Before Accepting Career Advice, Ask Yourself This
Most people love to give advice. When a person gives advice, she postures herself above the other individual—she is, without quite saying it, asserting herself as more knowledgeable, more successful, and generally more advanced in the topic at hand. Sometimes, the advice giver is well within her rights to feel that way. When this is clearly someone respected in her industry who has done well for herself, you should feel lucky that she’s taking the time to advise you on your career. Maybe. You never quite know what her intentions really are. People can be cutthroat when it comes to their careers. The person who you believe would support you may step on you to get what she wants. They say career disputes aren’t personal, but you can’t help but feel that the way a person conducts herself in her job is somewhat reflective of the way she conducts herself in her personal life. With that in mind, here are questions to ask yourself before accepting career advice.
Is this person happy at work?
Never take career advice from somebody who is miserable at her job. You want to be happy in work, so you’re best off taking advice from someone who has managed to make moves that brought her contentment in her career. If this person b*tches about her job all of the time, she probably shouldn’t be your guiding light.
Is this individual successful?
Not to be judgmental or petty but, it’s a simple question: is this person successful or not? She doesn’t need to be at the top of her field but, has she made consistent and significant strides? That’s the person you should take advice from—not someone who has been stuck in the same place.
Is this person envious of me?
You have to ask yourself how this person feels about you. Is she vying for the same position as you? Are you a potential threat because you could take over her job one day? Are you advancing faster than she did, and it makes her feel insecure? Trust your instinct on this one.
Can this person be impulsive?
Has this individual proven to be steady and patient? Or has she proven to be impulsive? Does she burn bridges, reach too far, take things that aren’t hers, and generally jump the gun in a way that leaves her with absolutely nothing, because she tried to take too much, too fast? Be wary of taking advice from these individuals.
Is this person self-reflective?
Never take advice from someone who isn’t self-reflective. How is someone supposed to protect you from making mistakes if she’s never taken the time to reflect on her own?
Does this person work hard?
Take advice from hard workers. Take advice from smart workers too, of course, but definitely make sure that at some point they paid their dues. Don’t take advice from individuals who tend to look for shortcuts.
Do my peers respect this individual?
How do your peers feel about this person? How do her peers feel about her (if you don’t share the same peers). Does this person generally have a good standing in the professional community? If she has a certain reputation that isn’t great, it’s probably for a reason—even if you haven’t personally experienced that reason yet.
How much experience does she have?
Be realistic: how much advice can someone who’s only been at it one or two years longer than you give you? You probably once thought you knew so much more than someone one year behind you in your career. Now, a few years later, you realize how silly you were. Take advice from those much more advanced than you.
Would I want her as a reference?
Would you list this person as a reference? Would you trust her to speak your praises? Is she respected enough that someone would take her seriously as a reference?
Would I want her to list me as a reference?
Would you want this person to list you as a reference? Be real with yourself here: if it would embarrass you to have this person list you as a reference, then this probably isn’t someone from whom you should take career advice.
Could she be projecting?
Is it possible that this individual is projecting? Maybe she recently felt screwed over, so she’s giving you advice to be shrewd and selfish? Maybe she didn’t get an opportunity, so she’s telling you that you have to lie and cheat to get what you want?
Has she taken calculated risks?
Has this individual had the confidence to take calculated risks? Or, has his person often held herself back, fearing the worst would happen? Follow the bold—so long as they’re also intelligent.
Has she had job stability?
Make sure anyone who advises you has had some career stability. If this person can’t hold down a job for six months—or has completely switched career paths seven times—she may not be the best guide for you.
Is this person realistic?
Would you call this person a realistic individual? Does she have a grasp on reality? Is she confident, without having her head in the clouds? Is she humble, without being down on herself? Does she accurately perceive herself?
Would you take this person as a mentor?
Would you take this person on as a mentor? Not everyone should be your mentor, of course, but some people can give you limited, one-time advice. That’s fine. But if your answer to “Could this person be my mentor” is a resounding, run-for-the-hills NO, then don’t take her advice.