Over the course of your life, how much career advice have you given? Received? Acted on? How much of it was right on the mark? How much of it well, full of it?
Too frequently well-meaning individuals, in an effort to share their experience and inspire others, offer platitudes rather than meaningful counsel. These phrases sound reasonable on the surface but the deeply-flawed nature of this ‘sound-bite’ advice actually undermines career success and satisfaction.
Do any of these sound familiar?
“Follow your passion.” How can one argue with this? Work is where we spend the bulk of our waking hours. If we aren’t deeply and emotionally involved with it, life will certainly be less full and less satisfying.
But this piece of advice generally sends people off on a myopic journey in search of their bliss. Rather than ‘following’ one’s passion, what about leading it, mining the marketplace for useful applications, and helping to find it a home within the context of work that provides value to others (and remuneration to the individual)?
“Make yourself indispensable.” What better way to ensure job security as well as the respect and admiration of others. Right? Wrong! Becoming indispensable requires the hoarding of information, talents, contacts and more. Others quickly recognize this pattern… and resent it. They work around the ‘indispensable’ ones, quickly making them irrelevant.
In today’s environment, the way to distinguish one’s self is to share, mentor, and bring others along. Offer information and insights freely. Teach others to do what you do well. Extend your network to those around you. Being generous with your talents and transferring capacity grows those around you. This sort of ‘dispensability’ makes you genuinely indispensable.
“Give it a year.” How many of us have acted on this erroneous advice? I have; and it was the most miserable year of my professional life. Worried that it would look like I’d made a mistake on my resume, I lived a mistake, wasting twelve months that could have been put to much better use.
Everyone makes mistakes. The hallmark of intelligent and successful people is that they recognize and take swift action to correct them. People can generally tell within a couple of months (maybe less) if they’ve made an appropriate move, if they’re in the right role. And additional time rarely improves the situation.
In today’s job market, short stints are becoming the norm. Trusting one’s experience, recognizing a poor fit, and taking prompt action all demonstrate the kinds of skills and abilities that most organizations want to see in their employees anyway.
“Good work speaks for itself.” Contributing well is the price of admission in today’s competitive job market. But given the pace of business, the complexity of work processes, and the volume of outputs, good work can be silenced and overlooked.
The solution for this is not brash self-promotion. That can be even more damaging to one’s career. But finding constructive ways to highlight your successes is helpful to the organization and to your busy boss. It can be as easy as:
- Passing along positive customer comments.
- Sharing client success stories.
- Offering to show others how you do something you do well.
Career advice can help point you in the right direction, enabling shortcuts to your career success. But, it can also take you down completely unintended and unproductive paths. Consider carefully the advice you receive from (and give to) others. Successful, happy work lives really do depend upon it!
What about you? What off-base career advice have you heard/taken? What’s the best career advice you’ve received or given?