My Least Favorite Career Advice

I once heard a commencement speaker tell an auditorium of business school graduates to let other people in their companies tell them the roles to be in.

“Let people lead you in your career.”

First, I imagine that his core communications were:

  • Even if you don’t think you can do something, believe someone who says that you can-don’t sell yourself short.

  • Be open to diverse experiences.

  • Don’t be rigid about the ways in which you can provide value.

I’m all for that.

What I chose in the moment to get upset about was thinking about how many graduates in the audience (many of whom were first-generation students, female, or people of color) would not be served by taking the advice of others and going the direction they were steered.

How many of them were graduating after years of attending business school at night despite the advice of well-intentioned others, including successful colleagues, not because of it?

One of my bosses advised me to be an elementary school principal. I like children and learning, but not education administration.

Another told me to be a scuba instructor. I considered it because I thrived on being a divemaster, but I am terrible at underwater navigation...I feel accomplished when I find my car in a Target parking lot.

Oprah's grandmother's plan was for her to be a maid and Tony Robbins’ mother wanted him to be a truck driver. My new favorite singer, Koffee, released a song in 2017 about all the things people wanted her to be, from a doctor to a preacher. She won a Grammy this year at 20 years old.

Thank goodness for all the people who listen to their own guidance over the well-meaning direction of others.

People are generally giving their best advice to you that they can at the time, based on their understanding of the information.

But filtering through the direction of others because you don’t know what you want can drain so much energy.

I want you to trust other people who say you can do things that you don’t believe you can, but I want you to choose your path because then you can go down it so much more confidently. And it’s so much better when you get there.

If you don’t know your path, I can help. Not because I’ll tell you what to do or be, but because I’ll help you access more of who you are and what you really want.

It’s easier to “sell yourself” for an outcome that you really want. Like some of my clients who leapt levels in their careers last week with new work that they’re thrilled about.

You can set up a free call with me here.

Thanks for reading.

I’m in your corner.


Emma Garrett is an Executive Career Coach, helping high-integrity leaders position themselves for what’s next in work and life. Ready to start doing things differently? Consider scheduling a free call to share your situation and goals or checking out the resources at