How to Get Career Advice That’s Actually Good

Are you thinking about becoming a full-time freelancer or interested in applying for an interactive position within your company? Carefully consider whom you tap for guidance—the advice you receive can greatly impact your chances of success.

“No enemy is worse than bad advice.”


In a survey by The Creative Group, 58% of advertising and marketing executives said they have received bad career advice from colleagues; and, perhaps more shocking, more than half of respondents (54%) said a boss has steered them in the wrong direction.

Executives also were asked to describe the worst career advice they have ever received. Here are just some of their responses:

  • “Someone told me to walk into the CEO’s office and say, ‘We need to talk about my salary today.’”
  • “My former boss discouraged me from going to work for a competitor, saying that I wouldn’t last, but I did.”
  • “I was told to look for safe opportunities rather than striving for challenges.”
  • “I was advised to keep quiet when there were problems.”
  • “A coworker wanted me to take her job so she could take a new position. It wasn’t a good idea. I wasn’t ready to fill that job.”

How can you find credible career advice? Consider these tips:

Aim for the most informed insights.

Listen to the voice of experience. When seeking counsel on a particular issue, try to get the input of creative professionals who’ve faced similar situations and found success. For example, if you’re contemplating moving into a new design discipline, talk to members of your network who’ve made a comparable transition.

Seek a range of opinions.

Let’s say you’re making the print-to-web transition, and you want to learn more about coding. What’s the best way to go about it? Should you return to school, take an online seminar or try to teach yourself? Three very smart people may have three very different, but equally valid, viewpoints. Regardless of how much you trust someone, avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.

george lois, madmen, damn good advice

George Lois definitely gives good advice.


Open up.

It can be difficult to get useful advice if the individuals you consult don’t truly understand your career objectives or your goals in life. Help people help you by clearly describing your ambitions, preferences and values. The more details you divulge, the better able they’ll be to tailor their feedback to your unique situation.

Let your needs and ambitions guide you.

Everyone has their own thoughts about what matters most—and what should be of greatest importance to you. Remain mindful of underlying motivations, too. For instance, a coworker’s advice to stay in an unfulfilling job may be misguided because the person knows that if you leave, his or her workload will grow. At times, even solicited suggestions should be taken with a grain of salt.

Find a mentor.

Having a respected and trustworthy mentor to turn to for impartial insights is a great gift. In fact, mentors are least likely to give bad career advice, according to our survey. If your employer doesn’t offer a formal mentoring program, be on the lookout for intelligent and experienced interactive designers inside and outside your company, including members of industry associations and online groups (like groups on LinkedIn relevant to your field).

Whether it’s a manager, colleague, friend or mentor who responds to your request for guidance, share your gratitude and return the favor whenever possible. Make people feel appreciated, and they’ll be far more inclined to assist you again in the future.

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