Last week I received this message from a LinkedIn connection,

I am currently looking to move towards <new career>. I have applied for a role in <new career> and the recruitment agent got back to me with this… 

“You have a lot of experience and you should stick to what you know best”

What the hell?! … Why?!

This made me angry. I’m sure it was well-meaning but it’s not a recruiter’s job to tell you what you should do. 

They can’t possibly know what’s best for you. You may need some support to figure it out, but only you can know it for sure. In doing this, they’re making a judgment based on *their* measures of what’s important e.g. the role that’s easiest for you to get, or what will pay the most. Broad and inappropriate assumptions.

This type of bad career advice can take other forms too. And can be encountered at any stage of life,  for example,

“You should be a teacher, you’d be great at it”
“Why don’t you become an accountant, they earn great money?”

Sound familiar? We’ve all probably heard something similar at some point in our lives.

The problem is, so many professionals end up in poor-fitting roles which makes them miserable. It’s often because they’ve been influenced but this type of well-meaning, but poor, advice.

And it’s not easy to change down the track. Having support and encouragement to firstly find, and then follow, a path that would make you happy is critical.

So what should you do if you’re faced with this kind of bad advice?

Get curious. Ask the person to explain more so you can weigh up their advice and make your choice about whether to take any notice.

Say “I’m curious, what makes you say that?”

Take the above example about being a Teacher, you might get the following response:

“You’re so good with kids, they love you AND you get lots of holidays”.

Great. So if you enjoy being around kids and you value the holidays, then this is a helpful suggestion. Though a word of warning. there’s much more to being a teacher, so research thoroughly before making this choice 😉

But if you’re actually more of an introvert and would find working kids exhausting (speaking from personal experience) then this suggestion is well-intended but unhelpful and you can choose to ignore the suggestion and move on.

Let’s go back to my original example and see how that may have played out with this approach,

Recruiter: You have a lot of experience and you should stick to what you know best

You: What makes you say that?

Recruiter: Well, it will be easier to get a job and you’ll be able to command a higher salary package.

You: OK thanks, but those things aren’t important to me and I’ve been miserable in that type of work for ages. I’ve researched <new career> thoroughly and am completing a postgraduate degree in it. I also have many of the required transferable skills already. I’m confident this is what I want. Can you help me?

You can see how that conversation is then redirected and clearly focussed on what you actually want.