There is no shortage of people happy to offer you career advice. But should you listen?
If you Google “letter to 16-year-old self”, several thousand results appear. In magazines, newspapers, websites and even as a university assignment, it seems this is a project many have undertaken. There are even a number of books available, where various celebrities have written such letters.
Generally, the letters talk about insecurities, uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Fairly standard for a teenager on the cusp of leaving school and heading into adulthood. It’s a time when study choices and career decisions are being made. (And who didn’t hear the phrase “this decision will affect you for the rest of your life” when choosing high school subjects?)
Here are some other clichéd comments you most likely heard:
- You can be whatever you want to be
- Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life
- Work for a multinational and you’ll travel the world
- Just go to university
- Follow your dreams.
Had the above been given to a single person, and the advice been taken literally in their teenage years, it’s likely that person’s university days would have been a haze of daydreams at the beach, afternoon naps and beer.
Well-intentioned but unsolicited advice is something we have all received – and most likely given. It’s natural to want to be helpful to friends and family, to save those around us, and to see people we care about succeed. And we cannot help ourselves when someone comes to us with a problem. We want to ‘jump in’ and help them.
Consider the situation
- What if the person just wants to get something off their chest, but you’re not listening, rather are busy deciding what you need to say (as soon as they stop talking)
- They may be having a great time at work and simply sharing a success, and you missed the moment to share in the celebration because you were too busy thinking about what advice you could offer
- They may just want you to actually listen, ask a few questions, and help them towards finding a solution
- Are you the best person in this particular situation to be offering suggestions? Using the case above, seriously what do you know about being a 16-year-old in 2018?
There are numerous situations (and these are just a few examples) where we have all likely overstepped the mark or missed an opportunity to simply listen.
How to deal with unrequested advice
- Understanding where the person is coming from is important. Sometimes those trying to help you will feel you are about to make the same mistake they have made – rarely, if ever though, do two situations entirely mirror one another
- Sometimes a simple “thank you; I will consider that” or “thank you; I think I know what I am going to do, but don’t want to elaborate until I am certain” will do
- Set boundaries at the outset if you have a person in your life who is always giving advice.
Finally, What about careers?
As for the career advice to your 16-year-old self? Are you doing what you wanted to when you were 16? Did you follow your dreams? If you didn’t, don’t wait until you cannot remember what your 16-year-old self-wanted to do. Talk to someone about your career; start a conversation with a friend you trust.
Want to discover more about yourself? Talk to us about our career assessment and career guidance services.