Spectacularly bad career advice on LinkedIn

Posted on 02/04/2015 in misc

Earlier today I read an article on LinkedIn that was so spectacularly wrong that I simply couldn't let it pass without comment.

The title is How To Make More Than The CEO. Just from the title you can probably sense this is not going to go well.

It starts out wrong right from the first sentence.

We are raised to believe that education, hard work and climbing the corporate ladder will get us an ever increasing income.

No we aren't. We were, with the we being my generation and his generation. However, since the article is targeted to those just starting their business career, this is patently wrong. Kids today don't believe for a second that keeping their head down and climbing the corporate ladder is a viable career path. Their parents believed that when we were their age, and they saw what happened to our careers.

If someone in their early twenties came up to you looking for career advice and they shared that they are motivated primarily by money what advice would you give them?

Well, I'd tell them to work on their priorities. People primarily motivated by money gave us the housing crash and 2008 financial disaster. 20 years earlier they gave us the S&P crash. Gordon Gekko was not a positive role model.

Well ten years ago you may advise going to wall street or silicon valley. Today the get rich quick approach maybe building apps or social media sites.

I know countless app builders and social media mavens. They would laugh at this, if they weren't busy trying to figure out how to make rent this month. Building apps may hold the allure of quick riches, but it is a pipe dream. In fact, 25 app developers made 50% of all the app revenue available last year. Does that sound like good odds on getting rich quick to you?

The Brutal Truth is that the highest paid person not people in almost every company is a salesperson and not the CEO.

Median CEO makes $1.1 million salary and bonus

90th percentile "top" sales rep makes less than half of the median CEO salary

I don't care you massage those numbers, you can't make them say the highest paid person in almost every company is a sales rep. And even if there was exactly one sales rep in almost every company that makes more than the CEO, trying to be him is not a particularly viable career path. In fact it would have to have almost the same odds as becoming the CEO. The brutal truth is this guy is flat out wrong.

You can probably see where this is going. He then advises these theoretical kids to get a B-to-B sales job, any B-to-B sales job, and start in the Boiler Room if you have too. It doesn't matter if you don't like sales, that's where the money is. He makes his point by quoting John Dillinger, who only robbed two dozen banks and 4 police stations. In case you think I'm taking creative license here, I'll just copy and paste the whole paragraph.

First get into business-to-business (B2B) sales not business-to-consumer (B2C). You can start in the boiler room or inside sales team but if your willing to stretch, take feedback and work your butt off you will not be there long. The place you want to be is on the “outside” working with clients on large complex deals. I understand not everyone wants to sell or be in sales, it is not a glamorous lifestyle but it is where the money is. When John Dillinger was asked why he robbed banks he famously replied "Because that is where the money is".

He continues by advising Gordon Gekko Jr. to piss on the employer that gave him or her a start and find a employer that will reward your talent and ambition. But not just any employer, it needs to be a high margin business, specifically software, but not professional services, because those margins enable you to earn big commission checks. Apparently our "expert" author hasn't actually looked at the state of technology in the last 20 years. When a team of 3 in India can replicate your application in a week using open source software, maintaining your margin in the software business gets a little bit problematic. Meanwhile, if your a team with in-the-need expertise, you can name any margin you want. The selling partners at Accenture are making bank selling professional services. I have sold hardware, software, and services at various points in my career. Services has always been the highest margin sale. Always.

He goes on to offer some advice about choosing a company based on the market size. Again, it doesn't make a lot of sense. He says to avoid small companies because it takes them too long to close big deals, and avoid big companies because they have over saturated the market. The big company thing has an element of truth to it, except that selling for Google over the last few years was probably a pretty good gig. It's more about how a company innovates and adapts and brings new products and services to market. Google rolling out something new and expensive is a great place to be as a sales rep. And small companies can adapt and change instantly when they need to.

He wraps up advising to negotiate hard, since by following his advice you are at the top of the game and companies will bend over and give you whatever you want to bring you on board. Maybe, or maybe not. I agree that comp packages are more negotiable than many organizations project. However, I strongly disagree that following this guy's advice will get you there.

Never listen to anybody who advises you to do something you may hate, just because it pays really well. That road leads to divorce, drinking problems, depression, and general misery. But hey, at least you'll be able to afford therapy.

Is there any chance this is supposed to be satire?

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