I Advise With a Little Help From My Friends: Finding Career Advice in Pop Music

by Ellen Mehling, Career Development Consultant, METRO

I have been teaching job hunting and career development classes for years, and I am always looking for new ways to convey information and advice, to make it memorable for those I instruct and counsel.

When I hear certain lyrics from a particular song, I think of how some job hunters respond to advice and tips. That got me wondering whether there might be lyrics which could be used to convey recommended (or not recommended) advice on job hunting and career success. I found to my surprise that there are lots of them! In the tradition of “first, the bad news” I’ll start with those that are “don’ts’ or untrue/inaccurate, and next to each set of lyrics I’ll tell you why.



This is the first of a two-part series from Ellen Mehling, METRO's Career Development Consultant. Photo via @matthileo on Flickr 


I don't give a damn 'bout my bad reputation 
“Bad Reputation," Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

You must create your reputation deliberately (online and off) and guard it carefully. There are probably at most only a few degrees of separation between any two information professionals, especially within a certain geographical area, and if you become known as negative, demanding, dishonest, abusive, hard to get along with or otherwise unprofessional or difficult, you may find doors closed to you wherever you go.


Leave it all
Til’ somebody else
Lends you a hand
“Nowhere Man," The Beatles

Please please please
Let me let me let me
Get what I want... this time
“Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want," The Smiths 

Cryin' won't help you
Prayin' won't do you no good
“When the Levee Breaks," Led Zeppelin

It takes daily purposeful action and effort to find a job, and to establish a successful career. Wishing for it and waiting for something to happen are not going to work (not even for someone with a PhD like the Nowhere Man). Something else to keep in mind: others are much more likely to help you if they see you’re doing everything you can to help yourself.


I want you to want me
“I Want You To Want Me," Cheap Trick

Dear Sir or Madam
Will you read my book
It took me years to write
Will you take a look
“Paperback Writer," The Beatles

I really need this job.
… I need this job.
I've got to get this job
“I Hope I Get It” (from A Chorus Line), music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban

From now on . . .
I'll play it the company way,
Wherever the company puts me
There'll I'll stay.
(Whatever the company tells him
That he'll do.)
“The Company Way” (from How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying), music and lyrics by Frank Loesser

Desperation is unattractive and off-putting, to hiring managers, recruiters, and those who are in your network or could possibly be in your network.  If you believe you will not succeed, your belief will make that happen. You must be able to sell yourself and what you have to offer, with confidence.  

It is not a good idea to just “stay” wherever a certain employer (or anyone else) wants you to. Not only is that a strategy of desperation, it will lead to inertia and stagnation, which can lead to unemployment.  You need to be the driver of your career, not a passenger.


Trying to find gold in a 
Silver mine
Tryin' to drink whiskey
From a bottle of wine
“Honky Cat," Elton John

Make sure your networking efforts are effective: are you attending every single meeting/seminar/workshop, but having the same conversations with the same faces, complaining to each other about how hard it is to find a job? You need to take a step back periodically and evaluate what you’re doing, if it is working for you, and if you are likely to find what you seek in the places you’re looking for it and with your actions.


Nothing’s gonna change my world
“Across the Universe," The Beatles

I'm not aware of too many things
I know what I know
If you know what I mean
"What I Am," Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians

You must stay informed of new ideas, trends and technology, etc. in the field, and always be willing to adapt, to do something more or something different or learn something new. Sticking to what you’ve always done, even though it may no longer be working, and not adapting to a rapidly changing environment can lead to unemployment and worse: unemployability. You also must be able to convey to your boss or to a hiring manager or recruiter how you are keeping your skills and knowledge current.


All through the day
I me mine I me mine I me mine
“I Me Mine," The Beatles

What does it matter to ya
When you got a job to do
You gotta do it well
You gotta give the other fellow hell
“Live and Let Die," Paul McCartney and Wings

Regarding competition and networking: at first glance, thinking of yourself first might seem like good advice for a job hunter, especially as the job market is so competitive.  In terms of your career in the long term, though, you’ll benefit much more from helping others in your network than by looking out for yourself only.

In Part II, I’ll offer some lyrics that are do’s/true, some that covey both do’s and don’ts for a certain aspect of job hunting or career advice, and lyrics that pose questions.  And last but not least, the lyrics that gave me the idea for these articles.  If you can think of any lyrics that convey good (or not so good!) job hunting/career advice, comment on our Facebook page.