There are lots of things about you that probably make you unique. Maybe one ring finger is longer than all the others. Maybe you wet your toothbrush after the toothpaste is already on (unfathomable). Perhaps you have a singing voice worthy of at least going through to Hollywood on American Idol. If you’ve graduated in the past year or two, there is one thing we all have in common: you have undoubtedly received career advice.
More than likely, this advice was totally unwarranted, in a wildly inappropriate setting--catching up at a family reunion, party, wake. Your cousin might have told you that you can do anything you set your mind to. Your 1800’s prospector uncle might have told you to buy gold. Or your grandfather might have reminded you that by 24 he had served in the Korean War, married grandma, and opened his own pizza shop. If that last one’s true we probably have the same grandfather.
Don’t get me wrong, good advice sticks to your very soul. The kind of advice Obi-Wan’s ghost gives. Bad advice, though, is outdated, archaic clichés pulled from large-font posters of cats in baskets. Luckily, I have plenty of experience in receiving advice. This experience has forced me to construct filters, of a sort, through which I can break down what parts of any unsolicited advice can be disregarded as superfluous, and leave only the gold-nugget advice behind (a metaphor which would surely elate your 1800’s prospector uncle). What follows is a way you can differentiate between good career advice and bad career advice.
Know your “Advisor"
Whenever you find yourself reading a job-search blog, or talking very face-to-face with close-talking relatives and friends, I suggest knowing the “advisor.” If Richard Branson is telling me to keep my chin up, job searching gets easier, and just to keep at it- sorry Rich, I’m tossing that. Every successful businessman and entrepreneur will tell you it’s mostly effort, but a little bit of luck, to get where they are. They struggled as we are now, sure, but they were in the right place at the right time, in an economy that embraced and propelled entrepreneurs.
Many people doling out their two cents on job searches are so far removed from the process, or graduated when talkies were a nickel, that their advice reflects it. We don’t need a motivational coach saying “’atta boy” to keep us on the job-search grind. Our empty bank accounts and increasingly overstayed welcome in our parent’s house is a driving force enough. We need hard-nosed advice, who to talk to, how to talk to them, how to network. Not “Oh, you should network” (seriously, everyone knows that at this point), but the best ways to network so you don’t come off as desperate, and how to present your best “you” to potential employers.
The same goes for family members and friends giving advice. Your cousin who recently lost his or her job, and then found a new one, is the one you want to hit up for what exactly they did. The nitty-gritty logistics of their search. Not “I just kept looking, even though I wanted to give up.” But more like “I woke up, logged on to X website, spoke with Y company spokesperson, hired a career coach, polished my resume in A, B, and C ways,” etc. See the difference? Way more helpful; not metaphysical or existential, but actual advice from someone who just went through it. Even other jobless graduates in your family are helpful. Sometimes, in the frenzy of LinkedIn connecting and networking we may forget obvious things, like, “Um, check your school’s job posting board, occasionally, man.” When talking to other recent graduates or job-seekers, you touch on these obvious things, and you generate good ideas on different ways to approach the job search.
Relatives and bloggers who are in charge of recruiting at a company, or once recruited for a company, are also extremely helpful resources. Not only do I follow blogs advising graduates looking for jobs, but I follow blogs written by recruiters advising other recruiters. Though I feel like Owen Wilson in “Behind Enemy Lines” reading them, knowing what advice the recruiters are receiving can be invaluable insight. For example, if you can find out what parts of the resume are most important to recruiters in the field you are looking to break into (i.e., tech start-ups recruiters love well-rounded people, not necessarily computer geeks), you might emphasize these aspects of yourself.
Andrew Dellaripa is a recent graduate of Villanova Law School, which he attended immediately after getting his English degree from Fordham University. He has been writing since he could hold a pen, since back when Clippy still popped up in Microsoft Word. During his job-search, he does freelance writing for everything from ghostwriting short stories to blogs and journal articles.