I’ve been getting a lot of texts from my landlord lately. We’re on his mind because he’s been doing a gut reno of the unit beneath ours. One of the improvements is something he wants to add to our unit. I reminded him that we are both working at home and that this would be really hard to do with a skill-saw running ten feet away.
It occurred to me only recently that our jobs are an abstraction to our landlord, because he... has never had an ordinary job.
This is true of a surprising number of people in our community.
Prosperous as they may be, busy and hard-working as they may be, the way that they’ve “made it” in this world is usually in a weird and personal way that would not apply to anyone else. On the one hand, this is exciting, because it speaks to the idea that no matter what you want to do, there probably is a way to succeed at it.
On the other hand, it illustrates the fact that not everyone’s advice is generically useful.
Most people’s career advice won’t help you, either because they have no experience in your field, because what worked at the time they did it is no longer effective, or because the reason they think they succeeded is not actually the real reason.
Keep this in mind if you are currently out of work, because, as you’ve probably already noticed, everyone has a theory and everyone has plenty of time to share it with you.
Don’t ask your romantic partner for career advice. This is paramount even if they do, in fact, happen to work in the same field as you. It just gets messy. They have a vested interest in the outcome. They (hopefully) have a strong bias about how great and cute you are. More likely, in spite of all their many adorable traits and touching loyalty, they are lacking in the sort of strategic planning or negotiation skills that you need.
Don’t ask your parents for career advice. To them, you will always be three years old. They already had their chance to tell you anything you needed to know while you were their captive audience in a high chair. What worked for them when they were your age is unlikely to be on the cutting edge of your field today.
Don’t ask your friends for career advice, unless all your friends are work friends? What brought you together as friends is most likely that you’re all on a similar wavelength, which means they can’t tell you much other than “You got this!”
The sole exception to this is if your friends group is ambitious and you’ve all been trending upward together. If you are very lucky, your friends know you and your skills quite well, and they can pinpoint areas where you can improve or show yourself off.
If you’re unlucky, these same friends are your most likely competition. I know more than one person who is no longer friends with someone because both parties applied for the same job, and only one of them got it. It’s worse when one friend tells the other about the posting and then loses out. That’s gotta sting.
I didn’t tell anyone when I was busy applying for my new job, and I didn’t ask for advice, largely because I was trying not to die at the time. I had barely enough juice in me during those three weeks to hold the phone to my head, much less run a mastermind session. None of it would have come together for me if I hadn’t put in so much effort months earlier.
I did ask for career advice, as should anyone who is looking for something more interesting and more remunerative. I went to an actual career coach, someone with decades of experience in HR who teaches workshops on the subject. She also volunteers her services in the community. It’s not uncommon for people of her experience level to spend the majority of their time mentoring others, because there isn’t much left to learn or explore otherwise. Once you reach mastery, every day is pretty similar to every other day. The joy of watching others blossom into a better version of themselves, though, that never gets old.
Usually the advice of someone at career mastery is straightforward and simple. That’s because you’re not their first customer. Undoubtedly they’ve helped others in your situation before, and they remember what worked and what didn’t. What a strong mentor is looking for is initiative. If they give you advice and you ignore it, they’re going to back off, because their time is valuable and there’s someone else in line who will pay closer attention.
If you’re wise enough to take action and *do* what your mentor suggests, that’s exciting. It shows that you get it and that you’re worth the effort. After you’ve done the first obvious thing, you’re much more likely to get the golden envelope with the next obvious step. Entire careers are built this way.
The first piece of advice that I always give to job-seekers is to put up a profile on one of the major job sites - not LinkedIn but Monster or Indeed, one of those. I have yet to encounter someone who has already done this simple, obvious step. The second piece of advice sounds yet more obvious, but it is nevertheless true: treat your job hunt like a job. Clock in and do eight hours a day. What else are you going to do all day, anyway?
(Answer: do training modules on some software that you don’t know, or at least learn some advanced features of the stuff you already use).
When you’re out of work, it can make you feel vulnerable like nothing else. It’s haunting. Why me, what next, what if this is it, now what am I going to do?? Getting unhelpful advice (or critique) from people who could otherwise be cheerleading and boosting you is just going to make matters worse. Quit giving updates or asking for advice from anyone in your life who does not have tangible success in your specific field.
Keep your chin up and keep going! Remember, you don’t need every job, you only need one. You got this!
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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