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Career Advice

I’ve been mulling over this article from the NY Times since it was published last week. The punch line: an unemployed 24 year old turns down a job offer with no other options, rather than “waste early years in dead-end work.”

The reason I didn’t post anything right away is that I need a little time to get past my first reaction, which was to write Scott Nicholson off as a spoiled idiot. I mean, really? You’re just going to find a better job in the midst of the worst job market for 60 years?

After thinking about it, I’ve realized that Scott Nicholson is, in fact, a spoiled idiot.  But the interesting part of this story to me isn’t so much him (he’s never had a real job, how does he know a recession from a depression), it’s the lack of credible advice he’s getting.

Granted, his father didn’t agree with the decision.  But the fact that only now, after months of searching, Nicholson is “beginning to realize that refusal is going to have repercussions” shows what a disservice his family has done him.  When he turned down that job offer, his parents should have locked him out of the house until he went back and begged for the job until he got it.

Relatives and friends often give bad career advice because, as in Nicholson’s case, they may hesitate to deliver a hard message.  So here are the things I think are important to look for when seeking career advice:

  • Balance. Pessimists sometimes need reinforcement and encouragement, optimists sometimes need a dose of sober reality.  All Nicholson seems to be getting is reinforcement of his natural optimism.
  • Relatability. Someone that knows the current job market in an applicable field, and so can offer much more realistic advice. Nicholson’s parents have successful careers, but they built them in a completely different era, and admit they don’t know how to help him.
  • Practicality. Tips and advice on how to manage a search day to day. It’s great that Scott’s grandfather thinks he can go abroad to find work, but back in the real world an international job search is degrees of magnitude harder than a domestic one.

I don’t worry about the Scott Nicholson’s of the world, since they obviously have a strong safety net in their families.  It would be nice if I could be confident that people are getting good advice in this market, but I’m not so sure.

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