Free Career Advice Doesn’t Always = Good Career Advice

I know there’s a bit of sweet irony in my questioning the value of free career advice when I’ve also been giving it away through my blog posts.

I know there’s a bit of sweet irony in my questioning the value of free career advice when I’ve also been giving it away through my blog posts. But what concerns me actually isn’t the fact that it’s free, it’s the quality of the advice (or lack thereof) many self-reported career experts are dishing out and the fact that many job seekers have a hard time telling the good from the bad.


During your job search, you should always seek out multiple data points to corroborate or refute the advice you get from any single source. For example, I once followed a faculty member who was speaking to a group of about 150 college students and overheard this person suggesting that what you wear to an interview really doesn’t matter because you really want them to hire you for your mind, not because of the way you’re dressed. As a faculty member that might be true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that advice will work for most of the soon-to-be college graduates who were in attendance. In the majority of cases, interviewers are going to care about whether or not you’re dressed professionally.

Be cautious of any and all “top 10” lists and free eNewsletters. A job seeker recently asked me if I thought the strategies for getting past the screening phase of the interview process that were included in a recent email blast actually worked. Maybe I’m out of touch, but I don’t think writing “PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL” on the lower left corner of an envelope will increase your chances of getting past the hiring manager or human resources representative’s administrative assistant—especially since most companies point applicants to their website. The article also suggested hand writing versus typing the envelope—does that really matter? Really? The same advice my mom gave me 22 years ago? With all of the things recruiters have to pay attention to during the hiring process, I’d like to think they’re not going to burn too many calories on whether you cranked out an envelope on your printer or decided to showcase your cursive writing skills.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to sift through all of the career advice out there to tell what works and what doesn’t. Before jumping on the nine free tips for getting your resume noticed by potential recruiters, get feedback from a few other sources. When you do, you’ll have more information at hand and that will help you make a more informed decision.

And since we’re on the topic, what’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?  

Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job(

About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning.