All of us need a little help in our careers. We need guidance. We need advice. We need support. Unfortunately, many of us don’t know how to help others help us. We often go about asking for help in odd ways or, even worse, ignoring or questioning the help we receive. Helping someone is a two way street and if you consistently go about it in the wrong way you will soon find yourself without anyone to help you at all.
A second item is now available. A 4,600 word transcript from my talk, Career Compass: Finding Your Career North from CareerCampSCV.
Write it down
For myself, I know that I can accept someone asking me the same question two or three times, but if they return to me again and again for the same issue I begin to wonder if there is a deeper problem, one that I can’t help solve. That causes frustration in me and I pull away from helping in later instances. When someone helps you, do everything you can to retain whatever they offer. Learn quickly and then apply what you have learned. It will keep your support base available for support.
Nothing pleases me more than to see someone write something down. This small act shows me that they are trying to store the information for later use at a time when I might not be available. I can almost guarantee that if someone writes something down, they will never ask me exactly the same question again. Since a lot of the help I give is in the form of email, most of it is already written. Still, sometimes people don’t store that information in a way that it can easily be referenced and retrieved. They end up asking me for the same information again and again since it is easier than trying to find their own copy. But that leads to burn out.
People are usually quite eager to help others, but a few repeated questions can easily kill off that desire. They can start to feel that their good will is being abused rather than appreciated. Remember, their advice, their information, their assistance is a gift. Accept it and use it like one or it may disappear forever.
Take it or Leave it
When I am asked for advice, I do my best to provide great, clear and useful information. That said, sometimes that advice might not work for the person that is asking for assistance. That is fine. I often tell people that they are free to use or ignore any advice I give. There can be a host of reasons for this. Maybe my experience is different then their own. Maybe they are not ready to take the major steps I suggest or need to take more time to implement them. That is perfectly fine. You should never feel beholden to act on the advice you are given.
That said, whether you decide to take my advice or leave it, please don’t expect me to engage in a debate over my advice. Too often I get replies that go through a litany of “but what about this, and this and this.” Often, it seems clear that the person asking had already made up their mind to do something differently and merely wanted someone to agree with and approve that other decision. If you have already made up your mind on some point or another, please don’t waste other’s time trying to support your decision. Own your decisions, if you have already made them and let others get on with their work.
We all need to ask for help and advice on occasion. Make it as easy as possible on those you ask. You will retain a contact, a source of information and very likely, a friend. Write stuff down. Use or ignore the advice given but don’t ask for advice on the same issue all over again. Thank them deeply for their time. Think of how you would like to be treated when others ask you for advice. Then, do the same when you are asking for help from others.