Help Not Wanted? The Right Way to Seek Career Advice

If you’re just embarking on your career, especially if you’re involved with an internship, you will likely find that LOTS of people want to give you advice.


Because most of the staffers and supervisors you work with today were in exactly the same place you are at one time. They were new, possibly clueless, confused… maybe a little scared.

If somebody is willing to give you their advice, and especially if you seek out their advice, make sure you receive their advice in the right way. Even if you think what they are telling you is crazy – listen.

On more than one occasion I’ve had a student ask me for advice. So, I schedule a time to meet with them, and take time to look at their resume. When the time comes, though, the student isn’t really prepared to have a productive conversation about their career.

When this happens I’m not only annoyed that time has been wasted, but it’s now unlikely that I’ll go out of my way to help further. And, I won’t recommend that student to anybody else in the working world. Essentially, their request for help has backfired.

On the other hand, when a student seeks my advice and comes to me extremely prepared, I’m inspired. I give them all the advice I can. I spend all kinds of time with them. More than that – if for no other reason than to justify the value of the advice I’ve given – I’ll go far out of my way to help a student be successful.

See how that works?

If you ask for help or advice… be prepared. Be engaged. Be passionate about your career.

And I’ll be there to help every step of the way.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at!


About the Author: Eric Woodard is the author of “Your Last Day of School: 56 Ways You Can Be A Great Intern and Turn Your Internship Into a Job”. He is also founder of, a site that teaches students to be successful during internships. Eric has created and managed internship programs for the White House and U.S. Senate and consulted with a variety of national non-profit clients to create and manage successful internship programs. Over the years Eric received zillions of thank you notes from interns, and has kept every single one. Follow Eric on Twitter!



This entry was posted in Internships and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Great post! I made it a point to ask all of my supervisors and co-workers for their words of wisdom as I launched my career. I also asked for their candid feedback on how I can enhance my work processes and interactions. That advice and those experiences are still utilized today.

    • Hi Megan!

      That’s awesome! Mentors and advisors are such a great resource. Having a plan and a clear idea of what feedback and advice you want helps the person advising you give you much better assistance. They have a better idea of your goals and direction.


      David Ellis
      Content and Community Manager

  • Anon

    Could you clarify what a student should do exactly to be prepared?

    • A fair question indeed.

      You can get a pretty good idea by imagining yourself as an advisor. You have all the desire in the world to help students, but, unfortunately, limited time. A student comes to you with a resume and wants help with career planning.

      What industry do you want to target? Student: (blank stare)
      What informational interviews have you been on? Student: (blank stare)

      Well what companies are you looking at? Student: (blank stare… blink… blink)
      What kind of company culture do you like? Student: (blank stare… blink)
      Ok…well then from the research you’ve done, what kind of position do you think you’d like to apply for? Student: (blank stare… “Research?”… blink blink)

      The advisor is there to help *guide* students based on the research and the work they’ve done. Not to assign them an industry and a job. Too often, students want a magic bullet… someone to open a door for them and give them a set of directions they just have to follow. THAT is a waste of the advisor’s time… and is a good idea of “un-prepared”.


      David Ellis
      Content and Community Manager