Career decision making is tough business. One way a lot of people cope with these difficult considerations is by turning to others for advice. These supporters act as a sort of “kitchen cabinet”, listening to your concerns and giving you their wisdom in return. In a sense, they constitute your personal board of directors.
Everybody’s advisory group is different. Yours may include friends, relatives, and the lady next door, but these opinion givers usually have two things in common: they care about your well-being and you value their thoughts. Though the composition of your board will change over time, there are categories from which you are almost certain to draw helpful advisors at some point in your life.
Throughout college, parents typically act as both sounding boards and inquisitors in terms of your career direction. During senior year, however, the frequency and quality of your conversations with Mom and Dad can become paramount.
Mimi, a recent Sports management graduate spoke frequently with her parents about her senior-year job search. “Your family knows your strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “They know how your personality would fit into a position.”
But parental advice does have its limits. “Your parents are just not involved enough to know the intricate details,” contends Jay, a recent graduate of Washington University.
Josh from Santa Clara understands the reservations but feels that parents are able to give good advice regardless of whether they’re involved in one’s particular field. “They might not know exactly what you’re getting into,” says Josh, “but they can ask the right questions.” In fact, his parents went to some lengths to ensure that they could give their son solid counsel. “[My parents] came to campus and tapped one of the business school deans for advice,” Josh says. As a result of their interest, Josh readily involves his parents in his career decisions.
Older brothers and sisters also are in a great position to provide knowledgeable career advice, particularly if they experienced not too long ago what you are going through. Linda, a pre-law major from Ohio State University, had her lifelong career goals decimated when steep tuition put law school out of reach. Her sister’s suggestion to work in a law-allied field led to her current position as a paralegal for an Agent.
Faculty members receive mixed reviews as career counselors, but they’re an important source of information for students heading into the work world. If you’re going to use professors, make sure you know them well. Go in, in advance, and get acquainted with them. When they know you personally, they’ll give you more attention than they give to students they only see once in a great while.
Charlie sought career advice from faculty members in his area of specialization when he was taking a Sports Marketing course at New York University. “[Most of them] gave me okay advice, but one or two were so far removed from the business world that they just gave me pat answers about what was there.” Charlie recommends faculty who consult regularly as good sources of accurate, up-to-date information. He has linked up with one such professor whom he calls the “technical consultant” because he is a heavy-weight in the sponsorship field. He also has added an outside voice to his advisory group…a consultant who guest lectures in one of Charlie’s classes. “She’s a good advisor, “says Charlie. “She’s in the training/education field and we frequently discuss my career directions. Her people skills are a good balance to those of my technical consultant.”
Some faculty members offer more than just insight. When Jay was chatting with his advisor about his career plans, the professor offered to “make a call.” The call was to the President of McCann-Erickson, where Jay is still employed.
CAREER PLANNING AND PLACEMENT OFFICERS
-Another readily available resource is the Career Planning and Placement Sector. While some people tap this office for research oriented information and listings only, many successfully add the office’s career counselors to their pool of helpful career coaches.
-Talk with the counselors in the office. Even though you may know what you want, you still may not be sure. The counselors there will tell you what to do and what resources are there.
-Working in Career Services as a volunteer will develop a network of influence for you. They will usually be more interested in you making the right decision, rather than in you just getting a job.
CO-WORKERS AND BOSSES
As you gain more and more work experience, you’ll find additional career advisors on the job. When you look at career possibilities, call your previous boss, department, or the director [for advice]. These “working” coaches can be especially helpful, thanks to their up-to-date knowledge and current contacts. “Not only were they sounding boards, they give out contact names as resources. They’re excellent for networking.”
A young marketer was in the process of resigning from Anheuser-Busch when he got some unexpected, but very helpful counsel from one of the managers at that firm. “When the manager said, ‘What I think you want to do is gain a management position. Why start over elsewhere?’ it really made me think. And he directed me to the right people at Anheuser-Busch. After being shown that the company was willing to let him go “anywhere in the special events business”, the marketer decided to stay.
Friends will be your most constant, and sometimes most unsupportive, source of career advisors. Friends will help strike a balance in the early stages of your job search but rarely be a key element of help. In a complicated program developed for a Sports Career, friends usually have an extremely limited perspective.
ADVISORY TEAM GAME PLAN
There are a number of things you can do to ensure that you get the most from your advisors:
1. Clearly identify the issues on which you want advice. Be concise, but give sufficient background information to allow the advisor to understand the situation.
2. Be objective. An impartial recitation of the facts will allow your advisor to assess the situation effectively.
3. Consider the background of your advisor. Ask for counsel in his or her area of expertise.
4. Let your advisor talk! Try not to interrupt or inject “buts” or “extra” information. You asked for advice…now listen carefully.
5. Take all counsel under advisement, but remember: all advice is not equal. Weigh the counsel you receive and give the most consideration to that which you believe to be the most beneficial.
As you assemble your personal Team of Advisors, you’ll find that they come and go and that you won’t need to consult every one of them on each decision. Rather, you’ll find that your team is made of some “generalists” and some “specialists”, whose expertise is tapped only when the issue is appropriate to their orientation. One position that does not change, however, is the role of Team Captain. That’s your job for life, and it’s a critical function. After all is said and done, you’ve got to weigh all the advice you’ve collected, evaluate the merits of each opinion, and reach a final conclusion yourself. It’s your career that’s at stake.