Who to Ask for Career Advice

Seeking career advice is something most professionals do at some point in their life. This most commonly occurs at the beginning of someone’s career. However, any difficult work-related situation or decision can be a time when advice is needed. Sometimes choosing the person to reach out to for advice can make all the difference. Asking the wrong person can lead to bad advice which can turn into a bad decision.

When asking for career advice, gather information from multiple sources. Professional connections can give knowledge based on their experience. Career coaches are specifically trained to give advice in this area. Family and friends will know you on a personal level and be able to provide unique insight. There are other valuable resources to consult as well.

In the following article, we explore how different groups can provide valuable career advice.

Find Professional Connections

One of the best ways to find the right person is to search for your professional connections. If you have a LinkedIn profile, you can do a quick search for the job title or company. Look for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level connections when deciding who to reach out to. These are users that are connected with you either directly (1st level) or indirectly through a common connection (2nd or 3rd). For 2nd connections, your common connection can introduce you to the person you’d like to speak with.

If you aren’t active on LinkedIn, don’t worry. There are other places to find and create professional connections.

Listed below are organizations and groups where you can seek out professional connections:

 

  • Chamber of Commerce. One of the most common places to connect with other professionals is your local chamber of commerce. A chamber of commerce serves as a networking and business advocacy organization for your local community. If your company is an active member of your local chamber, you may be able to attend events. There are typically other opportunities available including various committees and boards that you can be a part of.
  • Business Network International. Commonly known as BNI, this group primarily exists for businesses to give and receive referrals. However, through giving and receiving referrals, you can create great professional relationships with many people. When you need career advice, these relationships that you’ve created can be a worthwhile resource.
  • Meetup.com. This online platform provides a place for individuals and groups to connect. Through the website or app, you can search for nearby events or groups categorized as career & business. Most groups and events are free to join or attend.
  • Rotary Club. These clubs have connected their members since 1905. Mainly focused on community activism, rotary clubs also offer networking opportunities. Rotaract and Interact clubs even connect younger individuals.

 

Be aware that there can be a cost to be involved with these organizations. Consider the value of the connections that you’ll make with the cost of membership.

Utilize Social Media

In addition to speaking to people you personally know, asking for advice online can lead to positive results. There’s a good chance that many other online users have needed career or job advice for a similar situation.

Depending on your situation, you may want to keep certain details of your request private. Reddit is a great outlet in this scenario. Reddit is a social media platform that has individual forums called subreddits based on specific topics. Two of their relevant subreddits to post these questions to are career guidance and job advice. Unlike Facebook and Linkedin, your profile name is a chosen username, not your first and last name. This allows you to ask for advice with a bit more privacy than some other places.

YouTube is another great place to find free advice. Beyond funny cat videos, YouTube has plenty of valuable content, career advice included. A quick search for “career advice for…” will produce an endless list of videos offering high-quality knowledge. Some low-quality content will be mixed in as well. So, exercise caution and common sense when applying the advice that you find.

Podcasts That Give Great Job and Career AdvicePodcasts That Give Great Job and Career Advice

The popularity of podcasts has grown tremendously in the last few years. Part of the reason they’ve grown is the wide variety of topics covered. These topics range from politics to comedy to video games and everything in between. Podcasts covering work life haven’t hit the popularity level as others, but there is still valuable information to be found.

The following podcasts provide general job and career advice:

 

  • Safe For Work. This podcast from award-winning publisher Wondery focuses on popular workplace dilemmas and issues. The hosts and weekly guests look to solve these problems and help listeners with tough decisions.
  • Ask A Manager. Host Allison Green, a former non-profit executive, answers listener questions related to work and career issues. Although this podcast is no longer making new episodes, the archived episodes are still worth a listen. Topics include “Will I ever find a job I like?” and “How do I start a new job on the right foot?”
  • How to be Awesome at Your Job. Trainer and coach Pete Mockaitis invites weekly guests to share “actionable insights that boost work performance.” Many of these insights focus on developing specific skills such as decreasing distractions and improving productivity.
  • Dear HBR. The Harvard Business Review publishes this popular bi-weekly podcast. Similar to the other podcasts in this list, workplace and career situations are discussed. Though Dear HBR specifically explores how academic research relates to these conflicts and questions.

 

The best part about using podcasts for work and career advice is they’re usually free. There are some paid podcast platforms that allow for some additional benefits to listeners.

Examine What the Experts Say

Unless you‘re lucky, well-connected, or pay big dollars it’s difficult to speak directly to career advice experts. Luckily, many experts have released books that offer valuable career advice. A simple search on Amazon for books on career advice will give you thousands of books to choose from. These books range from resume and interview advice to finding and choosing a career.

Of course, not all authors are experts and not all books will be relevant for your situation. Read the reviews and descriptions for books that seem like a good resource. Research the authors as it’s helpful to know the background and experience level of the author. If you’re looking for industry-specific advice, you’ll want knowledge from someone with experience in your industry. Limit yourself to 2 or 3 books at most. You don’t want to fall victim to information overload.

Many experts will also have free resources available on YouTube or their own website. If you’re on the fence about buying their book or paying for a program they offer, sample their free material.

Should I Work With a Career Coach?should I work with a career coach

If you feel like you need more intense assistance, a career coach may be the best option for you. Sometimes referred to as a career counselor, coaches typically have certifications and past experience that qualify them to provide career advice.

There are many reasons to work with a career coach. They can help you determine goals for your career if you’re unsure of what they should be. They do this by analyzing your skills, interests, and more to find the best course of action for you. If you already have a goal, a career coach can work with you to develop a plan to reach it. After creating the plan, they’ll track your progress toward the goal.

When deciding whether you want to work with a career coach, consider the following details:

  • There will likely be a steep cost involved. The cost will vary from coach to coach. Generally, though, the price is per hour and ranges between $75 and $300. Some coaches provide an all-inclusive program for a flat fee that extends for a given period of time.
  • Be prepared to contribute. While coaches help you accomplish specific goals and objectives, you still have to be committed to participating. If you’re not prepared, coaches will only be able to help you to a certain point. Coaches can offer valuable insight and recommendations, but it’s up to you to fully commit.
  • Coaches have different specialties. While all career coaches serve the same general purpose, some have unique specialties. These specialty areas include leadership coaching, career transition, brand building, and more. Some coaches also work with specific types of people including women, recent college graduates, and veterans. Whatever aspect of your career you need assistance with, try to find a coach that specializes in that area.
  • Look for certifications. The skill level and knowledge of coaches can contrast greatly from one to the next. While coaches don’t need a certification to provide services, having one or more highlights their skill and dedication. These certifications can come from many organizations and cover multiple skills.  For example, coaches can obtain certificates for resume writing from multiple organizations. Whatever area you need advice in, look for your coach to have certifications in that area.
  • It’s possible to work with a career coach at no cost. As mentioned above, most career coaches will charge a pretty penny for their services. However, there may be a local facility near you where career coaches offer their services free of charge. As part of the Workforce Investment Act, American Job Centers were created and funded. These centers offer various free employment services, many of which a career coach provides. Search for your nearest career center.

Similar to a career coach, you may wish to seek out a career mentor. There are some important differences to note to help you decide which is best for you. For details on mentoring read our article How to Find a Career Mentor.

Asking Your Professor for Career Advice

Current or previous professors are another good choice for people to reach out to for advice. Since professors have the built-in ability to educate, the advice they give carries a strong level of credibility. Their advice is also helpful as they have the first-hand familiarity of your knowledge and key skills.

If you’re currently in school, foster a positive relationship with your professor. Do this by first being a great student. Contribute frequently in class activities and discussions. When you feel like your professor values you as a student, ask for their advice. Let him or her know that you respect their opinion and knowledge and that you’d like career advice. Be specific about your question or concern and be attentive when they share their insight.

You can do the same for former professors after you’ve established your career. Most professors are delighted to hear from former students after they’ve found success. This gives them a sense of fulfillment to know how they positively impacted your life and still value their input.

Should I Listen to my Parents’ Career Advice?should I listen to my parents career advice

For many of us, our parents are the first people in our lives to give us advice. Helping us through tough situations and decisions is part of what parents do. Parents and close family members also often have the insight of knowing us and our personality better than most people. However, these same people can also have their own ideas of what our success should look like.

Be cautious when asking family members for advice. This is especially true in the case of a career change. Family members that have always wanted you to succeed in a specific career will have trouble giving objective advice. Yet, if you have a close family member that has dealt with a similar situation, strongly consider their advice.

Consider What You Need Advice For

Career advice can span a wide variety of topics. These can range from changing your career to working with a difficult boss. What you need advice on should play a big role in who you reach out to. For example, you wouldn’t reach out to your boss when deciding whether or not you should leave your job. Be sure to choose wisely depending on the advice that you’re looking for.

For small decisions, it’s ok to spend less time worrying about who to contact or where to look for advice. In fact, these little details can more accurately be described as job advice, rather than career advice. When needing job advice, reaching out to friends, family, or colleagues is perfectly fine.

Some examples of situations in which you need job advice are listed below:

  • Trouble dealing with a boss or supervisor
  • How to manage a disagreement with a colleague
  • Best way to ask for time off when starting a new job
  • How to handle working on multiple tasks
  • What to do when you made a mistake on an important project
  • Asking for a promotion or raise

When making a decision that can impact your career and/or personal life, give some additional thought to who to ask. You want to be sure the person you reach out to has enough knowledge and experience to provide high-quality advice.

Some career advice scenarios are listed below:

  • Choosing a college major
  • Deciding whether or not to remain with your current employer
  • Contemplating switching careers
  • Choosing between multiple job offers
  • Help with the job search process (resume, networking, etc.)

More and more people are leaving their jobs due to a bad company culture. If you’re in this situation, take a look at our article How to Find a Company With Good Culture. We provide tips on what to look when searching for the right company.

Choosing or Switching CareersChoosing or Switching Careers

Whether you’re looking to choose a career or you’ve recently decided to switch, there’s important information that’s published online about a specific job or career can certainly be useful. Typically though, the most helpful information comes from someone directly involved in the job. An individual that does the job every day will be able to draw on their experience to give you valuable insight.

When You Know What Job You Want

You might already know the exact position that you want. In this case, connect with someone in this specific position. If it’s a promotion from the position you’re currently in, connect with someone outside of your company. You want your boss to know that your focus is on being productive and successful

We also recommend connecting with people from different types of companies. The experience of someone in the position you’re interested in can vary drastically from company to company. By doing this, you may get a better idea of the type of company you want to work for. For example, you might find out a small company is a better fit for your position than a large corporation.

If You’re Undecided About Your Career Choice

If you’re undecided on your career choice, consider reaching out to individuals from multiple positions that you’re interested in. Each person should be able to provide specific details about their experience that may help with your decision. When reaching out, be sure to ask questions that only pertain to that person’s job. Asking questions related to irrelevant details will discourage people from engaging in a conversation with you.

When reaching out to these individuals, have specific questions prepared. Below are some valuable questions you can ask when you’re undecided about your career choice:

  • What do you enjoy doing most in your position?
  • How do people in your organization view your role and the work that you do?
  • What do you spend most of your day working on?
  • How has your role changed over time and with other companies you’ve worked for?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your position?
  • When did you realize that you made the right career choice?
  • What skill do you believe is most important for success in this job?

Be sure to only ask 3 to 4 questions at first. It’s important to keep in mind that the person is helping you during their free time. You don’t want to come off as pushy or rude.

If you’re struggling to select a career, consider making your choice based on your personality. Our article Careers That Fit My Personality explores this idea with ways to find your personality and recommendations for careers.

Who have you received your best career advice from? Join the conversation below by leaving us a comment.

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