda and examine the facts with a cool head. If you are trying to enter a market dominated by highly entrenched players, the undertaking might require too much effort to be worth it. People might preach openness and fairness to the gallery, while their actions show that outsiders are not welcome. Stay away from those markets. You have better things to do with your life.
Shiny things that don't mean a thing
You should also beware of seemingly attractive professions that actually offer little opportunity. College counsellors usually possess good statistics about the employment market. On that basis, they can tell students about the earnings that they can expect on their initial job should they choose, for instance, to become embalmers.
The problem with this sort of advice lies in its short-term focus. Instead, go and talk to someone who works in your field of interest and ask how fast people can move upwards from their initial position. If the answer is unconvincing, stay away. There are plenty of professions whose markets are growing. Why on earth would you want to enlist in a losing legion?
A recipe for the next twenty years
It is also highly advisable that you steer away from careers that are heavily dependent on a particular local market. National economies and international trade are likely to transform the face of our cities in the next twenty years.
Currencies fluctuate and importers might become exporters. Present territories of immigration might give rise to waves of emigration. Things are going to change massively in the next decades and nobody is quite sure how cards will be reshuffled. In this environment, thinking locally might bury your professional chances. Spread your risks and boost your career. Learn a foreign language and stay mobile.
Advertisements for jobs and training programmes always fail to tell you the ultimate truth: nobody cares about your career as much as yourself. Those who cheer you up with motivational talk frequently turn out to be exploitative. When it comes to your professional future, as for everything else, you will be much better off if you remain sceptic and think for yourself.
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living
[Image by Luca Esposti under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]