Friend + Career Advice = Danger

    June 16, 2003

Q. My friend really hates her job. She’s a terrific writer who writes our community newsletter. How can I encourage her to embark on a writing career, using her talents to make money? Signed: Concerned

Dear Concerned:

You seem to be a truly kind, caring person. Now I’m going to ask you to do something really tough. Let your friend find her own path. Refuse to discuss her present, past or future careers.

Your friend may love writing but hate a writing career. Writing a free newsletter bears little resemblance to writing commercially, where command of the query counts far more heavily than command of the language.

Writing is a marketable skill only when it’s packaged with an ability to tell a story (like John Grisham) or access to a topic that attracts public interest (anything from life in prison to life in a palace — and, according to author Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, they’re not too different). And, with few exceptions, a writer has to be first and foremost a marketer.

If you really believe a friend is heading for disaster, speak up, tactfully but honestly. Encourage your friend to hire a coach or counselor. One loving wife gave her husband a career coaching gift certificates as a much-appreciated birthday gift.

In my experience, it’s hard to merge career coach and friend roles in a single person. Rejoice in your friendship and set firm boundaries on conversational topics.

Your friend comes up with a harebrained idea. Being a supportive friend, you say nothing or you say, “Wonderful!” Be clear that you are not delivering feedback and guidance — or your friend will come back with, “Why didn’t you warn me?”

Better to say, “You know, I really don’t know anything about careers in general, or this career in particular. I can recommend a career consultant who has real expertise in this area. And now let’s change the subject to talk about your dog”

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant. Your Next Move Ezine: Read one each week and watch your choices grow!