What Your Family’s Career Advice Actually Means

March 6, 2015

Career Advice

Advice is flung at us all the time about everything. Things like, “Get renters insurance!” “Never eat supermarket sushi!” “Don’t call 911 just because your wifi went down!” Granted, those are all incredibly valid pieces of advice that you should definitely heed. But what about generic life and career guidance that doesn’t take into the account the nuances of who you are and what you want out of life? We’re not saying it’s bad to peruse the occasional motivational Pinterest quote that vaguely tells you to “laugh into the wind of yesterday so you can move the valley of tomorrow” or whatever. Those proverbs are harmless (and usually have really pretty filtered backgrounds!). Rather, we’re talking about blanket urgings from friends and family that completely misunderstand you. We’ve broken down these impersonal nuggets of advice so you can see them for what they are: well-meaning suggestions that may or may not need to be gently rejected.

1. “You should be a doctor/lawyer/consultant”

Translation: “As your mother, I want to boast about you to friends when we discuss our family going-ons/love of Yanni. I also really want to sound impressive in our annual holiday letter.”

2. “You won’t make money doing that”

Translation: “We’re tired of paying your car insurance and only committed to 18 years of ‘make sure your kids has food/pants.’ We love you, but you turned out to be sooo much more expensive than the dog we had before you were born, and we’d really like to retire with some money left to survive/move to Florida.”

3. “Find something stable”

Translation: “Please settle down and give us grandchildren with whom we’ll derail all your parenting with candy. I’m not gonna be around forever, you know.”*

*communicated with an imploring guilt-trippy tone that can only be mastered by someone who has stayed up all night with a child, tended to their heartbreaks in high school, and defined what a mutual fund is for them.

4. “Why not follow in my footsteps?”

Translation: “I passed my genetic information to you to perpetuate my legacy. I gave you my high cheekbones; why don’t you want the empire I built?!”

5 .“Follow your passion”

Translation: “I didn’t follow my passion and am irritably counting down the days to retirement so I can spend my final years on Earth doing what I actually always wanted to do (provided my bad hip lets me!). Don’t be me.”


While all of these suggestions are rooted in good intention, that last one is the only one that really allows you to be the agent of your own decisions. That said, even things we don’t want to hear often hold a sliver of truth. So next time you hear advice that doesn’t sit well–and you feel the urge to  use the ole “talk to the hand cuz the face don’t care” retort– refrain from uttering a line from a 90s movie and really assess whether the comment is constructive criticism or corrosive judgement. If there’s validity to it, digest it and see how you can overcome the truths. If it feels like a hater hatin’, help the advice-giver see why the suggestion doesn’t correspond with your aims and do what’s right for you. Don’t know what’s right for you? Figure out what you really want for yourself (even if you don’t even know what you want for dinner) with our new book, Roadmap.

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