The Simple Reason Why Your Best Friend’s Career Advice May Be Wrong

(5 min read) When friends and family tell you to settle, they may NOT be right. Today’s post will highlight a key reason (that has literally NOTHING to do with reality) why people may be telling you to be patient, work harder, or just settle. Sometimes, the best advice is to go with your gut, and trust yourself.

It’s not you, it’s your boss. Or maybe it is you. Or maybe it’s your company…or your coworkers.

Your job isn’t challenging you as much as you’d like.  It’s hard to know what you’re worth, or if there’s anything better out there.  And sometimes it feels like an equation with no answer, and you spend so much time going back and forth in your own head that…oh yeah, I’m going to go get a coffee, this is too hard and my brain hurts.

I’ve been there.

And like me, you’ve probably asked other people for their opinions and advice.

It’s too hard to figure out in your own head, so you talk to your friends, your coworkers, or worst of all…your mom (mom’s are great, but sometimes they aren’t great with career advice). Chances are you’ve probably reached out to a few classmates who were a couple years ahead of you, or a former manager, to ask what they think.

And those people who care so much about us, often tell us…

  • “Just be patient.”
  • “Maybe you aren’t qualified for those jobs, and you just need to accept it.”
  • “Don’t do anything foolish – you have a good job and have student loan payments to make.”
  • “It’s not THAT bad.”
  • “You need more experience before you can get a job like that.”
  • “They don’t want people with your background to for jobs like that.”
  • “It could be worse.”

Wow. Now that last one is exactly what all of us are looking for in a job, right? A job that…could be worse.

The problem is, friends, family members and coworkers are flawed.

We all are really, but this part is about them, and how their flaws aren’t helping you in this particular situation.  I want to share a completely unrelated story to demonstrate my point.

A year ago, I sprained my ankle (bear with me, I promise this IS related to your career).

I was standing in super comfortable flats with great arch support, my legs slightly apart with my hands on my hips (in other words, the most STABLE position you can stand in). And my leg slid off my foot. That’s the only way I can explain what happened. I was standing, and then my ankle just kind of gave out, and the next thing I knew I was laying on the floor in the chalk outline pose, waiting for someone to find me..

I was in an ankle brace for months, and people were constantly asking me “what did you do?”

These conversations fascinated me, because 80% of the time, they went the SAME way (from strangers all the way to close friends, it was the SAME conversation) and it went something like this:

  • FRIEND: What did you do?
  • ME: I was standing and then my ankle just gave out.
  • FRIEND: Seriously? Were you on a ladder or something?
  • ME: Nope, I was just standing, in the most stable position possible, hands on my hips, and my ankle gave out.
  • FRIEND: That can’t be. You MUST have been doing something.
  • (ME, in my head: WTH does that mean? Doing something? Yeah, sure, I was standing on one leg doing a taco dance while jumping on the bed. Would that make them feel better?)
  • ME (in real life): Nope, it was the weirdest thing. I really was just standing there, and then I fell.
  • FRIEND: The floor must have been uneven then. Or were you twisting? You must have been twisting. Or maybe you were wearing heels and you lost your balance?
  • ME: I know it’s super weird, but that’s not what it was. I really was just standing there on a concrete floor and I wasn’t moving. The PT and the orthopedist said it could happen to anyone.
  • FRIEND: There MUST be a reason…I’ve never heard of that before.

That last line is PRECISELY what your friends and family think when you talk to them about your slow-moving, unhappy career.

They don’t have all the information (they couldn’t possibly, unless they’re following you around 24/7) and chances are, they don’t know your career path or options super well. So they believe there’s a GOOD reason for the way your boss is treating you, or the fact that you haven’t been promoted yet.  They aren’t necessarily blaming you, they just believe there must be a good reason.

Even IF they are living the same career a few years ahead of you, they are thinking the same thing. There must be a reason. They’re looking at their experience, and what has made them successful, and looking for things that you’re missing. And as soon as they find them, they’ll tell you THAT’s the reason it’s not happening for you.

Kathy came to me a year ago with this exact problem.

A PhD from a highly reputable university with 3 years experience, Kathy knew in her gut that she deserve a better job than what she had, but wasn’t getting many calls or interviews. And when she did get calls, the jobs weren’t that great. Her mom even told her she should consider just getting a job at Walmart.  WALMART. I’m not kidding. More importantly, she’d reached out to 2 other PhDs who were doing well in their careers and graduated 2 years before her. They both told her she didn’t have the publication history she needed to get any real technical role in a big company.

She got advice from people who saw one thing missing in her background and told her that her goals were unrealistic.

Why were they so focused on publication history? Because they attributed their success to their incredibly lengthy publication history and Kathleen didn’t have a long list of publications, so in their mind, she didn’t have what it takes.

But believing them was a mistake.

Kathy had so many things in her background that those guys couldn’t hold a candle to. She had extensive project management experience, had worked in a very specialized area, and had a fantastic approach to work, and a great personality – these things gave her a competitive edge, and we just needed to find the right way to highlight them.

Because they’re falling into a natural human tendency, called the “Just-World Phenomenon”

Just like with that repetitive conversation I had with seemingly everyone about my ankle, people have a natural tendency to seek out a reason for something that’s happening in the world.  They have to believe that the world is fair, so there must be a reason that things are happening.  Most people could not accept that my ankle just gave out, because if it could happen to me, then it could happen to them.

And just like your career, people believed that I missed some detail, I was doing something wrong, I didn’t know what I didn’t know…there MUST BE A GOOD REASON.

But the truth is…

You’re Right. You deserve better, AND you can get better.

There, I said it. I don’t need to know you to know the pattern that I see ALL OF THE TIME. I know that if you believe you can do better…if there’s a nagging sense that you’ve got what it takes, or you just don’t feel like you’re being challenged in your current role (I mean, getting paid to sleep b/c you can do your job in your sleep is one thing, but maybe not what you want), then there’s a 95% chance that you ARE ready to do more, earn more, take on more responsibility, manage people for the first time, or just find a better boss.  You’ve got to believe in yourself.

But it can be hard to believe you deserve better when so many people are telling you to be patient, or to settle.

Which is why I’m going to say this again, because it’s important that you hear it.

You’re right, you deserve better.

You know yourself better than anyone, and sometimes all it takes is for someone to reassure you that you’ve got this.

It’s not that you aren’t qualified or capable…

You know your experience, your work style, your personality, your approach to work, and what makes your heart sing better than anyone. If you’ve spent a lot of time and effort gaining years of working experience, or studying your craft and becoming an expert with a masters degree or PhD, you REALLY know your stuff. But with all that education and focus on becoming great at WHAT you do, you probably haven’t learned how to market yourself.

…the problem is that you don’t have a PhD in how to market yourself.

People aren’t seeing how qualified you are, in your resume or in the way you’re talking about yourself. Your messaging is probably not right – and the message you’re sending matters. And in order to help people see you the right way, you need to send the right message, in your resume, online, in your casual conversations AND in your interviews.

You need to view all of your experience as valuable, and highlight the things you love doing the most.  You may not even realize how valuable some of your unique qualifications are. You may not even know you have unique qualifications.

You deserve to find a job that places value YOU BEING YOU.

And in order to do that you need to be thinking about your personal brand. If you haven’t given it thought, then you’re branding by default, and if you’re reading this blog, you already know that isn’t working for you.

It’s time to trust your gut and go out there and get the job you deserve.

The people telling you it can’t be done probably just aren’t getting the right message. The good news, is you are the one that gets to tell your story, and learning to tell it the right way will transform your job search, and your career.

I’m here to help you make that happen. You can get started today, by putting more weight on your gut and your own opinion instead of listening to friends and family, who are just falling into the “Just-World Phenomenon” trap.

Until next week (when I’ll tell you all about how to analyze your professional brand),

Suzanne