THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Bad advice: How to know when you're getting it

The worst career advice I ever gave was to my brother's college roommate. He asked me if he should quit healthcare consulting to become an actor.

I said, "No, that's the dumbest idea I ever heard."

He thought he had talent, and he told me he was dating a girl who said he had talent.

I thought maybe his best career move might be to find a girlfriend who was impressed with his healthcare consulting talent.

But he didn't think he had any future in healthcare consulting. So I became a largely useless advisor. And then my brother forwarded me a trailer for Lipstick Jungle, and there was Rob: naked, with Kim Raver. And he looked so good. Who knew? And more importantly, who knew I could give such poor career advice?

I gave such poor advice because I had such strong preconceived notions about the acting career. But I actually don't know anything about making it big as an actor. 

 I need to adjust my advice. I need to be able to see when I'm looking at someone who cannot feel fulfilled if he does not do a particular type of work.

So every week I watched Lipstick Jungle and thought about how I could have given such misguided career advice. I figured out that the hallmark of a bad advisor is to not understand where she's coming from, what preconceived notions she brings to the table.

I didn't think much more about this until I was at a meeting where participants posed questions such as What makes good advice? What makes bad advice?

Here are some ideas that came from the group:

1. A good advisor asks good questions in order to understand the goals of the advisee. No advice is given in a vacuum. Understand that an advisor can probably give great tips on how to reach goals, but really, the hardest part of making any decision is understanding your goals in the first place.

So any advisor needs to be attuned to your goals and where you are in life. This is why the best advisors ask questions rather than make proclamations. Often a good advisor is more sounding board and less Magic-8 Ball.

2. A good advisor is a good listener. Advice is about understanding the particular situation and if she's not listening, you're probably receiving advice based on incorrect assumptions. But it's hard to listen when you're a subject matter expert.

In general, all situations sound the same when you give advice to the same types of people all the time. The trick for the advisor is to stop focusing on the similarities, which make her job easier, but to focus on the differences, which is more challenging— but makes for better advice.

3. Good advice is not fly-by-night. Advisors are best when they really know you, and they really know the arena where the issues live. So cultivate a relationship with someone who's a subject matter expert, and then he can give you ongoing advice that's relevant to your particular circumstances based on what you're telling him, and on the relationship that provides the context.

Wondering how you're going to attract this kind of advisor? Be one yourself. Giving good advice is the same thing as giving a good kiss. You attract what you deserve. Not in a secret sort of way, but in a way where if you're practicing good behavior, then you'll attract good behavior.

And, while I hesitate to give advice at the end of the piece about how advice should not be in a vacuum: you usually get in life what you expect to get. So expect good advice. And good kisses. Tthey will come.