Guess What? Some Career Advice Is Okay to Ignore!

Jason David
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When you start your professional life, you will receive an overwhelming amount of advice from every corner of your life. Your parents will say one thing; your old professors and teachers will say something else; the people who don’t hire you will tell you yet more; the people who do hire you will have plenty to say; the people you work with will give you pointers; your friends who work elsewhere will tell you what works for them; your boss will tell you one thing that their boss will contradict; and on, and on and on.

It can be exhausting. It can also be exhausting to take in all this advice with the realization that, as a young professional, it’s entirely possible that you do think you know better, and that you realize you have to be humble and to take in as much advice as possible from people who are more experienced than you, but the truth is…. You just don’t.

That’s not to say you don’t have to take any career advice. Of course, you do! It’s all valuable. But the reason it’s all valuable isn’t because you have to take in and apply every piece of advice that’s ever offered to you, but because you get to select from a broad sampling of input that you think will and won’t be useful for you in your own career. And, in fact, you shouldn’t even allow yourself to feel stressed about making sure to always apply the “good” advice and to always ignore the “bad” advice.

A few examples…

Always know your value.” and “Don’t take guff from anybody.” These are lovely sentiments, and ideas I believe people should always seek to apply in their personal relationships, but the truth about working life is that you often have to do things you don’t want to do, and the idea that “knowing your value” means never going beyond the strict requirements of your job description that may stunt you in the eyes of employers who are looking in-house for candidates for advancement. Of course, you should know your value and maintain your personal integrity, but sometimes it is wise to trade some short-term comfort for the sake of long-term advancement.

But that’s just my perspective. Do with it what you will. Should it be a lifelong goal to refine your senses for good and bad advice? Of course, it should! But it takes time, and sometimes you have to take a bad piece of advice in order to know what that feels like, and vice versa: sometimes you only know how valuable a piece of advice is because you ignored it the first time it was offered to you.

Absolutely none of this is to say you shouldn’t be grateful for all of the advice you receive, good and bad, because for the most part it is all offered with good intent. And, despite the flippancy of my last paragraph, I actually think it’s extremely important to work hard to make the right decisions and to apply sound judgement in what advice you decide to take in and what you decide to ignore. Ultimately, you will be the one accountable for what you do at work--not the people who advised you.

And that’s the ultimate reason it’s okay to ignore advice that you think will land you in a less-than-ideal spot. We all have different experiences at work, even if they tend to follow similar overall patterns. Your most brilliant and successful confidante may have had a completely different type of boss at age 25 than you did, so it stands to reason that their most tempered piece of advice is completely wrong for you. So, ignore it! Do your best with the situation that is in front of you, and remember that your best resources can sometimes be incorrect while remaining extremely valuable mentors and friends.

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