Here’s an interesting little assignment. Ask someone today for a piece of advice. Set it up properly and you’ll have something valuable.
Okay so here’s what’s behind the assignment. If you are seeking to move ahead in your job, or you are job searching and looking to get further ahead quicker, you could benefit from the thoughts, advice and experiences of those around you. Are you prepared to listen to someone else’s advice? More importantly, are you prepared to strongly consider that advice and then do something about it to put it into action? Depends what they say is your answer I’m betting.
There is a great deal of sense in asking for advice from people you trust and respect, and of course, people who have known you for some time. However, you can also gain some pretty solid insight into people you know very little, but this advice will usually be generalized, the kind of advice they’d give anyone in your role as a job seeker, or employee.
When you ask for advice, set it up by telling the person you value their opinion on something and it would mean a great deal if they would give you some advice. However, you need to add some focus to the advice you are seeking, otherwise you might get a reply like, “Sure, it’s always good advice to put down weed-and-feed in the Spring to keep dandelions away from your lawn”. Well that may be true, but not at all relevant to job searching. Much more effective than to say, “I’m looking for a job as you know, and would really appreciate your advice on one thing I should be doing to get more interviews”.
When you ask someone for their opinion, or their advice, be prepared to listen and then make sure you thank them. You can ask for clarification of course if you don’t quite grasp the advice, but whatever you do, don’t get defensive or combative. Be sincere in your thanks and perhaps tell them you’ll consider their advice. If the person knows you well, you might go so far as to give them permission to tell you what they really think, even if that advice might sting. A personality flaw, hygiene issue or attitude are difficult things to be given advice about because they hit so close to home, but this could be some valuable information you receive.
If the person you ask is some random person off the street, the advice you get will be more general in nature, and advice they feel anyone could benefit from. Sitting on a bus, you could turn to the person next to you and say, “I wonder if I could ask you something? what advice would you give someone who wants to get ahead in a company?” The way the question is phrased leads to a more general answer, and quite frankly that person isn’t qualified to give you yourself any advice because they don’t know you. You still might find that information useful. It might also be something that gets a conversation going, and voila, you’ve started networking.
One thing to add in order to get the best answers to this exercise should you choose to do it; don’t jump all over someone who gives you advice or in any way criticize the person. If you do, not only do you offend someone who is doing exactly what you asked them too originally, but now they might go and tell other people in your workplace. So when you approach someone else, they may not tell you anything of real value because they don’t want a repeat of your reaction, and so they’ll tell you nothing at all and decline to answer you, or they’ll say something you want to hear just to get past the question. That advice isn’t going to be helpful. Unless of course the advice you get from this person is, “You hurt so-and-so’s feelings and need to apologize to them for jumping all over them!” Come to think of it, that advice in that situation would be the best kind!
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