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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Carefully consider the career advice you receive — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

Carefully consider the career advice you receive — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

February 4th, 2014

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As a long time career writer, I read a lot about careers. I follow career advisors and HR professionals on social media,  read their blogs, browse magazines and other sources. One common source of career advice are human resources (HR) professionals. They are often consulted for inside information on what it takes to get hired, how to approach the hiring process and more. Unfortunately, I find that a lot of guidance and advice they give is often designed to make their life and work easier, not build the career you deserve.

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I don’t want you to think you should dismiss all advice from HR professionals. That would be foolhardy. They are, after all, the first line of the hiring process and can have great control over whether you interviewed or your resume is buried in the slush pile. What I am asking you to do, though, is carefully consider the advice you receive and decide for yourself if it matches with your own wants, needs and desires. When you are negotiating with HR by yourself (and everything from first contact to hiring is just that, a negotiation), you need to understand and protect your own interests, just as HR professionals are protecting their interests and the company’s.

I believe there is an inherent conflict of interest when HR professionals give career advice. They want “good workers”, but that often doesn’t correlate with a good career for you. Many companies today are still seeking interchangeable “cogs” to fit into their business. They don’t want people who have their own brand, their own ideas, their own idea of what makes a good career. Therefore, much HR advice is designed to remove your uniqueness, smooth off your rough edges and make you “fit in.”

If you are looking for “just a job” that might be fine. You can follow their directions, check all the boxes and, hopefully, get that job. What you might find, though, is you may not be very happy in the job you worked so hard to achieve. If you deny your own, unique desires in your career, you are likely to end up with a job you don’t really want or one that doesn’t meet your expectations.

As with any job, HR professionals only really care about their job, their work and their career. That’s simply the way that life is. It is the same for everyone. No one else can care as much about your career as you do. Therefore it is up to you to decide if their HR advice is designed to help you or simply make their life and work easier.

I have phrase that always comes to mind whenever I am receiving advice about anything in my life, “Beware buying advice and products from the same person.” Too often there is a conflict of interest inherent in the transaction that can lead you astray. I am not saying it is always present, or always calculated, but I have seen it often enough watch for it whenever I do business. In the worst cases, individuals can be giving advice ONLY in order to sell your something — something you might not need or want. They are looking only for their own advantage. For me, taking too much advice, too deeply, from those who might one day be judging your hiring fitness, should be watched just as carefully.

The biggest issue for me is that if you follow typical HR advice, you will spend your days keeping your head down and your mouth shut, taking only what is offered you and strictly toeing the company line. To me, this is very dangerous for any career in the 21st Century. In the years that come, I believe it will be those who stand out from the crowd (and who stand up for themselves) who will be the most successful.

Hiding your achievements, your unique skills, your innovative ideas leaves you at the mercy of the hiring company. Many companies don’t want you talking about such things because then their will be competition for your skills and they might have to pay you more to hire or retain you. Of course, as you can see, this greatly limits your potential and success. It is clearly a benefit for the company and a detriment to yourself and your career. Be aware of this trap and think carefully about your actions. Every person in every career must be able to tell people “what they do and how well they do it” or they risk hiding themselves away from career opportunities that might come to them.

Take advice from all quarters. Listen to what people say, how they say it and then consider the conflicts of interest that might exist. Carefully consider which advice you follow and who that advice benefits the most. You may be surprised to find that others don’t have your best interest at heart.


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