Perhaps it's just because the topic of career development and job search issues is often on my mind, but it seems that everywhere you look these days someone has advice for you on how to get the job, how to have a better career, or how to have better work-life balance. There are blogs, columns, and books galore. I love reading and learning more about this topic, and for a long time enthusiastically digested everything available. But as I've matured in my career, and had years of watching people succeed and fail in their job-related pursuits, it has become apparent that there is a lot of bad advice out there that folks are following to their own harm.
Recently I've had some instances of speaking to job-seekers who they tell me they are following some advice they read in so-and-so's column, or on the XYZ blog, and I am shocked at how useless the advice is. At best it is ineffective, and at worst it could be harming the job seekers reputation to engage in some of the fad practices advocated.
Because this is the Career Encouragement Blog, I won't disparage any career advice sources by name. However I do encourage you to think carefully about who you take career advice from. Some general guidelines to consider:
#1 - Seek career advice from people who are successful at what you want to do. Be careful taking advice from someone who's entire career has consisted of career advising unless you also want to be a career adviser. If you want to be a lobbyist one day, talk to and read advice by people who have had succesful careers in government relations. If you want to be a CPA, talk to people at accounting firms.
#2 - Seek advice from the people who hire the people that do what you want to do. Talk to recruiters and HR folks who fill the positions that you want to hold some day. Don't treat them as obstacles to your job search - rather, view them as collaborative colleagues who can give you the inside scoop. Check out the HR Manager's Blog and Ask a Manager's Blog to learn what folks in these positions are thinking about.
#3 - Seek career advice from people who seem genuine happy with what they do. These days there is a lot of sarcastic and snarky advice posted on the Internet. I often see postings that have a downright disrespectful tone - towards HR, towards management, towards business owners. Disrespect and sarcasm are not the building blocks of a good career. A woman that has given me a lot of terrific career advice over the years is in a completely different field than I am in. Yet she is able to share with me principles about navigating difficult situations with people, or facing tough challenges that I find useful in my work. Because she is so successful and contented with her own work, and because she respects the profession I am in, I welcome her advice and have learned a lot from her.
#4 - Seek advice from people who have been able to structure their work the way you would like to structure yours. If you want to work part-time, talk to and read stuff by people who have successful part-time arrangements. If you want to be an independent consultant, talk to people who are successful as independent consultants. It's always a good idea to listen to people who are in different situations than you are in to challenge your own thinking. However, be wary of taking career advice from someone who couldn't wait to "bail on corporate culture" to start their own gig when your own personal goal is to be a Corporate Director one day.
#5 - Seek advice from people who understand that there are many, many ways to have a successful career. Be wary of advisers who think "up" is the only direction a career should go, or who think everyone should be self-employed.
#6 - On the same note, seek advice from people who can see the good in what you have already done, and who will help you build on that foundation. I am particularly wary of career advice that suggests in order to find happiness or "follow your bliss" you have to chuck it all and go to school to be a ____ (fill in the blank with massage therapist, dog walker, teacher, etc.). Very often, most people just needs some refreshment and tweaking of their current path in order to find satisfaction and success again. I've talked to so many people who bailed on the corporate world in a misguided search for "passion" only to realize that the job they formerly held actually used their talents and offered a lot of rewards that they enjoyed - and now they are struggling to figure out a re-entry plan. Whole scale makeovers make for sassy book covers, but rarely make for sound career moves for most people.
#7 - Don't confuse a professional resume writer with a career adviser - there is a big difference. BTW - My personal bias as someone who does a lot of staffing: Write your own resume. Most savvy recruiters will know if you've outsourced it. You will interview better and ultimately you will have a more successful job search. This doesn't mean that you don't get help with presentation and editing, but don't outsource the entire job.
#8 - Don't confuse someone with savvy writing and self-promotion skills with a trained career counselor who can help you identify your own skills and talents, and create and navigate a path that will bring you fulfillment. The best career counselors I know are terrible at self-promotion but are really, really good with people.
#9 - Don't take advice from someone who knows it all! A good career coach should be able to point you to useful resources that broaden and extend the advice they are giving you.
Have you received good career advice in the past that paid off for you? Have you received bad career advice that you'd like to warn others about? Please leave a comment and encourage our readers!