Career advice comes in many forms when you are making your way up the ladder as everyone seems to have a different idea on how to approach and advance a career. While some people give you valuable feedback, others give you unhelpful or potentially harmful feedback.
Some advice is outdated or simply wrong. Taking the wrong advice or listening to the wrong person can stall your career or outright end it.
Listening to the right kind of feedback from the correct people can help you grow as a professional. Coworkers may point out ways you could improve your communication style to make it friendlier or clarify your message. You do not know what to improve unless someone is willing to give you both positive and negative feedback. You do need to know when you are getting feedback for your benefit and when you are getting feedback for someone else’s benefit.
Unsolicited Advice From the Inexperienced
It pays to ask for feedback periodically, although some coworkers offer feedback even when you have not asked. This is fine on occasion but be sure to evaluate why they are giving you feedback and whether they are a credible source for career advice in the area they are talking about. Save the learning moments for those who truly have something to teach you.
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If someone from the mailroom offers unsolicited feedback on how you are setting up your marketing team, then you must ignore it. If your supervisor offers feedback about how you handled the last meeting, then you must listen and learn. If you think a coworker is only offering advice to appear more knowledgeable than he or she really is, then do not give it too much thought.
Suggestions to “Fake It Until You Make It”
This is antiquated advice previously used in the 1950s when showing any weakness in the work world was considered the worst thing you could do. Today, this leads to a slew of potential problems, including improperly finished projects, cost overruns and unnecessary delays while you try to figure something out. Instead, ask questions. Talk to your supervisor and ask for clarification, get suggestions from coworkers and, when warranted, assign someone to find out what you need to know and give a report.
Collaboration and learning from others are both critical to success in today’s business world. Demonstrating your willingness to grow and develop new skills reflects well on your professionalism and ability to take on new and challenging tasks. Let others know there are some things you do not yet know. Then, show them you are ready to learn those things and adapt these lessons into your career.
Pointless Criticism Disguised as Feedback
Nearly every office has one person who is overly negative but never offers advice on how to improve things. When someone who tells you, “You are not good at delegating. You have chosen the wrong people for the assignment,” ask them for their suggestions. What tasks can be delegated? Who would they choose for the assignment? If the response is a shrug and “You have to figure it out for yourself,” then ignore the person.
Criticizing without offering advice on how to turn things around is a classic ploy for employees who want to be noticed while disparaging others. It is an empty ploy to discredit those around them while not having anything of value to offer to improve the situation. Do not fall for this. If they cannot tell you why or how you are failing, then do not waste time analyzing their comments. These comments only serve to lower your confidence or make you question your decision-making skills.
There are sometimes coworkers who give well-meaning criticism but still cannot help you. The person who says, “I was not moved by your presentation,” may have a point, but if he or she cannot tell you what it was leaving him or her feeling unmoved, then the feedback is merely an observation. Ask around and see if others have more specific feedback. You cannot take action if you do not know what action to take.
Feedback That Feels Wrong to You
Someone may give you what they believe is valuable feedback, including suggestions for better, more successful ways to accomplish a career goal. The process they suggest may work, but if it goes against the grain of your personal beliefs or is in a gray area where you feel uncomfortable, then ignore the advice. Doing anything in a way you do not feel comfortable with erodes your sense of self and integrity. It bothers you more and more as days and weeks roll by until you realize you no longer like what you do. When in doubt, stick with your gut.
Admonishments to Keep Friendships and Work Separate
You may get feedback from someone who suggests you are too close to the people you work with, or someone saying it is not productive to discuss weekend plans or the birth of a child with your coworkers. Strong leaders often say the exact opposite of this advice. A few minutes each day interacting and connecting personally with your coworkers helps establish trust, camaraderie and understanding. It makes the workplace more pleasant, which leads to better productivity.
Warnings to Blindly Follow Management
This goes back to the older days of leadership. During this time, leaders did not want to be questioned. Employees were expected to follow the chain of command, and if they tried to give any feedback, then they were dismissed or even punished for speaking up. This behavior led to incredible disasters at companies throughout history, with many industries collapsing because the higher ranked executives refused to accept feedback and recognize when there were issues or how to solve problems.
When you have a genuine concern about how something is done and have a valid alternative to suggest, step forward and say something. A good manager welcomes your questions and input. Knowing you have the interests of the company at heart is remembered and you are perceived as a valuable team player.
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