How to Find Career Advice Worth Listening To
Recently, a friend came to me, asking for career advice. She was unhappy in her job and wanted my opinion on what to do. Should she express her frustration to her manager, look for another position or simply grin and bear it? I told her to talk to her boss to see if changes could be made to her job that would improve the situation and to start putting feelers out there in case things got worse.
Her request also got me thinking. When you need career advice, how do you know the guidance you receive is worthwhile? Who’s to say the person you approach actually knows what they’re talking about?
Here are some tips I think can help you make that determination — assuming you’re willing to take my advice, of course:
Consider who’s been in your shoes before. Whenever possible, identify someone who has the experience or knowledge to back up their recommendations. Should you join that hot new startup or take a job with an established firm? Talk to a person who’s worked for both types of companies.
It may take some effort to find the right person. That’s OK. Nothing says you have to limit your search to friends, family members or long-time acquaintances. Reach out to your network if you need help.
Help them help you. In order to provide informed advice, the person you approach needs to understand the full situation. In my friend’s case, she talked about her long-term career goals, the type of work environment she preferred, her relationships with current coworkers and even the character traits of her boss. She was open and forthcoming, and it helped me offer useful opinions.
Keep your emotions in check. You may not receive the advice you expected or hoped for. If that’s the case, don’t criticize your contact, become defensive or dismiss the person’s suggestions outright. Although you don’t have to act on the guidance you received, you should at least consider it. Step back if necessary so you can see things objectively.
Get a second opinion. It never hurts to have more than one person weigh in. So, if you can, solicit feedback from multiple sources. You’re likely to receive a range of perspectives, which will help you be more confident in your ultimate decision.
Take any advice with a grain of salt. Be cautious about blindly adhering to any advice you receive, no matter the source. That’s not to say anyone will purposely steer you in the wrong direction. But you are the only person intimately familiar with all the particulars of your situation — including your emotions and personality. The choice that someone else feels is best for you may not take every factor into account.
Say thanks. Whether or not you found a contact’s advice useful, thank the person for taking the time to listen and weigh in. Even better: Follow up once the situation has been resolved and let them know their efforts helped. Offer to return the favor if they are ever in need of counsel.
One last tip: Consider finding a mentor. In a survey by The Creative Group, executives were asked if they had ever received bad career advice and, if so, from whom. Respondents said their mentors had been the least likely to offer bum advice in the past.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?