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Conflicting career advice: Which is right

By Kaitlin Madden,
When given career advice, consider your industry, your experiences and your personality.
When given career advice, consider your industry, your experiences and your personality.
  • With so much employment advice out there, it's hard to know who is right
  • Keep your industry in mind when applying for jobs so you act and dress appropriately
  • Your own good experiences applying for jobs trumps others' advice

( -- Employment is a hot topic these days -- and everyone seems to have an opinion on it. From morning news anchors, to business bloggers, to well-meaning friends and family -- job advice is everywhere.

While a wealth of information is never a bad thing, with so much advice out there, it can be hard to know what to trust.

For example, when researching how to write a résumé, it's not uncommon to come across articles that advocate both one and two page formats. Similarly, there are experts that say it's great to make friends at work, while others say that it's unwise to combine your work life and your social scene. But if your morning news anchor is telling you one thing and your recruitment firm is telling you another, how do you know who to listen to?

While there's no universal answer to that question (i.e. trust your news anchor, ignore your recruiter), there are ways you can evaluate the suggestions you receive, to ensure that you're following the most beneficial advice for your situation.

That said, here are three things to consider when confronted with conflicting career counsel. How to self-promote without being obnoxious

1. Your industry: A lot of career advice is aimed at the general population. If your daily newspaper has an audience of 50,000 people, chances are its job advice will aim to apply to as many of those people as possible.

But (fortunately) there are a lot of different career paths out there, so (unfortunately) there's no such thing as a one size fits all career approach. Make sure you take into account your specific industry when you're offered a new job strategy.

For example: You may have heard a dozen times that a suit is the standard clothing choice for an interview -- but in your industry, people never wear suits, and you don't think one would be appropriate for an interview.

In this case, you'd probably be right to go with more casual dress, if that's the industry standard.

"Common sense is the scale by which you measure advice," says Bud Whitehouse, director of Career Management of Virginia.

"If it makes sense -- 'Geography and industry play a role in what you wear to the interview. Do the research,' do it. If it doesn't make sense -- 'Wear a suit, white shirt and tie to an interview for a plumber' -- don't do it." A field guide to co-workers

2. Your experiences: Like the people who give job advice, you will have your own ideas about interview attire and résumé length that are based on your personal experiences. Trust these instincts, because you'll often be right.

"Go with your experience," Whitehouse says. "People are much too willing to make what was advice for a particular situation a universal dictum." For example: 10 years ago, when your college career counselor told you to shorten your résumé to one page, it was probably because employers wouldn't care about your high school job at the gas station and student of the month award.

Now, 10 years later, you may have enough relevant experience and awards to fill up more than one page. If you've landed five interviews with a two-page résumé, it's clearly not a hindrance to your job search, even if it goes against prior advice you were given.

If something it working for you, there's no need to change it. I fell into this career but I love it

3. Your personality: Take, for example, the oft-debated career topic of how to follow up after an interview. Some experts say it's best to follow up with a phone call, others suggest sending an e-mail or handwritten note, some say do all three.

Well, if your written word is typically more profound than your spoken one (or you've been told that you sound like a 12-year-old over the phone) there's no harm in sending a handwritten thank-you note and following up via e-mail if that is what makes you the most comfortable. You know what your strong suits are, so look at all job advice through a lens of how it applies to your personality and strengths.

You have to make the advice work for you, and you know yourself best. It's okay to take what you like a leave the rest if the rest just doesn't suit you.

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