Wisdom vs. tactics: What kind of advice are you getting?

When you have career conversations with mentors, professors, professionals in the field, you’ll probably receive a lot of advice about what you should do next. Some of it will be immediately actionable, but other recommendations may seem rather vague or hard to accomplish. It is good to get both kinds of advice, but what you do with it will depend on where you are in your career exploration or job search process.

Most career advice falls into one of two categories: wisdom or tactics.

Wisdom is what you often hear from CEOs at conferences or in college graduation speeches. Wisdom encourages you to think big, follow passions, and spend time on areas like problem solving, creativity, and the liberal arts. In order to work, wisdom-type advice relies on self-reflection, time, and deep thinking.

Tactical advice is what you likely encounter in meetings with new professionals, hiring managers, and recruiters. Tactical advice recommends specific skills to master, experiences to gain, books to read, and people to consult. These insights are excellent for taking the next step in your job search or moving up one level in your field.

When it comes time to plan for bigger steps or the career question is more ambiguous—for example, when you’re trying to decide between two very different fields, or what leadership will look like for you—then you need some career wisdom.

So when you’re next preparing for a conversation in your target career field or listening to a career podcast, consider what kind of advice you are receiving. Ask yourself these questions: Does it clarify my thinking or not? Do I need some more time to reflect or do I need more actions to take? Or do I need both? Had enough advice and want a space to talk out options and plans? Come talk with a career counselor—we are happy to listen!

By Catherine Basl
Catherine Basl Career Counselor Catherine Basl