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CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: Opinions are like ...

Friday, November 28, 2008
I recently found myself in the situation where I needed some advice vis-à-vis my career. Like anyone in my situation, I found myself turning to my peers.

Everyone I told my story to was more then happy to chip in his or her two cents, and I was happy to collect. But herein lies the problem, what do I do as a relatively new public servant when more experienced public servants give me different or even contradictory advice? In short, I was in a spot where I needed to make a dollar (quickly!) out of what made sense.

It got me thinking back to when I first joined the public service and the problematic nature of career advice for new public servants. Looking back, I think it is an especially precarious field for new public servants to try to navigate. I have said previously that I feel as though there is an implicit and immediate level of trust among new public servants that has yet to manifest between new public servants and their managers.

The result is that new hires are more likely to seek advice from people they consider to be their peers, peers who are not necessarily senior public servants or managers. It is also my experience that the new recruits whom are most in need of the advice that their managers can provide are also the least likely to seek out that advice. This harkens back to the conversation we had a while back about the importance of simple conversations taking place about the public service being more important than the official discourse -- incidentally, something that Mike Kujawski hammered home during his armchair discussion yesterday at the CSPS, but I digress.

I have spoken to many new recruits, and even some of the not-so-new recruits, who have found themselves stuck in precarious positions and now asking me for advice. Their question -- how do you tell your manager, the person responsible for assigning your work, that you aren't being challenged enough, without implying a 'management problem'? -- is pointed, and one that I cannot yet answer with any degree of certainty.

If I had to offer my own advice on taking advice (the irony!), given the title of the post!), I would say that you need to do two things. The first is trust your judgment above that of anyone else. Even if it turns out that you didn't take the best course of action, at least you took it yourself. Call it a learning experience. Second, make sure that whatever you do with the advice you are given, be it following it to the letter or ignoring it completely, make sure you trust your own judgment and make sure that you can live with yourself when it is all said and done. At the very least, I can say that that approach worked for me, in what was a difficult time in my career, albeit for different reasons.

But hey, you should take what I say with a grain of salt, because we all know what opinions are like... hey maybe you could share yours? Where do you go for career advice, how different has that advice been? The irony of asking for even more opinions hasn’t escaped me, but we want to know.