As working adults, we spent most of our lifetime building a career hoping it would be successful. A successful career is a journey that spans across various stages of our lives — being the fresh graduate from university; getting fired from a job; moving on to a new full-time job, or even starting a new business. Since career navigation plays a huge role in our life, it is important to understand and be educated in the facts and myths that revolve around the meaning of what makes a successful career.

Some of us may have been advised by our elders or seniors, who had held deep connection to some conventional success formula that had made them who they are today. Many of these age-old wisdom were, I supposed, passed down from one generation to the next.

For example, the idea of a successful life, to our elders, was that we should strive to obtain a college degree, get employed as a professional working full-time in an air-conditioned office, and be regularly paid the amount of salary that doesn’t quite change. Perhaps back then, it did work for our elders.

However, times have changed. More individuals are beginning to learn relevant skills on the Internet, which can also be applied in their own unique way, either for individuals to stay employable, or for those who chose to monetise themselves online. Already, there are countless of individuals who have built a successful career even without a college degree.

As such, here are 5 common myths most people believe about building a successful career:

Myth #1: Follow The Money

“Passion is not necessary. Follow the money. So, take up a course that brings you to where the money is. Even if you don’t like the course, you have to force yourself to like it.”

Back in the 2000s, I used to be told that getting a specialised qualification in IT (Information Technology) and Engineering was the passport that could bring me to a brighter prospect in my career. I did Engineering for my tertiary education at a local polytechnic, but I did not do well.

The reason?

The subject did not interest me. I forced myself to like it, but still, I simply couldn’t. My happiness was compromised and this gave me additional stress at school. I realised that when I did not have passion for what I was pursuing (whether in school or in my career), I would not succeed. That’s just me. I need passion to keep myself motivated.

My learning point here is this: You can maximise your talents and interests simply by allowing your passion and motivation to spur you on in life. Your passion will push you and drive you all the way, beyond all limits, to market and prove yourself. When you get your passion right and position yourself well, the money will come in.

On the contrary, following the money may not get you into a career that is right for you. By being in a career that does not fit you can cause a lot of mental and emotional stress, which can further jeopardise your career and personal wellbeing.

So, find a balance between your passion and career. Don’t waste time doing something that isn’t aligned with who you are, what you believe in, or what you love doing.

Myth #2: It Is Not What You Know, It Is Who You Know

“You will not be using what you’ve learnt after you graduate. At work, it is no longer what you know that brings you to the top, it is rather who you know that matters.”

Success in your career is not a one-directional vertical process, but a life-long one that involves selecting career goals that align well with your interests and values, and also enable you to develop your abilities to the fullest potential. It is more of how you empower yourself and perceive your achievements in the process, rather than simply ascending to the top of the ladder. That’s just missing the point.

It is not who you know. It is who knows you and what they know about you that matters. If you want to succeed, show up, volunteer your time, be visible, talk to people in other industries, move out of your comfort zone, and be proactive in associating yourself with people who are successful, with proper time management of course.

Actively search for mentors, and get feedback from them. Those are gems that will take you steps higher. Sure, they may seem intimidating in some ways, but hey, they are humans just like you and I. I believe what gave them that “intimidating x-factor” was the confidence that was added to them after tons of failed experiences.

The only thing that keeps you from succeeding in life are the so-called friends who tell you that you will never make it in life. That said, if you want to change your life, you need to first change your social circle.

Myth #3: Just Do Your Job, Get Paid, and Go Home

“Just do what you are suppose to do in your job. Make sure that the boss is pleased about your work, then get the paycheck and go home. As for the rest, don’t bother. No news is good news.”

Does this statement sounds familiar to you? Perhaps your folks might have said this to you before you graduate from college.

While it is essential to build a good working relationship with your boss and develop a good work ethic, doing these are not always sufficient to earn you your deserved career opportunities at work.

Do your best to build a positive relationship with your superior, yet at the same time, develop relationships with others (i.e. managers, coworkers, and vendors) within and outside your department so that you can increase your likelihood of getting noticed when career opportunities become available.

Myth #4: Don’t Give Free Service

“Never do things for free.”

It does seem reasonable to us that we should get paid doing certain tasks at work. However, consider this mindset that you are doing someone a big favour instead. Would this be a gateway for you then, to leverage on the relationship that you are building with the one you are providing your services to?

If you are at the age that allows you the time to explore your demands and work on what you can contribute, cherish it. Building rapport with the right person who might be the bridge that connects you to the career of your dream is important.

In order to build the rapport — whether it is with a client, or a partner, or a boss, it is advisable for you to first offer your service for free (or as a favour), should you ever be involved in contributing to whatever project the said person requested.

Think of it as giving out free samples to your customers, and if they’re keen, they will buy your product. In this case, YOU are your own product!

Testimonies are the way to go if you want to develop your own credibility.

Myth #5: Others Must Like Me First

“I care about how my coworkers and bosses think about me because if I am liked, I will be promoted!”

You can never please everybody. That is the worst thing you can ever do for yourself.

While it may appear sensible for you to desire being on good terms with everyone in the office, including your boss, co-workers, juniors, and even your customers, this approach might be a little foolhardy and your efforts futile.

Do not waste your time getting caught in this people-pleasing mental trap that brings you nothing but disappointments along the way. It is more important to be aware of how different people interact with one another at work, and then adjust yourself accordingly to fit in.

Do not let yourself be crushed by the fact that you discovered a handful bunch who do not like you very much. This is perfectly normal!

Statistics say that 10% of all people won’t like us, so let’s enjoy the 90% who do and stop worrying about the 10% who don’t! — Joyce Meyer.

Make your decision, and do what it takes to get things done both efficiently and effectively at work. Studies have shown that people who think for themselves and take appropriate action become more confident and perform better at work, than those who constantly desire approval from others.

The rules of work are changing. Some of the career advice you have heard from your folks are no longer applicable in today’s context. The best strategy forward is to focus on who you are and your strengths.

Face your fears, because there will always be trials before you. Embrace mistakes and failures, because they are lessons that bring you closer to your career success.

Change your social circle if you find yourself in a midst of people who are whining about their plight yet choose to do nothing about it.

Find mentors and friends who bring out the best in you. Learn from them and their success.

Don’t be afraid to fail more as you learn.

Soon, you will get there!