(c) 2010 Ardfern (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Why Is Career Advice So Useless?

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eWeek, a leading rag in the corporate IT industry, has a new article by Rich Milgram on “How to Ensure IT Job Security Despite an Economic Meltdown“. It’s a great example of useless career advice.

And you don’t even have to be in IT to see that.

Here are his four points, if you can call them that:

  1. Provide meaningful results: because you aren’t doing your job right now and your manager is an incompetent moron who can’t tell you what you should be doing so that it might be conceivably useful to the corporation’s goals
  2. Step outside your comfort zone: because if you did what was natural for you, you’d be setting yourself up to fail.
  3. Take advantage of learning opportunities: this is actually useful. You should always be learning. But his reasoning is flawed. For many people in IT, more education and certification will actually hurt their careers.
  4. Plan for the best, yet prepare for the worst: Or don’t be a complete idiot about what is going on.

This is stunning for two reasons: (1) people find this garbage useful (how desperate are they in IT?) and (2) eWeek thought it was useful enough to actually write.

Now if you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that the big Secret Rule is the Law of Work Levels. It turns out that most people in the business world who would read eWeek are at Level 3 on the Jaques scale (there’s a good many reasons for this). Most business books are written for the Level 3 reader because since there are more of them, they will obviously buy more books. Getting 10% of 30 million, say, is better than getting 80% of 100,000. So you write for the largest audience.

This article doesn’t even do a very good job at writing for level 3. It’s so general, so universal, that’s there’s almost nothing being said. Warren Kinston, in a discussion awhile back, talked about how this is true of a lot of business advice books. They talk in Universals, things that we will almost all agree upon (excepting sociopaths, as always). However, when you start trying to instantiate these ideas in the real world you start seeing major differences in values and purposes. You need universal level values informing you, but since most of them are shared across almost every human culture, they aren’t much use since almost every human culture instantiates them differently.

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This is why I don’t career coach or mentor just anyone. You have to be a hidden high potential or what I have to say just won’t be all that relevant. The scale is different.

The best advice is that which is tailored for you. This means that I have to understand more about you than just “you work in IT”. There are lots of different levels of capacity in an corporate IT organization (usually five being managed by level 3 boss) so you can’t just give general advice.

Remember what Lord Brown said: in even the highest unemployment, there are never enough high capacity people to fill the roles.

Because you are the killer app.

Image Credit: © 2010 Ardfern (CC BY-SA 3.0). Via Wikimedia.

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