How to Evaluate Career Advice

Author: Dawn Graham Source: Forbes

Career and job search advice is plentiful today, and much of it is now research-backed. So, it’s easy to forget that on occasion, best practices won’t apply to your situation and may, in fact, backfire.

For example, wearing a tailored suit and tie to an interview is usually a winning strategy, but if you’re interviewing at an early stage start-up where the culture calls for flip flops and t-shirts, overdressing may cost you the job offer.

Also, the ideal length for a resume is one to two pages, but in certain industries or functions a lengthy 20-page CV (curriculum vitae) or a one-page biography might serve you better.

Conversely, in some situations you may be tempted to try something risky after hearing about someone’s usual success story. For example, boldly delivering your qualifications to the hiring manager via a singing telegram could earn you the offer (like it did for your cousin’s roommate’s boyfriend’s sister). However, more often than not, it will get you escorted off the premises by security.

Remember this: Don’t allow popular advice to override common sense.

A job search is complex, often filled with frustrating and confusing processes and lacking clear steps or guaranteed results. So, it makes sense that job seekers and career changers are looking for concrete answers to make the process less ambiguous..

The good news is that most of the well-researched strategies that have been proven to be effective will be beneficial to your job search, especially when applied in the right context and at the right time. But as the saying goes, knowledge is having the information and wisdom is applying it correctly.

To avoid blindly engaging career advice that could potentially derail your efforts, here’s how to discern if it makes sense for your situation:

  1. Evaluate the context. While some advice (like building your network!) applies across disciplines, other tips may be more nuanced to specific industries, functions, audiences or markets. Also, how you apply the advice could differ. To avoid a pitfall, know why you’re taking action, what outcome you anticipate, and how it fits into your overall goal.

  2. Have a strategy. In the same way many skip the instructions and jump right into building that new IKEA desk, many job seekers spend little time creating a detailed strategy for their job search. If you build a well-thought out plan, you’re less likely to accept whimsical advice and more likely to stay on target.

  3. Follow your fear. The tendency when experiencing fear is to freeze or flee, however, often it’s a signpost for where to go and what actions to take. Pay attention to it, and dissect the messages that are going through your mind driving the fear response. Are you fearing failure? The unknown? Potential embarrassment? Making a mistake? Often taking a step toward the fear will be more valuable in uncovering the truth than remaining stuck in analysis paralysis.

  4. Consider the source. Sometimes the most well-intentioned individuals give the least helpful advice because they are unable to be objective. This isn’t an automatic red flag, and sometimes those who are objective toward your situation may be completely biased in other ways due to their own experiences. Be graciously curious and dig deeply to uncover what the advice is based on and specifically how your contact sees it adding value to your situation.

  5. Look for themes. Is one person insisting that you try a strategy or just about everyone you speak with independently? Who is offering the advice – industry professionals or your poker buddies? Have you heard or read this advice before from a credible source? Do you know people who it’s been effective for in similar circumstances? Shallow insights, platitudes and novel tips may appear to be sound advice, but can easily lead you astray if you skip digging beneath the surface.

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