Advice: Take it, Leave it, or Just Think About it and Decide Later.

As someone who is compulsive about giving career advice (hence the blog), I am always aware of the conflicting advice given by other, well-intentioned, and often very ill-informed advisors.  “My mom said I should put my photograph on my resume,” “Professor So-and-so told me a cover letter should just be one paragraph,” or my personal favorite, “My sister is in HR and she said the pink paper and black borders will stand out.”

The funny thing is that for any single, odd, situation, it’s hard to know what the recipient of your inquiry or offering might think of an off-spec approach from you.  My job is to make you think about the impression you want to leave and the brand you represent, as much in your personal narrative as in any other forum.  The fact is that the pink paper and black border with the photo of you finishing a 10k will stand out; the question is whether or not it stands out for the right reason and represents the image of you that makes sense, both to you and to the intended decision-maker.

I have occasionally caught the tail end of someone’s misguided resume mailing campaign.  My heart sinks for you if you picked a theme and ran with it, doing a mail merge and sending the identical and lengthy explanation of your passion and so on.  But the operative word is misguided–if you made up the plan using just your own head and hands, you need to check in with someone–almost anyone–to hear how that idea sounds when you say it out loud.  But if you got guidance, that’s another matter.

Here are the rules for evaluating advisors.  If a person who gives you advice is not on this list, don’t politely decline the advice, just don’t be quick to take it and execute on it.  You can listen to anyone, and all advice is worth hearing.

1.  Does this individual know me or my job market well enough to understand my objective, need, desire, or plan?

2.  Does this individual have my best interest at heart; is the reason for giving me advice one that I can appreciate?  I think headhunting is a wonderful profession and I have relied on those folks for candidates over the years.  But if you are the talent, not the hiring manager, you need to understand that you are not the one paying the bill, and therefore not the client.

3.  Is the advice free, clear, and simple?  When you pay for advice, you have a tendency to think it’s good advice.  It may not be good advice.  How will you know that?

4.  What does this individual want from me or want for me?  It matters a lot.  Even when the advice-giver is a parent or other family member.

5.  Is the advice based on current and reliable information?  Is the context valid?


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