Advice – Take it or Leave it?

Advice – Take it or Leave it?

The first time I attended a career fair, a booth representative pulled me aside and said, “You need to get involved in chip manufacturing, it’s going to be the fastest growing field over the next ten years.” As a freshman in college, my first thoughts were “is this person giving me some secret insider tip for my career?” I actually began wondering if I should rethink the electives I’d chosen for the next semester.

True, semiconductors enable the high-tech devices used in all facets of our lives, but I was not passionate about the chip industry as an undergrad, so why was I thinking about making course and career decisions based on one tip?

This brings me to my opinion on advice — and when to take it or leave it?

Growing up, we are constantly told by parents and teachers to “do this” and “don’t do that,” but it’s difficult to learn the difference between treating advice as a ‘must do’ as opposed to a mere suggestion to ponder and evaluate, before making a final decision.

No matter what stage you are in your career — student, young professional or experienced professional — advice is in no short supply. That is why it is important to have an open mind and listen to all advice, but make sure that you are the final decision maker. Otherwise, your career could end up going down a path that is misaligned with your goals.

Certain pieces of advice are commonsense and apply to everyone, like “network,” “don’t miss deadlines,” and “be on time.” However, take heed if following someone’s advice would change who you are, challenge your core values, or impact your career movement.

These three scenarios summarize when I feel the most comfortable accepting and implementing advice:

  • The advice giver and I have a strong relationship – We are all unique people with different personalities and experiences, so something that works for me might not work for someone else. When you have a strong relationship with the person providing the advice, you can be more assured they have tailored their advice to work best for your unique combination of personality and experiences.
  • You respect the person giving you advice – Of course, respect is always earned, so if someone has earned your respect, you look up to them, value their expertise, and want their advice. You most likely want to follow in this person’s footsteps or strengthen your skills in a field they are extraordinarily strong in, so accepting their advice could help you reach your destination faster.
  • The advice aligns with your “why” – We all have a purpose that we work towards fulfilling each day, but having someone a bit more removed from a situation helps provide new perspective. My semiconductor chip example above does not fit this scenario, and for that reason I did not follow through on it. However, there have been times when I have felt down dealing with project roadblocks or having a bad day at work, but then someone comes out of nowhere and shares a piece of advice that reminds me why I decided to take a certain path. Take advice when you can connect it to the bigger picture of your goals and ambitions, and when it helps you to keep moving forward.

It is tricky to write an article that provides advice on when to accept someone’s advice, but I have learned that I am most comfortable giving advice when I have the person or group’s best interest in mind.

Everyone needs to be empowered to make their own decisions and feel a sense of control over their career. If you are still treating advice as rules to follow, I am here to tell you that it is time to start weighing the advice you get.  Have confidence that you know what you want, what you are capable of, and be the final decision maker on the advice you receive.  You have the power to realize your goals, and advice can help you along your journey.

Paige Kassalen loves to put her creativity to use by solving problems in emerging technical fields, and has been an IEEE member since 2012. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 2015, Kassalen began her career with Covestro LLC. in 2015, and soon became the only American engineer working with Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe. This role landed Kassalen a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list along with feature articles in GlamourFast Company and the Huffington Post.

After Solar Impulse, Kassalen helped Covestro develop its strategy for materials for the future of mobility, and shared her work at conferences around the United States. In 2020, Kassalen received a Master of Information Systems Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University and now applies her problem-solving skills to the finance industry, where she works with teams to develop big data strategies and implement innovative technologies.

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