If you're just starting out in your career or attempting to build your own business, the internet is a treasure trove of advice: "Your boss matters more than the company you work for"; "Choose a good company culture"; "Don't work too hard, but work harder than everyone else."

But even with these few examples, do you see a problem? Much of the guidance is contradictory. How should a person just starting out know what to heed, and what to cast aside? Who to follow, and who to ignore?

This points to the personal nature of advice -- for both the giver and the receiver. Any career pointers someone can offer comes from their own personal experience -- and those experiences are affected by any number of non-replicable circumstances as well as their own individual inclinations. 

And just like career advice is personal, career paths are personal. What works or is fulfilling for one person won't be for another -- not to mention that external conditions change constantly and invalidates the "bulletproof" advice from years past.   

That's why I think the best possible career advice you can give or get isn't advice at all -- it's self-reflection.  

So the next time you're in a situation to seek or provide advice, try reflecting or guiding reflection on the following questions instead:

  • What's important to you at work?

  • What's the one thing you absolutely have to have in your job, that you wouldn't sacrifice for anything else?

  • What's the one thing you absolutely can't have in your job, that you wouldn't accept even amongst countless other benefits?

  • What's energizing to you in your job, and what saps your energy? 

  • What's important to you in life, and how is your work currently supporting or not supporting those values? 

The process of self-reflection is far harder than following someone else's advice. What's important to a person might change over time, or evolve as they gain experience (or make missteps along the way). That's okay -- but know that even if action based on self-reflection won't result in fulfillment every time, it will result in more fulfillment over time than following others' advice.