Are You Sure Your “Help” is Helpful?





Yesterday was my “breaking point.”

It wasn’t really that different than most days, except that I saw and heard career advice that drives me nuts!

Here are three examples:

  • I was at an event with about 100 people where an especially smart person in leadership stood in front of a group and said “If you want your kids to get a job with a starting salary between $87,000 and $110,000 per year, send them to get a Business Analytics degree at this university.”
  • My wife shared with me (knowing it would make me nuts!) that another relative (this has happened multiple times) gave my daughter career advice, telling her she should definitely get an information systems degree because there were going to be “jobs for everyone” in the future.
  • I read an economic forecast for 2016 and 2017 that showed while GDP in the Information Sector was expected to grow over 5% the next two years (in NC), the same Information Sector was one of the few areas forecast to have a net DECREASE in jobs.

So you may be asking why these three things infuriate me. It’s not because I’m against people making big salaries. It’s also not because I think Big Data and Information Systems are bad careers. Quite the contrary on both points. I love big salaries, and I am a huge fan of analytics in information systems and actually spent about five years promoting the value of such things as my full time job.

The problem is two-fold.

  1. It seems that people are so quick to give career advice without knowing anything about the person to whom they are providing the advice.

Is the most important factor in determining the best job for someone your belief, regarding where the most jobs are or which jobs pay the most? Stop and think about it.

Have you given career advice to someone based solely on where you thought the jobs were, without giving any thought to the skills, passions, interests and gifts of the person you were trying to “help.” My daughter is 17 and will likely be attending college next year. According to relatives who love her dearly, she should either be a pharmacist (because a friend of theirs has a daughter who did that who makes a lot of money) or a computer programmer (because “there will be jobs available to everyone”). Neither of these well-intentioned relatives know anything about my daughter’s grades, what subjects she enjoys or her interests. In this case both of the relatives offering “help” only see my daughter 2-3 times a year and talk to her for about 15 minutes total per year. Yet they give her advice on what degree she should get and what career she should pursue. Again, I want to be very clear. I don’t believe my relatives or any of the other gajillion people out there giving poor career advice are trying to do anything but “help.” But in these particular cases, both people giving advice have worked in the same company and same career path for 20 + years and really have no insight into the job market. They are just repeating “what they heard” or what they read (likely on Facebook!). They are not experts on job markets. More importantly, they aren’t experts on my daughter!

  1. One of the biggest injustices we are doing to  young people today is continually reinforcing the lie that “if you are going to be successful, you have to have a four-year college degree.”

Am I against education? Absolutely not! I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s in business. I would love to have a doctorate at some point. My degrees have served me well. But college isn’t for everyone and a four-year degree certainly doesn’t define your value or worth.  Yet we both indirectly and often very directly communicate this in all sorts of ways on a daily basis.

I met recently with a friend who is a COO of a very successful mechanical services business. I asked him if they were still having problems finding good technicians. He confirmed that they were. He said that anyone with some mechanical inclination and a good work ethic could go to a community college and get their certifications and start with his firm or another like it at near $30,000 per year. He continued that if you proved yourself dependable and work toward being more proficient, it was very likely you would be making over $50,000 in only a couple of years.   Now you tell me… how is someone who spends less than $10,000 on a community college degree and making $30,000 per year doing something they love less successful or valuable to the marketplace than someone who took on $80,000 of debt going to a private university to get a degree in an area that they aren’t really sure about and don’t know what they want to do when they graduate?   It’s nonsense folks! Yet I hear people daily speak as if a four-year college degree is not only a reflection of success, but that it is a guarantee of success. It’s just not true.

Again, I want to be very, very clear. I’m not knocking career advice about the job market or college degrees. I am simply asking people to:

  1. Focus more on the unique talents, skills and passions of the individual than on the job market when giving advice to a job seeker, young or old.
  2. Help reverse this trend of making anyone who doesn’t have or want a four-year college degree feel like a second-class citizen.

Please Reply Below

What career advice have you read or heard that is wrong or misleading? What tips do you have for giving “helpful” help to people who are seeking jobs, careers and God’s calling?

Looking for Job Search and Career Advice?

If you are looking for job search and career advice that is Biblically-based and Christ-centered, I wholeheartedly recommend you look at the FREE PDF SAMPLE of Step 1 from the Crossroads Career Work Book: 7 Steps to Jobs, Careers and God’s Calling. 





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