I had a boss once that became a mentor to me. He was older and more experienced than me. Since we worked in the same industry, we had some of the same interests and goals. I trusted him and he always gave me excellent advice.
Years later, I had a boss who took me under his wing. He began giving me advice about my career, and even my personal life at times. And while the advice may not have been bad, I didn’t like it.
The difference was that I turned to the first boss for advice. I had anointed him as my mentor. I asked him for the advice he gave. The second boss assumed the throne himself. He provided unsolicited advice in the interest of my career.
As I look back, I realize that it might not have been a good idea for either of them to give me career advice in my own interest. Each of them had a conflict of interest.
Boss’s conflict of interest
If you are a good employee, the boss will want you to remain his employee. He may create great opportunities for you. If he knows your skills well, he may mentor you to develop your weaknesses to make you better.
But everything he does may be focused on keeping you as his employee. If there are better opportunities for you in another division of the company – or at another company – he might try to convince you that staying put is your best option.
It may not be intentional
A good boss will put his employees first. And if your boss is doing his best to create opportunities for you, he may be blind to the fact that other opportunities may be better for you. He may not even know what you consider to be a better opportunity.
The bottom line is that, as much as your boss may try to think of you, he is not neutral.
Nobody is neutral
It is hard enough to find someone who will take the time and care enough about you to give you advice from the heart. A coworker may love working with you and try to convince you not to take that better opportunity. A parent or significant other may not want you to move to another city. No one will think strictly of you. We all have our biases whether we’re aware of them or not.
Have multiple mentors
Instead of having a single mentor that may provide a biased opinion, it’s better to solicit the input of multiple people. Talk to people within your organization and outside of it. Talk to people who may have been in a similar situation. Talk to people who don’t have a vested interest in your decision.
Let them give you pros and cons of every option. Then sit down with a piece of paper and list the advantages and disadvantages as they apply to you. Getting multiple points of view will allow you to separate the biases from the facts.
Finding a mentor can be a difficult thing. Finding one that has your best interests in mind can be next to impossible. It is better to diversify your sources of advice. The risk is that you may get conflicting opinions and advice. But getting all of the angles will help you make a better decision.
Has your boss ever given you bad career advice?
I welcome your questions and comments.
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