working women

What Do Career Advice and Dieting Have in Common?

Answer: They both don’t work.

My answer is a rather harsh indictment of two rather large industries.  Day after day, and week after week, I see interviews and books and articles by successful (or thin) people giving well-intentioned tips, formulas and encouragement to others about how they can achieve work success or lose weight.  The reason there is a never-ending stream of this advice?  What’s doled out either doesn’t work, or it does work but most people don’t follow it.  

The reason I believe career advice doesn’t work is that I don’t believe there is any universal truth or “formula” for achieving career success.  First off, there’s no definition of what “success” means.  For example, is it a high-paying job?  Is it a job, period?  Is it a job that is meaningful, provides a good work-life mix, one that’s high-profile, or high-impact?  It certainly depends on who you ask.

Second, a career is a personal journey and no formula nor behavior works all the time, in every company/industry/situation.  Think about your own advice to yourself: the best career advice I would have given myself today is different than what I would have given, even five years ago. To paraphrase Shirley MacLaine’s 20-40-60 rule

  • At 20, you are obsessed by what people think of you.
  • At 40, you decide not to give a damn what people think of you.
  • By 60, you realize that nobody is really thinking about you at all.

All advice is by definition, personal.  Career advice is no different.  Yet career advice, especially to young women, is being dispensed like there are absolute answers and sometimes with frightening amounts of confidence.  With any other kind of advice on an important decision or topic, you would probably bounce your situation and thoughts different, trusted people.  You might listen and react, and then after some brooding, make the best decision you could.  Sometimes its enough to talk to your family and friends, but I have found, in building Fairygodboss that its very interesting to hear from people who are further removed from you as well.  The people who are in some ways least connected to me also can tend to have very different lives and views.  Their stories about their work-life “mix” have given me a lot of food for thought and appreciation for different choices and situations.  

That’s why I decided to build a way to find and connect with other people into Fairygodboss, when it could have easily been just a database of company information and reviews.  It wasn’t an after thought and it wasn’t because “networking” is a trendy thing to do.  In a way, you could say its my way of avoiding having “career advice” on my site.




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