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Mind The Motives In Getting Career Advice

“I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

Asking for and receiving career advice can always be a tricky proposition. We often ask for help when we’re stuck in the muck or otherwise when we’re most confused. And then when we start collecting advice from people we trust or believe to be fairly smart individuals and we only get more confused. It shouldn’t be surprising though…everyone has an opinion, right? But what complicates things is what sits behind those opinions: motives. These motives can be positive (think about a parent who wants their child to succeed or a spouse who wants their significant other to be happy or a manager who wants their employee to advance their skills). And we all know examples of people who express motives that aren’t quite so well-intentioned.

The problem is that motives are often more focused on the desires of the advice-giver than the advice-seeker. That’s just human nature. Anthony Balderrama at writes:

Of surveyed advertising and marketing executives, 58 percent say co-workers gave them bad career advice. Bosses didn’t fare much better, as 54 percent blame them for bad career advice. Parents and relatives are better career counselors, but 35 percent of surveyed executives received unsatisfactory guidance from them. Thirty percent of spouses and significant others are blamed for bad advice (and probably had to sleep on the couch at some point). Mentors have the best record for dispensing advice, as only 21 percent have the finger pointed at them.

He goes on to introduce some tips from Donna Farrugia, Executive Director of The Creative Group, who notes that it’s important to always evaluate the motives of the advice giver.

In addition to those tips, I’d also suggest a couple of other ideas:

1. I think there’s some wisdom to Chesterton’s approach. If not actually doing the opposite, then at least contemplating whether there’s a potential solution there.

2. Even more importantly, we need to own our decision-making process. It’s okay to collect advice, but committed action needs to come from us. Deep down, we do know what we want.

What are your thoughts? Any experience in getting good (or bad) career advice?

photo credit: ambergris (via Flickr)