Two years ago, I decided to make a career change. Two weeks ago, I quit my international development job. Six days from now I start with a boutique consulting firm.

When I made the decision to change my course, I expected it would be a lot of work. Job hunting, networking, and tailoring resumes takes a surprising amount of time. What I didn’t expect was to get lost in the process. I assumed I’d know the right job when I found it, that it would all just click, but that fairytale didn’t quite work out. Each time I explored a new job, I became less certain what I wanted for my future. The unique life that I dreamed of became increasingly blurry. That’s when it happened. I started looking for advice….Advice is a funny thing. Most people like to give it, few people like to receive it, but we all seek it. Over the past two years, I’ve asked for, and received, a lot of advice. It helped me a lot. And it taught me somethings I wasn’t expecting.

Advice is always biased!

Every person’s advice is a product of their own experiences. Their demons, dreams, insecurities, and goals influence their thinking, which in turn influences their advice. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the truth. Ask for advice, listen intently, and take it with a grain of salt because it comes with all the baggage of the person giving it.

Advice is what that person would do

We’ve all done it. We want to be helpful so we offer some advice. We tell the person what we think he/she should do. The problem is, nine times out of ten we’re lying! We aren’t explaining what we think the other person should do. We are telling them what we would do in their situation. As Amac Andile Makaring said,

“Stand guard at the door of your mind as most advice you get from people today is a person talking to themselves not you.”

When I was looking for advice, I wasn’t interested in what Friend A would do in my situation. I was interested in what I should do. I may have asked for advice, but what I meant was given what you know about me. What I value. What lights me up. Where I struggle and where I excel. What do you think is the best decision for me in this situation?

What We Really Want is Coaching

I didn’t want advice. I wanted someone to help me think through what I should do, given the reality that I am me. This is a different conversation. One where the person giving advice listens and asks questions. She pries to remove the layers. He prods to get you to think hard. She pushes you to consider new ideas. In this conversation, the advice giver isn’t solving the problem, he’s being a thought partner to help the other person find their own solution.

I think of this person as a coach. Being a coach is hard. You must check your ego at the door, admit you don’t have the answer, and commit to supporting the person in their journey instead of providing them the map.

Ask anybody who knows me well, I’m not a good coach. My default has always been to give advice. Even these blogs are full of advice. This experience has change my perspective. I don’t want to tell people what to do and I would never expect anybody to follow perfectly in my foot-steps. I want to be a coach. I want to listen, challenge, and help people find their own solutions. I want to share what I’ve learned with others without claiming it’s the right thing for them to do. It’s a thin line to walk but I’m keen to find my balance.

So, I’ll leave you with this suggestion. Don’t follow my advice. Do think about what I’m saying and decide if it its right for you. I’m just here to stir the pot….