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28823faI just read this article about a husband and wife who while having plenty of money, had all 12 of their children pay for their own college education. The article is a sort of “manifesto” about how they raised their children. It’s quite interesting. While my parents were nowhere near this disciplined in their parenting approach, I can relate on many levels – and I bet you can too. I had chores and allowance by age 6. I started working after school and every summer in my parent’s civil engineering firm at age 13. I think many of us have similar stories about growing up and would agree we are better off in life from being trained early to work for what we want.

“You get what you pay for” is a good career lesson too.

What struck me as an equally important lesson by these parents was how getting things for “free” as a child can work against you as an adult. If they had given their children everything, these parents would have taken a valuable lesson away from their kids: The ability to feel in control their futures.The children would have been trained to expect many things for free, focusing them only on stuff they could get (or achieve) without paying. Instead, they learned to go into every situation figuring out what they needed to LEARN and DO to be successful, empowering them to believe they could achieve anything they truly wanted to. It shouldn’t surprise us that they went to college on their own dime.

So, why do we still seek “free” when we should know better?

Now, in spite of many of us being taught these lessons, I still see professionals falling into the “seek free” trap. They want the easy way out in fixing their career problems.

For example…

You’d be amazed at the number of complete strangers who send me a three-sentence email like this,”

J.T., saw an article you wrote. I am having a problem getting interviews. Can you review my resume and LinkedIn profile and tell me what I’m doing wrong?

Seems innocent enough, right? They’re just asking for advice and I’m a career coach. So, it makes sense they’d ask. But, let’s think about it further:

  1. What does this say about their respect for the cost of a my time?
  2. What did they offer me in return?
  3. What compelling reason did they give for deserving this free advice?
  4. What kind of effort have they really given to educating themselves on what they could do to improve the resume and LinkedIn profile on their own?

One could easily argue they’re looking for a shortcut instead of working for what they want.

“Free” advice from the wrong person can hurt your career even more.

Besides approaching people the wrong way, I also see professionals seeking free advice from the wrong sources – and that can do even more damage to your career.

It might seem easy to ask family and friends to give their input on what you should do. But, are they truly qualified to advise you? Before you take some free advice from them, you may want to ask yourself:

  • What makes them an expert on this subject?
  • What experience can they point to to support their advice?
  • How much are they like me in order for their advice to be applicable?
  • Do they really have my best interests in mind, or are they emotional about my situation?

Often, the person giving us the advice is basing it on outdated information or misguided assumptions that could do our career more harm than good. But hey, the advice is free, so why not use it, right?

i.e. How to work harder (not smarter) on a job search.

For example, I wouldn’t take the advice of the family member who tells you the secret to getting a new job is to apply to 100 jobs/week. Not only will you be exhausted, but it’s a waste of your time. Yet, they’ll tell you stories about how when they were out of work, they knocked on doors directly and applied to everything they could. That might have worked years ago, but it rarely works in today’s economy.

Want to succeed? Invest in…

If you want to guarantee career success you need to invest time, money, and resources into getting new tools and knowledge that will help you take control and achieve your goals. (For even more incentive, here’s a study that proves employers also think you should be investing more in your career.) There’s no way around it. The sooner you stop chasing “free” and start embracing the “price to pay” to get what you want, the better.

Now, how have you invested in yourself to advance your career? I’d love to hear reader stories and advice in the comments below.

P.S. – First time reading my posts? Thanks for taking the time to stop by! Not only do I write for Linkedin, but I’m also founder of the career advice site, CAREEREALISM,and currently run the career coaching program, CareerHMO. I hope you’ll check them both out!

J.T. O’Donnell

Founder & CEO of | Creator & Coach at | Syndicated Author | Columnist | Blogger | Speaker