Advice… Take it? Or leave it?

AdviceOver the years I’ve spent a lot of time with people looking for advice about the next steps in their career.  Each of these people has wanted something different from me – some for example have wanted to learn from the steps I’ve taken in my own career and others have wanted my opinion on the suitability of various roles and opportunities. It has been especially satisfying to share my time and opinions with those looking for a career that will allow them to make a bigger difference in the world. Many of the people I talk to are looking for far more than a job – they’re looking for greater purpose and meaning in their work.

Last week our Business Manager, Siobhan sent me a very funny article about some of the not so great career advise available out there.  While enjoying a hearty laugh at the extraordinarily poor advice showcased in the article, it made me reflect on how important good advice can be, especially when we’re looking to change direction in our career.  It also made me reflect on how each of the people I’ve met with over the years came to be asking my advice.

ShoesFinding people who are willing and able to share valuable insights and guidance isn’t always easy.  However, when we do, a trusted advisor can have a big impact on the quality of our choices and ultimately the level of success we are able to achieve.  Below I offer suggestions about how to find and leverage good career advice, but first I want to share just one of the highly amusing examples of poor advice that inspired this blog. suggest:

“Go to a discount shoe store and buy a good pair of loafers on sale. Get two boxes.  Send one shoe in one box with a card that says, “Now that I have one shoe in the door let me introduce myself…” I know it’s an old gimmick but chances are if you haven’t had it pulled on you, then neither has the hiring manager.  Make sure the shoe fits you in case you get it back and want to use it again.  Make sure it’s well polished and doesn’t smell. Black is best.  Don’t send a high-heeled lady’s shoe because you may be sending a message about the wrong kind of job.”

While you could argue this approach may work with some prospective employers, my experience tells me most will find it somewhere in the range between ridiculous and cringe worthy.  I think it’s safe to say the likelihood of putting people off is far greater that the remote possibility that someone will be impressed, amused or intrigued enough to invite you in for an interview.

People-Shaking-HandsFinding trusted advisors

While you may be fortunate to have family or friends willing and able to offer quality advice, it’s important to look for mentors and advisors outside of your immediate circle of influence:

  • Talk to people who may know people: ask close friends, colleagues, associates and anyone else you respect to suggest people you need to meet.  Ask them to introduce you if they can
  • Participate in networking groups that provide opportunity to form quality relationships.  Exchanging business cards isn’t enough – get to know and build authentic relationships with successful people.
  • Think outside of the square – be open minded to where you might find good advice.  For example it may be your Uncle’s best friend who has the experience and insights you need to tap into.
  • Trust: throughout my life the right teachers have turned up at the right time.  While it’s important to proactively take steps to find people we can learn from, it’s also important to trust you will recognise new teachers when they arrive.

Tapping into quality advice

Once you have managed to get time with a potential trusted advisor it’s up to you to make the most of the opportunity:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice: people can say no if they are too busy to spend time with you
  • Regardless of who has introduced you, use your own judgment about the extent to which you should trust the advice you receive
  • Understand the background of the person you are meeting with and be clear about how their experience can help you to gain the insights or make the decisions you need to
  • Know specifically what you would like to gain from the time you spend together and make sure you tell them.  The more prepared they are the more likely it is that you will get value from the meeting
  • Go to any meeting armed with the questions you want to ask.  Don’t allow fear or hesitation to hold you back from asking what you really want to know
  • Be willing to share honest insight to your goals and aspirations, fears and hesitations.  Only with full insight can anyone be expected to add real value through quality advice.

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