“To be taken seriously, and have executive presence, you must change this, this, and this about yourself, oh, and this, too,” offered another advice giver.
“Authenticity is KEY – be yourself!” ordered yet another advice giver.
And finally, the gem.
“There is a ton of great career advice out there, but not all of it will be great for you. Some of it will even be bad. You have to choose what advice you think is best, and ignore the rest.”
That little nugget of wisdom saved me from turning myself into a frustrated pretzel.
Here’s a quick rundown of why some solid advice will be wrong for you, specifically.
- It goes against your values;
- It’s from another industry and doesn’t apply well to your own industry;
- It’s for a career stage other than your own;
- It worked two decades ago and is still often repeated, but it is no longer relevant in 2018; and
- It looks good at first, but doesn’t apply to your unique circumstances, skillset, or experience.
So how does a professional quickly filter through all the advice out there? How do you choose what’s best for you?
Here are six advice filters, and why they work.
1. Does the advice align with your values? Does the advice adhere to a certain worldview? What is it?
If advice doesn’t align with one’s values, no matter one’s heroic efforts in applying that advice, it just won’t work. At best it can undermine someone’s authenticity and confidence. At worst, they can end up doing things that leave them feeling sick to their stomach.
Most career advice for women will subtly or overtly push ideas that pit men against women, encourage women to act like men, or assume career success is the only type of success possible or even desirable in life.
Contrast that with other advice, like what you’ll find from MHI-TX – achieving a just and harmonious workplace, women offer unique contributions that complement men’s unique contributions, and being a whole person necessitates more than just a successful career.
If the advice aligns with your values, following it can
Increase your authenticity;
Feel natural to you;
Boost your confidence;
Fuel your growth as a woman in the workplace; and
Become a foundation for success.
2. Does the advice fit with your leadership and work style?
I once had a manager advise me to just “tell the staff the results they must achieve – or else – and they’ll do it.” That went completely against my collaborative and servant leadership style.
Following advice that goes against one’s natural leadership style, won’t work for the same reasons following advice that goes against their values doesn’t work. Those around the leader can sense if the leader is being inauthentic, and that inauthenticity undermines their credibility as a leader and as a professional.
While it is possible to learn a few different leadership styles, and adapt them for different types of situations, everyone has a leadership style that is natural to them. When you primarily use your natural leadership style and its strengths, you’re better able to do your best work and bring out the best in others.
3. Is the advice vague or specific? Does it include action steps and examples?
Is the advice specific enough that you can follow it? Someone might say something like, “Improve your executive presence,” but then leave it at that. What do they mean by executive presence? Do they have something specific in mind regarding your attire, accountability or personal interactions?
Sometimes the advice might not be intended only for you, but for a general audience. Do they give examples, so it’s easy to understand each step? Examples also help you see how you might tweak the advice to your particular needs.
4. Does it encourage you to grow a bit beyond your comfort zone?
To continue growing in your professional or your personal life, going beyond your comfort zone and trying new things is an integral step in that process. You may
Take on new responsibilities;
Travel to new places;
Go down unexpected paths;
Work with new people; or
Try out different roles.
5. Does it support your story?
Chris Staffel, a former energy executive, presented for MHI-TX a couple years ago about the Power of Your Story. She explained how knowing your story can help you understand the whole picture of your career’s purpose.
When you know your career story and your purpose, it becomes very easy to see if advice supports your story arc, your career purpose, or if it does nothing for it or even takes away from it. For example, Ms. Staffel started in New York City as an actress. After a few years, she was offered a position with an energy company. While at first, the two professions may seem unrelated, she was able to manage the public affairs and communications for multiple energy companies.
For a former actress used to performing in front of a live audience, interacting with the press and investors was a natural fit.
6. Does the advice align with your career and personal goals?
Your goals are a part of your story, but distinct enough, that filtering advice against your goals as well as your story, can be very helpful. And keeping in mind that some career advice might help you achieve your career goals, but take you further away from your personal goals.
To illustrate, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo have advised younger women to consider marrying men who are open to working part-time or even staying home when the kids are young – allowing the women to focus on their careers.
This advice may be great for a woman who wants to reach the C-suite at a young age, but it wouldn’t be appropriate for a woman who would like to be at home more for her kids, or who has career goals other than becoming an executive.
Bringing it altogether
With each of these filters, self-awareness is key. It can also be helpful to revisit your values, leadership style, story, and goals, as they can change throughout your career.