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Careers Café

You should really be a…

BY LIZ KOBLYK | MAR 25 2013

Jo VanEvery’s most recent post, on approaching advice strategically, is itself full of good advice.  As she points out, when people offer you specific opportunities intended to advance your career, you’re under no obligation to take them up.  The same applies to advice people give you about which career to pursue.

It’s difficult to disregard other people’s suggestions for your career path, whether it’s because you respect or love the people offering the advice, because you fear they know something about your job prospects that you don’t, or because choosing a career can be so overwhelming that it would be a blessed relief to have someone else nudge you in the right direction.

Of course, that sort of advice may assume that there is one right direction.  It can also imply that there’s a wrong one – the one you’re currently on.

When someone suggests that a career is right – or wrong – for you, you neither have to accept their advice as more credible than your own opinions nor dismiss it out of hand.  If it seems like the advice giver might be onto something, go ahead and give yourself permission to explore, without assuming you have to throw your current career plans out the window.  Your university’s career centre can get you started on where to find the information that would best help you decide whether or not a career stays on your list of options to consider.

If someone’s suggesting a career option that you’ve already ruled out with good reason, go ahead and ignore their advice.  In fact, it might be useful to write down why you’re not going to pursue that particular career, so you don’t have to expend more mental energy on similar advice in the future, and even to help you rule out other careers that don’t match what you’re looking for.

The word “advice” is derived from an Old French word meaning view, opinion or judgment.  When you receive advice, remember that you are being offered someone’s viewpoint, but you always reserve the role of judgment for yourself.

ABOUT LIZ KOBLYK
Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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