Giving advice about careers is easier than taking it. People are always calling me on this — spitting my advice back to me at my most vulnerable moments. Like when I was late delivering my column five weeks in a row, and my editor said, “Remember that time you wrote about how being late is for losers?”
So I work hard at learning to consciously incorporate my own advice into my career.
The first time I did this was in an interview. I had just written a column about how the best way to end an interview is to say, “Do you have any reservations about hiring me?” If you say this at the end of an interview it gives you a chance to combat any misgivings — otherwise you just leave them there, untouched.
I remember sitting in the interview thinking to myself, “You should ask the question,” then I thought, “No. The question is so pushy and sounds like it’s right out of a book.” Then I thought, “You have to do it. Do it. Do it!”
So I asked the question and the moment unfolded like a textbook: The interviewer told me she was worried about my job hopping. I explained to her why I am a dedicated employee who delivers outstanding results wherever I go. And I got the job.
Now, I take my advice more often, though it’s still hard. Last week I was writing an email about a job I want, and I wrote, “Just checking to see if you had a chance to read my proposal.” Then I thought, hmm. That is not very positive and inspiring. So I changed it to, “Please give me a call so we can discuss how I can make your company launch a success.”
The second phrasing sounds a little crazy because I never talk that way to friends. But I really do stand by my advice that direct mail philosophies work, and requesting a specific action and providing a specific benefit are very important — Tell people what you want from them so they can give it to you. (Update: it worked. The person called, and I got a great partnership deal.)
Each of us has an advisor inside of us that we can listen to as a way to do better in this world. Hiring a career coach has helped me a lot, but my experience tells me that it’s also important to develop your own, inner coach. Here are four skills I have developed for coaching myself:
1. Talk to an imaginary coach.
If you pretend you’re talking to someone else then you have to explain what you’re doing in much more detail than if you were mulling it over in your head. The result is similar to writing down a problem – more clarity about the problem leads to more clarity about the solution.
2. Ask yourself better questions.
If you get stuck doing step one, ask yourself the most cringe-inducing question that someone else could ask you. Then answer them. The quality of the questions you ask equals the quality of the conclusions you draw.
3. Pretend to give advice to someone else.
Pretend someone else is asking you the same question. What would you say to them? It’s easier to give someone else a hard dose of reality than to give it to ourselves.
4. Believe in your ability to make positive change in your life.
You can’t coach yourself until you believe that you’re coachable. As always, believing in yourself is half the battle.