Dumbest career advice you've ever heard?

I'll start - "if you are smart, hardworking, you will make it in this industry"

Having been in this industry for several years, I can tell you the number of people who falsely believe that all it takes is "smart" and "hardworking" to make it - usually, those people aren't really that smart or hardworking to being with - they may have gotten one okay-looking degree (never serial top achievers) and work long hours (but not smartly). Typically also come with lack of independent thinking and therefore only able to repeat catch-phrases that sound about right to them.

Most of the people I've met in my career who are dumb enough to believe it did not make it - phased out pretty quickly at / after associate level.

Curious to hear what other common dumb advices people give / believe in

Comments (25)

Jun 27, 2022 - 9:25am
GoingToBeAnMD, what's your opinion? Comment below:


I used to think this early in my career. And when I catch myself being loyal like that, I tell myself "at will employment". 

If you don't know what those three words mean, get familiar with them now. 

  • 4
  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jun 26, 2022 - 7:24pm

"All you need is confidence" / "fake it till you make it"

While you need confidence, I've personally never met a truly "fake it" type who made it (unless family is loaded). People don't understand that you better be good at something (be it analysis, modeling, selling, politics) to make it. If you are not exceptional at any of those....good luck...

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jun 26, 2022 - 7:26pm

Will also add another one - "your team should train you"

Reality is I never met a team (those I worked with / my friends worked with) that really train their junior professionals - you better first demonstrate that you are worth spending time on, then, people might tell you tidbits. 

Those who believe its their team/ senior's job to train them are just setting themselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations and victim mentality ("woe is me! how come they don't teach me")

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Jun 28, 2022 - 12:12pm

Learning this one the hard way a bit right now.  

Jun 28, 2022 - 11:26am
Steam, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Associate 1 in PE - LBOs

"All you need is confidence" / "fake it till you make it"

While you need confidence, I've personally never met a truly "fake it" type who made it (unless family is loaded). People don't understand that you better be good at something (be it analysis, modeling, selling, politics) to make it. If you are not exceptional at any of those....good luck...

These two statements are in direct conflict with each other. The former is specifically referencing that you "need" to be good at the confidence game which implies selling / politics if you aren't a savant at the analytical parts (or vice versa in some cases).

The statement was never meant to imply a total idiot with zero analytical, interpersonal, or other skills could really climb a corporate ladder if he just pretends. That's insane.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jun 26, 2022 - 7:39pm

was told by someone senior once not to network before getting an offer from a firm and then begin networking after getting the offer (edited for clarity)

Jun 26, 2022 - 9:16pm
Barney_Stinson, what's your opinion? Comment below:
  1. This one gets mentioned on here a ton. "Network mainly with Analysts first". When I decided to reach out to MDs or higher is when I was able to get the best results. High risk - high reward.
  1. I disagree with one of the above posters. Yes a lot of ppl are selfish but a lot of people do absolutely value loyalty. Maybe not to put you ahead of their own needs but loyalty is absolutely appreciated because that's how you build relationships. Could be wrong but I don't think I am and definitely hope I'm not wrong.
  1. "Don't get too personal in interviews - keep it simple and safe both in behavioral answers and in interests on your resume". This just makes a cookie cutter person. While there's a lot of those that get hired. It's easier to stand out by being unique and as long as you know how to act (EQ) you can do that in a positive way
  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jun 26, 2022 - 9:18pm

The greatest dumb piece of advice I've ever received is essentially the Boomer perspective on almost everything, to contextualize, people love to say that only those who are more experienced in the industry and have been working for several decades or 10 years+ or whatever, should be the ones you should be taking advice from, not the newbies who are just starting out. But the truth is that almost all of the worst advice I've ever received in terms of breaking in and being on the job are from out of touch senior people who just have no idea what the analyst or the junior experience is like, in general.

For example I once had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a multi-millionaire with his own boutique IB who had previously worked on the street and had a degree from Oxford, etc. and this person, while intelligent and sharp, among other things, gave me probably the most worthless advice ever. I'm from a non target, and he told me to get one of those HBS online degree type things to try to make myself more appealing to employers as well as telling me that at the junior level, the most important thing I can do is to act interested and be thoughtful, but to be patient with applying and to "network hard" but know that it isn't everything. while in practice, as a non-target all you DO have is your network.

Essentially I realized that the perpetuated myth of the wise, older more experienced career banker or MD or whatever is garbage because it gets lost in the practical reality that the person much closer to you (IB associate / PE associate) will just know more. This might seem like something logical to many but the way the professors and almost everyone in your professional path and immediate network phrase it, is that you should always listen to the more experienced people, despite the fact that those who are more experienced are simply out of touch.

Jun 27, 2022 - 7:20am
chromium73, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Beware of over specialization (something that is touted when you are young), a lot of people  including myself learn this the hard way when the markets and world change. 

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jun 27, 2022 - 8:08am

phased out pretty quickly at / after associate level.

These same people are also ones from ivy BB IB backgrounds, correct? 

  • Analyst 3+ in IB-M&A
Jun 27, 2022 - 8:59am

Very applicable to non-targets, but I was repeatedly told "your degree doesn't matter, just how smart/how hard you work." Of course there are exceptions and and a handful of kids who will land great roles every year, but the odds are stacked against you. Some people will simply not give you a chance when they see you went to some high admission flyover state school. It sucks, but that's just the way it is. I know lots of kids who were plenty smart and ground themselves down and still didn't get roles.

Jun 27, 2022 - 9:40am
anonguytoibd, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Going to echo that the worst advice I've gotten is from people who are much older. It's a function of being a bit out of touch due to age but also due to success. Their perspectives on certain topics are often rose colored due to survivorship bias and are generalized. And to be fair, it's not to say they don't have good advice but it usually won't be great for tactical, early career topics. Older people can have fantastic advice for specific topics that they are versed in and practice but you won't get that out of them unless you have their trust or they are very authentic. 

But back to specific bad advice. I was sitting with one of my dad's friends who had done more than well for himself as a REPE professional. I was 15 or 16 at the time and asked him the most general question in how I could do well in life. He told me that being a doctor or dentist could be great career choices and that he'd wish he had pursued one of those fields. Mind you this guy is worth $80M+ and spends lavishly and enjoys his life in ways he could never do as a non-entrepreneurial medical professional. Like dude I am actually asking how I can be like you and you are telling me to do some random shit that is hard to believe you would have done yourself given your current life position. These occurrences happened a few times over with different people and the lesson is to ask for more specific advice. You'll always get some BS answer to a broad question.

Jun 27, 2022 - 9:44am
TREBITDA, what's your opinion? Comment below:

"Investment banking is a great place to start your career"


  • VP in PE - LBOs
Jun 27, 2022 - 10:02am

I sort of agree with this one. I think the skills are not as transferable as I originally thought. I regret not spinning out into something else after associate years, but I wanted (and still do) to get a bit more financial security first. But once I do, not sure what exactly I would even go do. Corp dev? So the same job but without carry? PE CFO? Could work but also feels like I'd be a journeyman bouncing around every 5 years. And the odds of making it to CEO from that are…not high.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jun 27, 2022 - 6:55pm

>Investment banking is a great place to start your career

>>investment banking - coverage - 2nd year analyst

judge people by their actions, never their words

Jun 28, 2022 - 8:49am
ironman32, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'd said "follow your passion" is good advice, the problem is if you only take that one advice, it doesn't bode well. 

Meaning, say your passion is baking cakes. "Follow your passion" most would think is open a bakery. Now, you have to find a location, run staff, deal with customers, accounting, insurance, all the above, when all you really want to do is bake. So yes, you followed your passion, but was your passion spending 85% of your time running a business and 15% baking?

Jun 27, 2022 - 10:39am
IncomingIBDreject, what's your opinion? Comment below:

image 1This is the worst advice I've heard. There's no way you can practically "outwork" people who are brilliant and work 80 hours a week and even if you're in corporate strategy/corp dev it's still often 60-70 hours. There are so many people who work long hours and think that's enough but in reality the people who know how to develop connections with seniors and play the office game well + the super bright people are the ones who get promoted. If you aren't bright it's better to just be content, accept reality and remain as a middle manager than trying to burn the midnight oil for a promotion that will never come.

EDIT: source: https://quotefancy.com/quote/1454491/Bill-Veeck-If-you-can-t-outsmart-people-outwork-them


  • Analyst 3+ in IB-M&A
Jun 27, 2022 - 2:06pm

"Having a good brand name will look great on your resume" Terrible advice if it means not getting the relevant experience to lateral to what you want to do

"Companies value loyalty" Similar to the comments above. Absolute horseshit. From a firm's perspective, you are disposable and replaceable and they won't give you your desired position when there more qualified candidates with actual work experience. 

"Have patience, everything will work out in the end" Absolute BS. You need to seize life by the balls and take risks. No one will hand you your desired job/comp, you need to be go out and take it 

Jun 28, 2022 - 11:31am
Steam, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Jun 28, 2022 - 8:54am
ironman32, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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