The world is full of people eager to dispense life and career guidance. Most advice, though, even from the wisest among us, isn’t universally applicable. Timing and life stage can exert a big influence. That’s what makes both giving the right advice and -- if you're on the receiving end, deciphering it -- so challenging.
Over the years, many smart people have handed me advice. All of it had wisdom behind it, but for me, some of it didn't point me to the right path. To that end, I came up with some “responses” of my own to well-intentioned suggestions I simply could not accept:
1. "Go for security and stability."
Most people have a hard-wired attraction to consistency and are willing to trade potential gain for certainty. They believe that in the long run, the tortoise always beats the hare. While this may be true for some people, I’ve always chosen the route I felt would offer the most rewarding and lasting experience. I instinctively knew that a position where I would be around really bright people working on exciting projects trumped almost everything else, including pay and status -- even long-term security.
2. "Find a role in which you’ll feel comfortable."
A person’s comfort level certainly factors into how confident he or she will be, and this impacts performance and enjoyment. I’ve found, however, that the most rewarding jobs are those that have forced me to stretch, and to develop skills I didn’t already bring to the table. The biggest leaps in personal growth always come from moving outside one’s comfort zone. If you want to be in a different or more elevated spot in your career five years from now, start to develop the skills you’ll need -- now.
3. "You have to look out for Number One."
This advice has logic behind it. There are plenty of organizations where, if you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will. Yet, when you consider a career path, those same companies are not where you want to be. So, seek out a true team environment. If you aspire to a prominent leadership role, you’ll likely never get there if you don’t take care of your team first. A magical thing happens when you put others ahead of you. Those individuals thrive, and ultimately, their success will drive yours.
In the end, advice is a tricky thing: One size does not fit all. Knowing which advice to follow and perhaps more important, which to ignore, may well direct the future of your career.