On Taking “Career Specific” Advice

I have often found that it can be dangerous to take “career specific” advice from people that are neither in your industry nor further along on a career path that is similar to yours.

A career specific advice is a piece of advice that is meant to give you a leg up by providing you with helpful insight about navigating the core aspects of your job. For example, a career specific advice for a software engineer could be on what programming language to invest in to continue to climb the technical ladder. 

Furthermore, a career specific advice for a sales representative could be on what to say on a cold call to keep people engaged and interested in the product being sold.

A few years back, I set out to make a career shift from working as a mechanical engineer in the oil and gas industry to working as a software engineer in the tech industry. Along the way, I received a lot of career specific advice from people that were trying to help me navigate and figure out my new career goals. While most of these people had my best interest at heart, some of the advice I received wasn’t quite right for me.
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As I reflect back on some of the advice I received, I now realize why they weren’t right for me. They were not right for me simply because the people giving the advice had neither worked in the tech industry nor taken a career path similar to the one I was embarking on. In some cases, the advice I received from people along different career paths was just what I needed and really helped me navigate my new career path. However, in other and potentially more critical cases the advice I received was flat out wrong for me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you ignore any and all advice from people, (“a wise man never knows all; only a fool knows everything” - an African proverb), rather, I am suggesting that you should be intentional and careful when deciding whether to follow the advice. I believe this is especially important if you are not a very strong willed person that knows exactly what you want to do in your career.

On that note, to help me decide whether I’ll be following any piece of advice I receive, I created a framework that consists of asking myself the following three questions:

1. Does this person have my best interest at heart?
2. Is this person projecting their insecurities or shortcomings onto me?
3. Does this person have a track record of success in the specific area they are giving this advice on?

If the answer to any of these questions is not positive (answers should be “Yes” for 1, “No” for 2, and “Yes” for 3), I know the advice isn’t right for me.

I’ll encourage you to apply the above framework to everything you’ve read so far in this post and determine if the advice in it is right for you!

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