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When Good Advice Goes Bad

I’ve got some advice for you.

Never take advice.

Not from me, certainly. Not from anyone, really. When some successful, helpful human person deigns to share their hard-earned wisdom with you, the correct response is to just say no.

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Unless, of course, that human person is Susannah Snider.

In case you missed Snider’s can’t-miss article on the website of US News, where she is a staff writer, here’s an executive summary.

The title of the piece is “Ten Career Experts Share the Best Advice They Ever Received.” The concept here is that “top-notch job advice can help you make smart decisions, advance your career and keep your spirits high when work gets tough.”

You have to excuse me for being cynical about this claim. Ever since US News refused to publish my recent can’t-miss article, “One Overstuffed Workplace Humor Columnist Shares the Ten Best Potato Salads He Ever Received,” I’ve been suspicious of the publication’s motives.

In the unlikely chance that there could be some value to this foray into the world of professional advice-niks, let’s pour a shot of top-shelf schnapps and ponder a few tidbits of top-notch wisdom.

Like the advice received by Debra Lybyer, director of career and advising services at Lewis-Clark College. “Treat everyone you meet as a potential employer,” someone said to her, and I think that someone actually delivered some sound advice.

Remember the goofy, 16-year-old who cleared your dishes last night at the Smorgy-Bob? That kid could be your manager someday, and, considering the way your career is going, that someday could come real soon.

Author Jude Miller Burke was advised “to be persistent and resilient and not let detours or failures derail my career.” This advice, unfortunately, will not help you. Detours and failures are what you do best. You have no choice but to not let those bumps dissuade you. Without detours and failures, you’d never have a career.

Rob VanDorin, associate director of career services at Central Michigan University, advises his advisees to “do your research. You should know the ins and outs of every company that you apply to before you ever submit an application or resume.”

This advice, I do endorse. I believe that any meeting with a hiring manager or HR drone should be focused on learning all you can about the company’s vacation policy. You’ll also want to know about early retirement policies and if you can fly first class on business trips, rather than suffering the humiliation of business class. And don’t leave the interview until you learn how many years of ozone anti-aging therapy is covered by the medical plan, whether there is an out-of-pocket max for plastic surgery, and if cryogenic freezing is a benefit.

GradStaff CEO Bob LaBombard advises that you “focus on the skills you possess.” This could be risky, unless you are ready to accept the fact that the perfect position for you is CNO — Chief Nap Officer — at Senor Sleepy’s Mattress Warehouse.

Yet another academic in the apparently booming career of career services, Keri Burns, tells her acolytes “to always leave a position or department better than you found it.”

Of course, you always do leave a position or department better, simply by leaving it. And if, like Burns, you want your “involvement in any position I have held to make a difference,” don’t sweat it. After your time on the job, management will have learned a valuable lesson — to never again hire anyone like you.

At the career center of Stockton University, the advisees of Walter L. Tarver III learn to “not be afraid to move outside of (your) areas of responsibility,” and “take advantage of every single opportunity that an employer presents you.”

Good advice. If your employer leaves the door to the supply room open, take advantage of the situation by loading up on free Sharpies you can sell on eBay. If anyone puts a computer, phone or plant on your desk, take advantage of the situation by auctioning off the contents of your cubical in the break room. You’ll show everyone in the company your initiative, and you’ll stack some sweet Benjamins. (Remember: Only the section of rug in your workspace is yours to sell. A box cutter, available in the supply room, should make it easy to cut out your piece.)

Note: If the plant your employer gives you is a Venus flytrap, better work fast. Your days on this job are numbered.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com

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