No man or woman is an island, so we are all affected by others’ opinions.  Sometimes the opinions of others helps us see clearly but many times other people’s opinions can sway our confidence and our fundamental career decisions.  You begin to second guess yourself and your decisions.   You begin to make decisions based on how you think others would feel about it.  Frankly it can become a slippery slope creating unnecessary stress for you and does not help with your career.

This post is as much of a reminder for me as it is for you, as I am also not immune.  Here are some things to remember

  • Decides ahead of time whose opinions matters for your career – not all opinions are created equal.  When it comes to your career, you have to decide whose feedback is relevant.  You may have a lot of friends who wants to tell you what they think, but really only opinions of those who you view as career mentors or role models or those who knows you professionally well should be considered.  Everyone else may intend well (including your mother – sorry mom, or your best friend from high school), but it is usually “noise”.
  • Practice filtering out the “noise” we are all human and especially when we are a little down on ourselves (e.g. job search is not going well or your current job is really rocky), we become more susceptible to listening to “noise” – people including strangers who will share their opinions about your situation even if you didn’t ask.    All I can say is be aware when you are vulnerable and remember bullet # 1 of who you decided you want to listen to.   For all the rest, hear with one ear and out the other.  You will sleep better at night.
  • Remember you are the one who decide what to do with your career – When I ask my mentors etc… for feedback about my career, I listen intently to what they have to say.  This however does not mean I agree with what they say or that I will always do what they suggest.  It’s important to remember  once you get input, it is up to YOU and only you to make decisions.  You do not have to agree with the input even if you respect their opinions.
  • No one really cares – I know this sounds strange, but in reality people spend 99.9% of time worrying about their own shit.  So it’s ludicrous although we all do it at time, to make decisions in an effort to please others.  At the end of the day, career decisions affect you the most and if others are truly friends, they will support you no matter what you do.
  • Build confidence by making  career decisions based on objective reasoning and your life goals and NOT opinions – It’s important to have a basic layer of self confidence about your career to follow any of this advice.  How do you do that?  well, you go back to the basics and figure out what you want out of life and career and then as you make decisions, remember the objective reasons for why you made this decision.  Example of objective reasons are: This move helps me learn skills A, B, and C which helps with my long term career goals.  Or I choose to not climb the corporate ladder because work life balance is more important to me right now and I really want to be an entrepreneur.  Or  I know I have to work 70-80 hours a week at this job, but I choose to do it because this is the right time in my life to climb that ladder and see how far I get.  OR I am quitting because I don’t see enough opportunity here.      Example of opinions sound like this:  You should do X – you are so good at it.  Or don’t work there, I hear they are slave drivers.    Or don’t quit in this market,  it’s so hard to find a job.  These are all well-intended comments, but useless if they don’t know your situation.

Good luck out there!

– Lei

3 Thoughts on “Are you making career decisions based on other’s opinions?

  1. I worked in an organization where career path was very much determined by the performance appraisal process. My observation was that the opinion of the person who performed your performance appraisal mattered. The person writing my performance appraisal would also talk to my peers and employees. In general, if you worked hard, acted professionally, and were pleasant to work with and fair to your employees then it all would work out.

  2. Judy on June 7, 2010 at 7:59 am said:

    Very true words… great post.

  3. Agnes on June 6, 2010 at 10:42 pm said:

    Totally agree, career decisions often determine our lives and yet they are the most difficult ones because no one can really tell you what do to. Even friends who know you professionally only know a certain aspect of you, and aren’t fully aware of the many demands and priorities at various stages of your life. Love to hear more on that.

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