May 9, 2013
Advice on advice: a quickie primer
Knowing where to find good career advice, and knowing how to tell good advice from bad, are huge life skills that can take years to master. Here are some tips to shorten your learning curve:
Seek multiple advisers. No one human, no matter how experienced or smart, knows it all. What's more, you'll be amazed at how often you receive conflicting advice -- proof that getting a second opinion is always a good idea.
Seek different kinds of advisers. Talk to people outside your field. And don't limit yourself to "graybeards." You can get great input from people only a few years ahead of you -- they remember what it was like to be in your shoes and might have very practical ideas.
Seek high-caliber advisers. It's a no-brainer that the best advisers are ably managing their own lives and careers, but be aware that some people project a success that does not bear up to scrutiny. (How often do you hear of "investment advisers" whose own financial lives are a shambles?) So do your research, ask for recommendations and use common sense.
Look as well as listen. Sometimes successful people, though they may try, can't explain why they are successful. Pay attention to what they do in addition to what they say; you might discover their secrets.
Don't shun the naysayers. They may be bummers, but the advantage of people who see the bad in everything is that they quickly home in on potential problems. And they may point out things -- true things -- about your work or your plans that others won't say for fear of "being negative."
Finally, just because you ask for advice doesn't mean you have to follow it. Do you worry that advisers will be miffed if you ignore their words of wisdom? Well, maybe they will. But it's your life and your career, and you are the one who has to live with your decisions.
(Bonus tip: Take notes. People love being asked their opinion, and will often give you way more information than you can take in, much less remember later.)
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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