Relying On Friends For Career Advice?
By Joanne Richard
Aaahhh, friends, you can’t live with them and you sure can’t live without them. Well, maybe you can – when they insist on giving you career advice frequently and, add to that, unsolicited. Sure they do have your back and best interest at heart, but when it comes to offering their opinion on your career trajectory, hurdles and derailings, you may want to steer clear.
Well-meaning friends are the first to come to your defense and tell you exactly what they think you should do when you’re sad, mad or struggling, whether it’s a love relationship gone wrong, diet failure, or workplace drama and trauma. If you’re going to job rant about the late hours, crummy pay and a bad boss, then be prepared. They want to free you from career stagnation, help you find your happy place at work.
Maybe another company, another industry, another country? Sure it may feel like you could use all the advice you can get, especially if you’re considering a possible career detour, growing your comfort zone, or even going back to school to retrain, but it’s super important to keep in mind that when it comes to matters of the heart and work, sometimes it’s best to spend their two-cents worth somewhere else. Unsolicited advice will come from all sources not just friends, but in the end you’ve got to turn down the volume and listen to your inner career voice.
Face it, many of these friend-advisors themselves are in not-quite dream jobs and, in reality, should be the last ones giving advice. They could be they’re trying to fix you instead of themselves. It’s sure a lot easier and less painful for them, but in the end you suffer the consequences. How many times have you heard: “If you hate it so much, then just quit. You’ll easily get something else.” Sure, take that advice and you could find yourself more than jobless. How about homeless too? Then what? And friendless - how can you possibly not begrudge the bearer of bad advice?
While friends may be great sources of wisdom, experience, connections, take heed: What worked for them may not be the right fit for you. Plus things change fast, says career coach Eileen Chadnick. “Their ideas may no longer work in the new paradigm of ever-changing work. By all means, do listen, learn and get ideas and input from many people – including friends – but question any advice you receive with healthy skepticism when warranted.”
You’re ultimately the chief choice maker! You’ve got to frame any suggestion you receive as an ‘idea’ rather than a quick solution, says Chadnick of @chadnick. Do your homework and then make your choice. You will be better for it. And your relationships will be better off too.
There are some bumps and bruises to be had when you’re on the receiving end of advice, says career expert Crystal Campbell, of c2coaching.ca and @c2coaching. Friends could very well be under informed. “Since the source of your guidance is not coming from an independent, professional, the career direction may not be irrelevant, inappropriate or even inaccurate.”
On top of that you may feel you’re being judged if your views don’t mesh with your advice-giver on matters like salary expectations, work-life balance and more. And repeatedly hearing and heeding the counsel of a friend can change the dynamics of your relationship, stresses Campbell. “Over time it can create an imbalance if one person asks frequently for advice and the other dishes out their opinion. This can lead to a power differential where the one person is viewed as being knowledgeable and the other is uninformed.”
Chadnick, says to be sure to balance advice you receive from others with your own internal wisdom: Smart career navigation indeed includes reaching out and listening to others but it also calls for sound independent judgment, decision-making, and self-awareness. Don’t rely on others to know you best – that’s your job.
Diversify your sources and practice due diligence. Listen to ideas and advice from friends but make sure you also talk to others and do your due diligence, she says. Test drive the ideas by talking to others, networking, and asking people truly in the know the hard questions.
Hold yourself accountable as chief choice maker. “Make sure you do your homework to self assess your strengths, values, priorities. And if a friend’s advice or suggestion doesn’t pan out, hold yourself responsible and be gracious to those who offered ideas.”
Friends are all about the heart and careers are about the head. Best not to mix the two - keep business and pleasure separate to keep friendships strong. “Not recognizing or ignoring that doling out career advice is crossing the line for some people can certainly play a role in tanking a friendship,” adds Campbell.
Sure piping in about minor day-to-day decisions, no big deal, but when it comes to life-altering decisions, your job and friendship can quickly head south. “No one else has lived in and walked in your shoes every day. So this is really about developing your own trust in self so that you can determine what the best career move and direction is for you.”