THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- No snob zone: Take good advice where you find it

I have found that the best way to manage myself is by asking for a lot of help. The question is, how do you know who to take advice from?

The answer is not always intuitive. For example, you'd think that if Bill Gates wants to give you career advice, you should take it, right? I mean, the guy's had a pretty decent career. The problem is that if he doesn't care about your career, he's going to give you generic advice.

Here are five other counter-intuitive principles:

* Listen to people who hate you

People ask me all the time how I put up with the level of criticism my blog draws. The interesting thing about taking advice from people who don't like me is that sometimes, they'll say things that other people wouldn't say because it would hurt me.

* Stop thinking your issues are especially difficult

The most important piece of self-knowledge is that our problems are not unique. So don't be a snob about who to take advice from. You don't need a "career expert." If you are articulate about framing your problem, most of your friends can give articulate, useful guidance for solving the problem.

* Less experience often means better advice

When it comes to finding a mentor, the most effective mentors are 3-5 years ahead of you in the workplace. Those are the people who have the best memory of what it was like to be where you are, especially in today's quickly-changing workplace. Someone who has a lot more experience than you may be out of touch with what the workplace is like today. I find that this is a big problem when people rely on their parents for advice.

* Be wary of people whose lives look perfect

Happiness researchers have known for a long time that if you ask people directly if they are happy in their career, most of the time they'll lie. This makes sense because if someone has invested tons of time getting to where they are, it's a really tough thing to say they're unhappy; then they'd have to take action to change.  This is why I like reading about celebrities. They can't hide as much as non-celebrities, so I can learn more about what works and what doesn't.

* Stick with people who give you bad advice.

In some respects, bad advice might be better than good advice because what you really want is advice that makes you think in new ways about possibilities for yourself. So when it comes to taking advice, you still have to have your inner compass. This means that you should gather lots of advice, but be aware that sometimes, you need to ignore it. After a while, even someone who has given you a lot of great advice will falter. Because no one is perfect, and no one can do as well at running your life as you can. So if you find someone who is giving good advice, push harder, until you get to their limit. Everyone gives bad advice sometimes, even me.

After all, what is the fun of life if we can't make our own mistakes?


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.