3 Types of Career Advisers to Avoid

3 Types of Career Advisers to Avoid

by Kerry Scott on 27 April 2009

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I was in my office on Sunday morning looking over my list of potential blog posts when my husband walked in.  He handed me a section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (yes, he still gets the newspaper on actual paper, delivered to our house by an actual human, because he’s THAT old school).  He pointed to an article and said, “You should write about this.”

The article was an opinion piece by Elmer Winter, who co-founded Manpower in the late 1940s.  In it, he gives his tips on how to find a job.  He suggests that job hunters:

  • Read the classified ads in the local newspaper.
  • “Place your resume on your computer” with Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs (he doesn’t mention actually looking at ads on these sites, and there’s no mention of any other sites).
  • Call local employers and ask if they’re hiring.  He actually lists the names of these employers and their telephone numbers (no websites, just the main telephone numbers).

There’s no mention of the internet, beyond the suggesting that you “place your resume” on three big boards (and no suggestions for how to make this exercise more effective).

Now truly, I mean no disrespect to Mr. Winter.  He started and built a very successful company, and in his day, he would certainly have been an expert on how to find a job.  He’s been active in the community long after his retirement.  He’s a cool guy.  I looked him up, and it turns out he was born a few weeks before the Titanic sank.  He’s 97 years old.  I hope to be alive at 97, and if I’m alive and sharp enough to write anything for the local paper, I’ll be thrilled.  The point of his article was to give people advice and hope, and I appreciate that.

But the advice he gives is—well, not at all helpful. I feel bad for an unsuspecting job seeker who comes across this article (not to mention the people who are answering the phones at the companies he lists).  These are not techniques for finding a job in 2009.  Candidates who spend the next two days calling all of these companies he’s listed and saying, “Do you have any jobs open?” are going to be disappointed.    ”Placing your resume on your computer” is good, but that’s not going to get you a job either.  The landscape has changed significantly since Mr. Winter retired in 1976.  Surely the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel could have devoted this very large space to some more modern, relevant job hunting advice (although I imagine they liked the part about checking their classified ad section).  Maybe this is why newspapers are dying.

One thing I’ve learned since I’ve started this blog is that some folks take what they read very literally, and follow it to the letter…without considering the source.  There is a TON of career and job hunting advice out there, and it’s important to know the background of the adviser before you act on the advice.  Specifically, I’d want to know:

  1. Has this person hired employees, or just placed employees?  There’s a big difference.  I see lots of stuff out there from career counselors and headhunters who have never actually hired anyone.  They’re in the business of selling a product, not buying one.  When Toyota wants to design a new car, do they ask the car salespeople to participate in focus groups?  No.  They ask consumers, because they need to know what buyers want.  You need that too.  When you see advice from people who have not personally hired a large number of people, take it with a very large grain of salt.  It might still be good stuff, but be wary.  Be especially cautious when the adviser’s bio consists entirely of something like, “I have 20 years of experience and am more than qualified to give career advice.”  A writer who expects you to take her advice to heart owes it to you to tell you specifically where she’s worked, when, and in what capacity.  Otherwise, how are you supposed to know she’s legit?
  2. Is this person’s experience recent?  I left my corporate HR job nine months ago, and some things have already changed in the recruiting world.  Job boards fall in and out of favor, technology changes, recruiting techniques change…it’s hard to keep up.  I work hard to make sure I’m talking to people who are hiring right now, so I know what’s going on.  Eventually, though, that will become harder, and my advice will be obsolete.  If I’m still blogging about this when I’m 97, you should probably stop listening to me.  I do think it’s possible to still give good advice when you’ve been out of active recruiting for a while, but you should definitely look for clues that this person is regularly talking to people who are in the trenches.  That’s where you’re going to get the freshest insight into what you need to get the job you want.
  3. Does this person have experience in multiple settings?  If you’re taking advice from someone who has only worked for a few companies, you might be missing something.  This is especially true if those few companies are the same size, in the same industry, or are otherwise similar.  Make sure you’re getting perspective from people who have seen how things work in a variety of organizations.  Every company is different.

The most important rule in finding good career and job hunting advice is to use a variety of resources.  No one has all of the answers, and smart people can disagree.  If you’re receiving information from a number of places, you can more effectively evaluate what works for you and what doesn’t.  There are no right or wrong answers in job hunting (well, except for not telling the hiring manager to blow it out her ass…that’s pretty much a universally bad idea).

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abdpbt April 27, 2009 at 10:55 am

“place your resume on the computer” is priceless. And I agree, this may be why newspapers are going out of business!

abdpbt’s last blog post..8 Lesser-Known Heroes And Their Poorly Publicized, Second-Rate Superpowers

HRPufnstuf April 27, 2009 at 11:12 am

Great post, and sound advice. There are far to many career charlatans out there, with little or no support in seperating the good from the bad, but your point about using multiple resources is the key.

Also, don’t knock your husband for reading a physical newspaper, it can be a very cathartic experience.

Also, also, based on the said newspaper, Puf must mention that one of my favorite places in all the Midwest is the Safehouse in Milwaukee.

class factotum April 27, 2009 at 12:36 pm

If you don’t get the paper copy of the paper, how do you cut out the recipes?

class factotum’s last blog post..Marriage 101, Lecture 734: Opposites attract but could cause murder

Kerry Sandberg Scott April 27, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Puf—believe it or not, I have never been to the Safehouse. My husband used to go there quite a bit in his younger days (and, incidentally, he just called to point out your support of his newspaper addiction…don’t encourage him!).

Class—my local newspaper has crappy recipes, so no loss there. Everything is full of butter and cream-of-something soup. Yuck.

class factotum April 27, 2009 at 1:33 pm

We’ve gotten some really good stuff from the JS, but then, I am a huge fan of butter and cream. I need to build up my Milwaukee roll so I don’t get so cold here.

class factotum’s last blog post..Marriage 101, Lecture 734: Opposites attract but could cause murder

Jennifer McClure April 27, 2009 at 7:27 pm

How funny! Career advice from a 97 year-old who retired in 1976! I wonder if someone at the paper tracked him down and asked him to write this gem or if he offered. I agree that it’s great that he is sharing some of his wisdom and experience, but can’t believe that someone at the paper didn’t balance the article by also talking with someone more, shall we say “current”. I love the “read the classified ads in the newspaper” one. I think I’ll post my next C-level position there and see what happens!

Jennifer McClure’s last blog post..Social Media for HR Professionals Beyond LinkedIn

Audrey Evans April 27, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Very well said. I haven’t read my physical MJS yet because I spent Sunday reading NYTimes on line. I just canceled my subscription and I am still going through withdraw. I am working up to going ‘paperless’ but I thought I would take it slow. To your point, NYT interviewed the CEO of Delta Airlines and he gave advice that was just about of helpful. I was planning to blog about it tonight before the national HR community tars and feathers him. I have done a lot of recruiting but my field is HR and I have a good friend (former recruiter for MRI who just became a Career Councelor and I can’t decide which is worse- that someone thought she had the qualifications or that she will be giving career advice. I have been contracting/unemployed (depending on who is asking) for about a year and sometimes it is hard to get excited about our profession. Thanks for being inspirational and passing along GOOD advice!
Audrey Evans

Audrey Evans April 27, 2009 at 8:14 pm

OOps! I meant to link the NYT story. http://tinyurl.com/cq5c9b

Kerry Sandberg Scott April 27, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Audrey–I’ve actually got a post just about ready to go on the Delta CEO piece. I imagine that will be a popular blog topic this week. Glad you’re enjoying the blog, and I know what you mean about the lack of enthusiasm. I think there’s a lot of that going around. This is a tough time to be in HR/recruiting.

Jennifer–one thing about Milwaukee is that we have a few beloved characters who get press no matter what. This guy is one of them. Like I said, I don’t want to rip on him, because hey—the dude is 97. You have to admire a 97-year-old guy who sat down and spent time trying to help other people. I just wish they’d also print some more relevant stuff, and I haven’t seen much of it. They quote the same handful of local “experts” all the time. It’s just laziness, I think.

Eliz April 27, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I’ll say it’s laziness. As a former newspaper editor, I can’t imagine why that piece made it through. The only reason I could think of is as a joke. The unemployed are truly hurting and need useful advice, and newsprint is expensive and editorial space is at a premium, so the joke theory seems implausible. Sounds like an editor at the MJS is wondering what it’s like to be unemployed.

StaceyJohnson April 28, 2009 at 12:30 pm

I too was giving career advice to people, until I realized that I had been out of the workforce for too long (almost a year). I started doing seminars and writing blogs, and I realized that I was neglecting my family and having the TV babysit my kids. My life inside of my home started to fall apart, and I realized that I should let the people who are in the workforce actually give the advice. I can TALK about it, but there are people out there actually DOING it.

Just for fun….http://animatedtv.about.com/od/americandad/ig/American-Dad-Pictures/amdadFrancine_72.htm

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