Most of the advice you receive on career advancement will come from people who have ulterior motives. Some of them even have an interest in seeing you do something that will benefit them. Objective career advice is often elusive. Let’s look at some of the most common places people receive career advice and assess their objectivity.
Your Employer. Many companies offer training and development programs. Some of these are well designed and they can provide you with some valuable skills and knowledge that you can use through out your career. One thing is almost always true – the training and development that is offered or sanctioned by your employer will benefit them. Sales representatives will be offered sales training to help them sell more. This may benefit the rep if he moves to another company, but his present employer will certainly reap the rewards in the short term. What does this have to do with career advice? Well, if the company has invested several thousands of dollars in training you for a position, how willing are they going to be to help you move out of that role? Some companies will be willing to see you advance beyond that role, after you have produced a significant return on their investment. However, the employer will want to make sure that training is put to good use in your current role.
Your Boss. When you sit down for your performance review your boss is supposed to give you feedback and help you outline a road map for your future. Nine times out of ten your promotion will mean more work for your boss. This can take the form of having to train someone new to do your job or just to pick up your work while he looks for someone to replace you. In the end it is in his best interest to tell you that you stink – or at least tell you that you have a long way to go to get to the next level.
A Headhunter. Recruiters get paid to do one thing – fill positions. They want to get the right person in the right job because they don’t want to fill the same position multiple times within a short period (this is more work for them). Once a headhunter recognizes that you have the skills to fill a certain role, it is his job to get you to take that position and to get the employer to take you. Sure this makes sense for the short term – getting a job. What about your long term career goals? What incentive does the headhunter have to make certain that the current job fits in with the big picture for you? Who is paying the headhunter?
In the end using a headhunter as part of your strategic career plan can be valuable. You need to be certain that you know which direction your career will take if your follow their advice. Just keep in mind that a headhunter has an obligation to the party that is paying his fee. If you are not that party, you should take the headhunter’s advice with a grain of salt.
Your Friends. This is about as close to an objective source as most people come across during their career planning. Wise friends who know you and your goals can be helpful as you execute your career development plan. Just remember that friends can sometimes get jealous. This jealousy can taint their advice. You probably know your fiends well enough to assess weather or not their advice is objective. Just keep your mind open.
In the end, you need to come up with a career development plan that is right for you. This should include input from multiple sources. Input and feedback is valuable but remember that you should never allow anyone to steal your dream. Plan your career based upon your goals not based entirely upon the advice of others.