Getting advice and using it effectively

Advisory services for unemployed people come in two basic forms.

One is the conveyor belt, essentially a course in services and the machinery of unemployment.

The other is personal advice, of varying kinds and varying quality.

We've discovered that practical situation-based advice is far more effective than trying to equate everybody's individual needs as being basically the same.

People are different, their situations are different, their needs are different. It's not an assembly line, and generic information only goes so far.

Job networks have to operate on a case management basis, because it's the only functional way of dealing with specific individual needs.

The employment industry, however, produces large amounts of generic information, a One Size Fits All approach which means in effect finding your way through the maze of organizations, concepts, and solving problems on your own.

You'll find a lot of information may not apply to your work needs, or the jobs you apply for, because employers are all different, too.

Naturally, people need to ask for advice. The information they have doesn't really do the job, and is too generalized to deal with specific problems.

The sad fact is that there's plenty of cut and paste advice on the net and in the employment industry.

Any sort of advisory service really requires much more depth, just to be effective. Quality of information is the real issue.

It's common that advice is given on the basis of what information is provided, not necessarily what's required to give a good answer, and actually solve the problems.

In some cases people simply don't know what's involved in their problems, themselves. So they also don't understand what the advice they receive means. They may not even know the problems, or why they're being given that particular advice. They just realize that they're not getting jobs.

The advice they get may be incorrect, because they don't know how to express the issues properly. Often they don't want to bring up personal matters, which is perfectly understandable, and quite right, in terms of privacy. On the net, in particular, some discretion is always a good idea.

Good advice depends on good information

There are a few basic rules about getting good advice:

  • Define your situation clearly. That way you can be sure you're asking the right questions. Take some time to think about it, decide on your questions, and be sure that you're asking for information you need.
  • Find out who can give expert advice, particularly in the professional fields. That's extremely important, because you must be able to trust your sources. Some people can advise on general issues, but not on professional matters, and vice versa.
  • Make sure you have access to your own sources of information, so you can check and verify advice you receive.
  • Don't assume any one piece of advice is the only answer. It's easy to get a second opinion, and it's often a good idea to compare your options when you're being advised to do different things.
  • When given advice, make sure you understand the information and ideas you're given. If you're not sure, check, because mistakes can be expensive wastes of effort.
  • One way of assessing advice is to quantify what it's supposed to achieve. If you're given career advice, for example, you'd expect a degree, a career path, and all the logical developments from the academic and professional achievements. If there's no clear result and obvious achievement, how useful is the advice?

Negative advice- Don't…

Negative advice can be far more useful than it looks.

If you're given legitimate, reliable advice not to do something, it's quite likely you're avoiding a potential problem, and you need to be sure you understand that situation.

Say you're told not to go for commission-only jobs. There's a very good reason for that, because unless you are a particularly good salesperson, and prepared to work 7 days a week, it's likely to be a disaster.

Now- Suppose you're advised not to take up a job which has academic tenure, a pension, and an executive allowance.

Sounds a bit odd, doesn't it? Most people would jump at a job like that, but you're actually being advised against it, in this case.

Obviously, you do need to know what's wrong with a job like that. It must be something pretty bad, if all of those benefits aren't good enough reasons for taking the job.

…And they aren't, in this case.

This is an academic job, and a very well paid one, but you're trying to do research, and it's an absolute non-starter, in that regard. Your research career would be dead before it began. You'd actually be getting an entry on your resume which was quite irrelevant to research work. If anything, it could cost you a research job.

So you can see that negative advice may be given for reasons which may not be clear, or on the basis of information you just didn't have.

Negative advice should be treated on the same basis as positive advice. You don't have to take it, but you should keep it in mind. You can get other opinions easily, and you can always check out facts for yourself.

Keep your own thinking independent of the advice you receive.

Most advice is given in good faith, and is really an expression of opinion. It can be extremely useful but you must maintain your own personal perspective.

Advice isn't a substitute for personal judgment.

You must develop your own ability to make accurate judgments regarding anything to do with jobs, work or career. That takes experience, and any real advisor will be hoping that they're passing on experience and showing good judgment themselves.

All advisors should recognize your need to be able to make your own, informed, decisions for yourself.

Real advice isn't cheap. It's a product of lifetimes. Learn to understand the advice you receive, and you'll be doing yourself a tremendous favor.