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I’m going to preface this blog post by saying, I probably have written a top ten list or two in my day. But, for the most part, top ten lists can be pretty useless, even mine.

Top ten places to live for work. Top ten growth jobs. Top ten interview mistakes.

Sure living in Hawaii and working as a nurse sounds great, but how realistic is it for most of you out there? And if you’re going to a job interview with smelly armpits and unbrushed hair there’s a good chance you’re not reading top ten lists.

No way around it, invariably most points on such lists are stretches or totally not applicable to most people. There’s just no one that can come up with a top ten list that would apply to everyone, and there’s a good chance that the last few nuggets of advice on any list are throwaways, especially coming from under-the-gun reporters and blog writers.

And just because someone writes “this is the top ten” of something doesn’t mean it’s so.

A good recent example was Working Mother magazine’s list of the top ten working-mom friendly companies. Turns out, all the firms were lacking in the women leaders department.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t read such lists. Even the Working Mother list provided a good rundown on programs some major employers have today.

There’s probably one or two words of wisdom on many lists. But you should not feel compelled to change your career strategies or goals because of them, or follow every point on a list like you would step-by-step instructions included with some Chinese toy you bought your kid or nephew for the holidays.

Lists of all sorts are rampant on social networking sites, especially Twitter.

I actually tweeted recently about my doubts concerning top ten lists:

i find myself pondering this/can all life’s problems be solved by a top ten list?

Most tweeters jumped in to agree with me. But @jaykeith had a very insightful tweet:

top ten lists are people’s way of making complicated things seem really simple, OR the other way around.

And one guy, #sitco98, offered me a top ten list of his own on why we have top ten lists at all:

10. most of us have had enough education to count to ten
9. the attention span in our ADD world is about.. oh look a butterfly
8. no one reads more than the first ten lines of an email
7. butterflies are pretty to look at
6. were we making a top ten list about something?
5. it’s worked so well for David Letterman
4. if ten is too many reasons, we can always buy the cliff notes
3. it’s not particularly clever sounding to say the top eleven reasons
2. I know there were butterflies around here somewhere
1. have you paid much attention to our society of 140 character bloggers

Tune in next week when I offer a rundown of the top ten reasons I want to take the week of Thanksgiving off.

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