How to spot bad career advice

Not long ago, it was considered the norm for a professional to stay in the same job for their entire career. Today, it’s more often believed that as we grow as people, our interests change and so our jobs should reflect this. It is of course, where we spend most of our time.

Over the course of our careers many of us will consider taking a side step at work, or a promotion to a new department. We may even think about taking the leap to an entirely new career. Whatever might be the inspiration behind your desire for change, we often need support and guidance to be fully confident in the career decisions we make.

With so many places to look for advice, how do you know you’ll end up with best advice for you? More importantly, it’s about knowing how to steer clear of bad career advice as you navigate this challenging period. Here are a few ways to spot them.

With so many places to look for advice, how do you know you'll end up with best advice for you?
  1. The people giving you the advice have a vested interest in your career decisions. Your friends and family, while undoubtedly care for you and mean well, are likely to have their own values and opinions about what you should be doing nine to five. Whether it’s your partner who cares most about your work/life balance, your father who believes you should follow a high-income-earning career path or your best friend who thinks you should channel your talents above all, it’s important to be aware of their own influences. If you think their bias might get in the way of solid counsel, perhaps seek out a mentor whose path you can relate to and who has no stake in the decision you make.
  2. The advice is loaded with unrealistic, flighty sentiments. So you know that friend who’s all about following your dreams? You’d be surprised how many people today are quick to lend fanciful advice that goes something like, “if it’s the right job, it won’t feel like a job at all” or “do what you love and the money will follow”. While positive mantras are great for motivation, it’s not always a good idea to rely upon them as the crux of the advice you take, as you may find the reality doesn’t measure up to the expectation.
  3. The advice you’re given goes against your gut instinct. Rewind back 5, 10, 20 years to high school days when finding what you wanted to do with your life would naturally be decided by a few visits to a career counsellor. Now, with some added years of life experience, it’s important to touch base with your own values and not be led too far astray from your gut instinct. The most tangible way to achieve this is to recognise your own feelings of uncertainty and spot the advice you’re naturally giving to yourself. Often this manifests in what you say about your situation to your friends. Having clear goals and challenging yourself to step outside of your comfort zone is the key here.

You may find the sheer volume of career guidance available both online and through people you know overwhelming. Your task here is to filter out what doesn’t sit well with you and decide on a shortlist of people you trust. This way, you may find some really helpful input that could be life changing in the long term.