Busting Work Myths

The working world is changing quickly, really quickly, and even though we spend a huge chunk of our lives working there are still many misconceptions about what work is, and what it means.

So, we’ve debunked some of the myths we hear about most frequently, from the role of salary in career decision-making, through to assumptions about what your career should look like. Read on to answer your own work-related questions.

7 Work Myths:

It’s only ‘work’ if you earn an income from it
Salary is the most important thing
What you know is more important that who you know
You’re not supposed to like your job
Everyone has to work
Once I get my dream job, I’ll be happy
I need to work out what I want to do when I grow up first


Myth #1 – It’s only ‘work’ if you earn an income from it


Yeah, no.

Sure, earning an income is a nice, easy way to ensure your needs are met (as long as your income is high enough to pay the bills), but income-producing work is just one type of work.

Many people perform activities that would be considered ‘work’, but which have no direct or visible links to producing an income.

For example, it’s considered normal to maintain a LinkedIn profile as part of your work-life. But LinkedIn or any other social platform is unlikely to produce income unless you are actively selling goods or services there. These platforms are used to build networks, and the hope is that one day those networks will offer a benefit in the form of a better role, or increased business – but this isn’t the same as a direct income-producing activity.

Another example is growing your own food. Provided the net cost to you is less than it would have been to buy the items from the shop, growing your own food can help you meet your basic needs and reduce your dependence on external income. So it’s work, and can be seen as such, but isn’t directly income-producing.

If you find yourself ranking the importance of your daily activities based on whether or not they produce an income, try to take another look. You may surprised to find that many of your needs are being met by activities you would normally consider not-work, and that much of your ‘work’ time is spent on non-income producing activities.


Myth #2 – Salary is the most important thing


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you can expect to spend a lot of your life at work. Huffpost broke down an average life into tasks and found that you’ll spend over 13 years of your life physically at work, and another year in unpaid overtime. To put it another way, if the average lifespan is just over 80 years, you’ll spend 50 of them in the workforce, and in total 13 of those 50 years physically in the workplace.

If you’re choosing a job solely based on how much you think you will earn, then you’re going to spend a loooooooong time doing something you’re not that interested in.

If you only think in terms of ‘what can I earn’ then you’re going about it the wrong way. For example, take the starting salary problem: many high school students focus on the ‘starting salary’ over other aspects of the role. The starting salary (or graduate salary) for a job is what you can expect to earn straight out of school or university.

Starting salaries in some industries can be higher than in others, for example dentists, doctors, and engineers can expect to be earning the big bucks straight out of uni, while other fields may take a while to reach higher levels.

Starting salaries can sometimes be deceptive – teachers have one of the highest paid starting salaries, but there is a strong salary ceiling and very few teachers manage to break past into the mega-earning territory. In contrast, someone with in-demand IT qualifications can walk out of university on a similar salary to a teacher, but within 10 years have doubled or tripled their salary.

Each industry has a range of jobs with a range of salaries, and while some industries are known for higher salaries and others for less financial benefit, you can find potential for high earnings in every industry.

What does all this mean? You have the potential to earn a decent income in any field.

And, we know you’re more likely to do well (and reach the higher levels) if you enjoy what you’re doing. Therefore, choosing a career path solely because of a higher potential starting salary is a bad idea.


Myth #3 – What you know is more important that who you know


At some point in your career, you’re going to need help. You’ll need a connection to help you start a conversation with a potential partner, or a supportive group you can bounce your ideas off. You’ll need references, and a reputation, and a network.

We live in a world where you’re unlikely to be doing exactly the same job in a few years’ time – which is a good thing, because if we stay the same then we’re going to get bored – in fact, research has shown you’ll probably change jobs every 3 years or so. In a competitive job market, having the inside information about new positions can help you walk straight from one job into another.

Why is this? Employers take a big risk each time they hire someone new – even the most rigorous selection process can only see so much about how a person will perform in a new job. Candidates who come with a personal connection, even if it’s just a reference from someone you know, are a much ‘safer bet’. They may not be the best candidate, but there is less risk involved in hiring them as they’re already a known quantity.

So, build your networks.

Choose groups and people who are relevant to the career you’re building, which will help you get the most out of your networking and ensure you don’t waste your time. Even if you’re still at school or university, start by finding local groups and competitions for students, and take a friend along to events if you’re feeling nervous.

The networks you build now could be your lifeline in years to come.


Myth #4 – You’re not supposed to like your job


As with anything, there will be good days and bad days at work. Sometimes you won’t get along with everyone, or you’ll be given the boring, repetitive tasks that you normally avoid. But by and large, you should be able to do something you find interesting, engaging and meaningful.

Regardless of what your parents or anyone else may say, having a prestigious job you hate isn’t a good thing. At the end of the day, you’re going to spend a lot of your life at work (see myth #2 for more) so you might as well find something you enjoy. It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering, but a career you find interesting and engaging is going to make life a whole lot more interesting.

If you hate your job and dread going then you need to work out why: do you really hate the job and all it stands for, or is it just that you dislike your current work environment?

As an example, if you’re a nurse and can’t stand the sight of blood, then you probably need to change careers. But if you’re a nurse who doesn’t get along with the Ward Manager, then ask to change wards, not careers.

There will always be times when we need to take a job that pays the bills, even if it’s not particularly engaging, but if you find yourself in that position there are still things you can do – check out this article for more ideas for falling in love (or just plain enjoying) your work.


Myth #5 – Everyone has to work


Actually, not everyone works – in fact, only two thirds of Australians actively participate in the workforce. Everyone else is too young, too old, or engaged in other activities such as caring for others. Some people are unable to participate in the workforce due to illness or injury, and some people are unable to find work that suits their needs.

Lots of these people may dip in and out of the workforce from time to time, and even if you work most of your adult life you may find yourself without work for periods. This is ok too.

For a long time people assumed that the only ‘right’ career was linear and unbroken, and went upwards in a continuous line, but we know now that very few people had the privilege of a career like this, and often it was at the expense of other people. Now, we know that it’s ok to have breaks in your career if you need, and that sometimes you may double back or even start again, depending on what you need.


Myth #6 – Once I get my dream job, I’ll be happy


Sorry to burst your bubble, but ‘dream jobs’ are more about attitude than reality.

Dreaming of a job that pays (your current idea of) a lot of money and has a prestigious corner office is all well and good, but pinning your hopes of happiness on this mythical job is likely to lead to disaster.

When you speak to someone who says they have their ‘dream job’, what they actually mean is that they find their job exciting, engaging, and meaningful, and that they love turning up to work each day. Sure, it helps if this dream job meets their income expectations, but they rarely mention the corner office because to them it’s just a perk; it’s not the reason why they love going to work.

Chasing money and status instead of purpose and challenge is likely to put you in a cycle of ‘if I can just earn $XXX, I’ll be happy’. Only, what happens is you get to $XXX and then you increase how much you spend to compensate, so you still want more.

When you were driving your Mum’s old Ford you were dreaming of a car with whole and complete paintwork, but now you’ve got your new car you’re thinking about the next model up.

So reset your career goals away from salary and prestige, back to purpose and engagement. Find a role you enjoy, where you have ownership over what you’re doing, and where you can be challenged. You may just find you end up with the corner office as well, because you’ll do so much better when you can’t wait to turn up on a Monday morning.


Myth #7 – I need to work out what I want to do when I grow up first


You would not believe how many adults say this.

The truth is that none of us have a crystal ball, and none of us can know what the jobs of the future will look like. We can’t predict the jobs we’ll need in five years’ time, so how can you know what job you’ll be doing in 30 years’ time?

If you’re waiting to work out your life’s purpose, then you may find things get easier if you switch your thinking.

Rather than asking ‘what do I want to do when I grow up’, ask yourself ‘what do I want to do next?’ Choose from the options in front of you based on their merits, not on their relation to your ‘dream career goal’. Letting go of the myth that you need to know what you want to do when you ‘grow up’ is liberating and powerful.


Do you believe in any of these myths?


Just because everyone says something doesn’t mean it’s true. If you find yourself falling prey to one of these or any other work-related myth, then ask yourself why.