Ill-Advised: Survey Shows Bad Career Advice Abounds; Coworkers Most Common Culprits

Jan 28, 2010, 08:00 ET from The Creative Group

MENLO PARK, Calif., Jan. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Thinking about tapping your colleagues for advice on how to get ahead? You may want to reconsider, a new survey by The Creative Group suggests. Nearly six in 10 advertising and marketing executives said they have received bad career advice from coworkers.  Another 54 percent have been steered in the wrong direction by their bosses.  

The national survey was developed by The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service providing marketing, advertising, creative and web professionals on a project basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on 250 telephone interviews -- 125 with advertising executives randomly selected from the nation's 2,000 largest advertising agencies and 125 with senior marketing executives randomly selected from the nation's 2,000 largest companies.

Advertising and marketing executives were asked, "Have you ever received bad career advice from any of the following sources?" Their responses:

(Multiple responses were permitted.)

A coworker


A boss


Your parents/relatives


Your spouse/significant other


A mentor


None of these


Survey respondents also were asked to describe the worst career advice they have ever received.  For many, this was the recommendation to play it safe. For example:

  • "I was advised to keep quiet when there were problems."
  • "They told me to stick with what I know, but all growth is the result of developing and learning, especially in this economy."
  • "I was told to look for safe opportunities rather than striving for challenges."
  • "They told me I was as high as I was going to go in this organization and should stay put."

Others were encouraged to make overly risky moves:

  • "I had someone tell me to walk into the CEO's office and say, 'We need to talk about my salary today.'"
  • "Someone told me to jump into a start-up company, and six months later the firm went out of business."

These next professionals were presented with guidance that benefitted the advice giver, rather than them:

  • "My former boss discouraged me from going to work for a competitor, saying that I wouldn't last, but I did. I later found out that he had made a wager that I wouldn't join that firm, and that was why he discouraged me to work there."
  • "A coworker wanted me to take her job so she could take a new position. It wasn't a good idea. I wasn't ready to fill that job."

Finally, although every professional wants to come across as "polished," some recommendations can leave people "sole-searching." To wit:

  • "I once had an employer say he didn't like my shoes, and I would never go anywhere without the right footwear. I stuck with my shoes, which were professional, and his advice turned out to be bogus. I have been successful in this industry for 35 years."

"As with any advice, it's wise to consider the source," said Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. "Although many managers and coworkers have your best interests at heart, the fact that your professional actions may affect them may color their judgment."

The Creative Group offers the following five tips for those seeking career advice:

  1. Find the voice of experience. When seeking guidance on a particular issue, get perspective from someone who has faced a similar situation. For example, if you're looking to transition into a particular niche, talk to someone who made a comparable change. If you're having trouble finding suitable contacts, use social networks like LinkedIn to expand your reach.
  2. Let your ambitions be your guide. The people closest to you have different perspectives about what's important in life -- and what should be important to you. For instance, your parents may value security more than you do. When contemplating advice, be sure to differentiate between the ambitions others may have for you and your own.
  3. Help them help you. Even those who aren't personally invested in your success may find it hard to provide counsel if they don't know your career goals. By describing your professional objectives and values to your acquaintances, you'll help them give better guidance.
  4. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. When making an important career decision, tap many sources for advice, including recruiters, career experts and trusted mentors. A variety of information can help you make the most informed choice.
  5. Keep it coming. Thank everyone who takes the time to provide career guidance, and keep in touch with all helpful sources, returning the favor when you can.

The Creative Group has offices in major markets across the United States and in Canada, and offers online job search services at

SOURCE The Creative Group