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March 23, 2010

Why is there so much bad career advice on the Internet?

There’s an old saying that “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”.

Most “free” resume advice exists to make you feel like you can’t write one yourself. That attitude sells the resume writer’s services.

Good advice can also be used as a sales pitch for more good advice, but in that case it can be incomplete. And incomplete advice may be misunderstood.

Other people give bad advice with more sinister motives. They may want you to fail or at least are trying to intimidate you. This kind of advice may come from people insecure in their own careers.

Now, there are good advisors out there. More about them later.

First, let’s get to the third and most common source of bad advice, a group of poor advisors that may actually want you to succeed. I’ve been part of this group in the past. They just don’t know what they’re talking about.

Some of these people may be answering a question because they know a lot of people want the answer. Others may be working to some kind of quota, attempting to blog something every day.

Too many people are afraid to say “I don’t know” or to just avoid topics they don’t know. They either repeat something they’ve heard before, or they make something up.

Unfortunately, even people with experience can fall into this category. Not everyone knows how they succeeded, or what worked and what didn’t. And even if they do, how can you be sure that what they did is right for you?

I learned this secret while reading a book about golf. Yes, a screenwriter learned one of life’s greatest lessons in a book which had nothing at all to do with screenwriting.

The book spoke of golf magazines giving bad advice to beginning golfers. You see, there are two wrong ways to hit a golf club. You can … or you can slice. Most beginners… but most professional golfers will slice. And these articles are written with professional golfers in mind.

So, the advice they give in these magazines involves compensating for a slice, which will result in hitting the ball more like a …. This may be good advice for the majority of professional golfers, but it is bad advice for beginners.

People give the same kind of bad career advice (or screenwriting advice, or even blogging advice). Advisors can tell you to do the opposite of what you need to do because it is what they need to do. Alternatively, it may be what they should have done when they were younger, or even what their friends and children need to do.

Finally, they may just have hang ups or pet peves. Some people are more sensitive to certain things than others. A career advisor may dislike blue ties or be irritated by certain words due to personal taste.

So how do you know what advice to take? Good question. Let me know if you find the answer.

Generally though, the better someone knows you, the better advice they can give. The aim should always be finding the happy medium between the slice and the ….

Ask yourself a few questions. Are you too loud or too quiet? Do you speak too quickly or too slowly? Do you spend too much time networking or too little time networking?

A good advisor will ignore his or her own pet peves and look at you as an individual.

And remember, not only does your advisor not know you as you know yourself, but your advisor may not know your employer or your target market as well as you know them either.

Maybe you’re doing everything correctly and you just need the patience to wait for all your hard work to pay off.

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