What to Do With Every Piece of Career Advice You Read
Great! Turn to Google, and you’ll be swimming in articles with the latest research, tales from the field, and practical advice from top-of-the-line career and leadership experts. Just a few clicks of your keyboard, and you’ll find answers to your career-related quandaries that feel easy to understand and seem fairly simple to put into practice. Feeling inspired and ready to put your newfound strategies into action—starting tomorrow?
I am concerned, and in turn feel obliged to caution you, that even the best and most well-meaning experts may neglect to mention that taking our advice is not simply a matter of jumping from the virtual page into action. In our attempt to make our advice as simple and easy as possible to understand, we may inadvertently give the impression that implementing it should be just as easy. Which is, most often, not the case.
Sure, tips on better time management, organizing your job search, and other concrete needs do tend to be relatively easy to put into action. But advice regarding changes in behavior, attitude, and thought patterns? That’s a whole different ballgame. Things like improving your communication skills, managing conflict at work, building your confidence, dealing with stress, or setting clear boundaries takes significant time, emotional energy, perseverance, support, and maybe even professional coaching. In other words, a whole lot more than one article can give you.
That doesn’t mean that you should stop reading, of course—it just means that you should look at all those helpful tips through a slightly different lens. Adhering to that advice is doable and will ultimately prove beneficial (or we wouldn’t recommend it), but in many cases it requires adapting suggestions to your unique needs, traits, and situations.
On that note, here is some (hopefully simple to implement) advice on taking advice:
Take the time to determine whether the advice pertains to your particular needs and unique style. For example, general advice on enhancing presentation skills is not the right advice for you if you are utterly afraid of public speaking. You need to start with advice that will help you address your fear and boost your confidence.
Don’t get discouraged when the recommendations you found for managing a difficult boss (or another issue), which seemed so clear and simple when you read them, become vague and daunting when you attempt to implement them. These are big, complicated issues. You may need help from a peer or professional to deal with your specific situation, you may need to break the advice into smaller, more concrete action steps, or you may need to try multiple approaches before finding that right one. That’s normal. That’s OK.
Accept that work, life, and careers are messy, that no one will have all the answers, and that addressing specific issues is a lifelong, evolving process for all of us. Don’t ever set “being finished” or “being perfect” as a goal.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions of the article’s author or the experts mentioned in the article, or request that they break their advice down into more concrete, actionable steps. Hold us accountable to making sure our advice is truly helpful!
On that final note, while I will continue to provide you with advice on career-related topics that I believe are important, I am also committing to making it abundantly clear that while my advice is (hopefully) relayed in the simplest of terms, your efforts to heed my advice will not be so. I will also encourage other experts in the field to do the same.
Photo of woman reading courtesy of Shutterstock.
Dara Goldberg has devoted the past 25 years to helping organizations and professionals reach and continue to operate at their maximum potential. Over the past 5 years, she has shifted to a full-time focus on helping professionals build, hone, and apply their unique professional brand in a work context. Through individual coaching and support, small-group intensives, and large group workshops and speaking engagements, Dara helps people claim their professional identity and in so doing achieve the greatest possible career success and satisfaction. Visit her blog at Curiosity Unleashed.More from this Author