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April 27, 2010


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You sound like you're using active listening techniques (which you may already know full well you are doing). I've always found this approach hard - I want to jump in and solve problems - but have been convinced over the years that it is least harmful tack to take with people you don't really know all that well. Not least because advice from a relative stranger (i.e. me) doesn't have much purchase on others' behaviour, and may actively put them off following the path that I happen to know is best for them...

All of which is by way of preamble for saying that you're not way off base. Of course, this doesn't speak in any way to your goodness; for that you just have to rely on the cards and evidence from other walks of life - like readers here listening to and valuing your thoughts.

I think your job is very hard -- at least, when I've interacted with people who do it, they've never been much help to me. I'd agree with the article that information is the most useful form of advice, but career decisions are an area where the sort of information you need is really detailed and specific; the sort of thing where you'd want all the knowledge of someone who does hiring in each of the possible career options, as well as in depth knowledge of what working in all the possible options is like.

So, providing information would be useful, but is really implausibly difficult. The sort of thing you're doing, helping people to articulate the decisions they've already made, can certainly be helpful, but only for people who, well, have already made their decisions.

There is something really off about this study. We all know people who gather reams of information but they still can't make a decision because they either don't know how to make major life decisions or they are experiencing some sort of emotional conflict about the decision. I am suspicious of the methodology. And by the way, people who worry whether they are good at their jobs almost always are!

"When I read your post, I thought to myself that what you are really giving is the gift of awareness. And, like it or not, you are helping them with the process of making a decision. But the awareness one is the most important." he says, speaking as someone with a long history of lacking such self-awareness until after the fact :^).

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