how can I tell my relative her career advice is out-of-touch?

A reader writes:

I have recently found your blog and really appreciate the advice that you offer. You have written many times that the job search/hiring process has changed in the past times and to generally ignore the out-of-touch advice parents are offering.

As a recent grad, one of my relatives offered to help me with my job search, write my resume and even assist in writing cover letters. My relative is a former and very successful hiring manager… from about ten years ago. Since they left the workforce to raise their children, they have been doing freelance resume writing and job-finding services from home. I was very grateful that they were willing to help and offer their services, until I started reading your advice. I think my relative may be slightly misguided or of touch with current resume trends, etc. I fear the resume they crafted for me may be hurting my applications, not helping.

While I can certainly edit my resume with your advice and write my own stellar cover letters, I’m concerned for my relative’s clients. What is the best way (or is there even a way) to address this topic? I really don’t want to stir up family conflict, but this is bad advice.

Oh, gosh. I mean, I obviously think my advice is right on target, and I get enough letters from people who report that it worked for them when nothing else did that I feel confident that I’m not delusional about that, but it’s tough for me to say that you should create awkwardness with your relative over this.

The one thing I think you could do is to start a conversation with her about some of the advice you’ve found that differs from hers and ask her opinion. For instance, if she’s telling you to use a resume objective, send her a link to an article explaining why they suck, and say something like, “I found this article and was wondering what you think about it.” But of course, you can only do this a couple of times before it becomes obnoxious, so I’d pick your battles.

What do other people think?

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    This is a very touchy subject, and very likely to lead into issues with family. However what really stands out to me is that she was a hiring manager “ten years ago”.

    The internet in the last ten years has completely changed the entire hiring process. Customs/expectations with e-mail, cell phone use, application flow (through websites / in specific formats for database entry, etc…)… Everything has changed the landscape dramatically in the “pre-interview” stage.

    I’m sure much of her information regarding the interview process itself is still relevant, but I’d be hesitant about things such as the resume, contacting the hiring manager, application process flow, etc…

    1. Joey*

      My thoughts exactly! She could be giving sound advice for certain industries especially if she has a network of business contacts.

    2. Anonymous*

      I agree with Eric. Just have your file of electronic clippings and other resources available if she starts to lose clients and ask for input.

  2. Wilton Businessman*

    For every out-of-touch resume writer, there’s an out-of-touch resume reader. Some people will look at a resume without an objective and think “hmm, I guess they don’t even know what they want”. I agree with AAM that a stated objective is silly, but some people are still not on board.

    I also agree that the best way to approach it would be to ask your relative’s opinion on something you think they’re doing wrong. But she’s not your problem, finding a job is your problem. You seem to have a brain in your head. Take both opinions and decide for yourself what YOU think is best. In the end, you are the one responsible for the content on your resume. If you don’t like the advice, don’t use it.

  3. Anonymous*

    I don’t understand. The relative isn’t out of the workforce, she is freelancing. Is freelancing is the new unemployed?

      1. Melissa*

        That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re unemployed, though, since many parents work from their homes.

  4. Eva*

    I heard that the raison d’être of objectives dates back to some time in ancient history (I was born in 1982) when people didn’t have easy access to a printer and thus had a single (that is, rarely updated) resume printed professionally. By necessity the same information was sent out to all employers and hence the value was that employers knew that the objective was not tailored to the position, so a good fit with the position actually meant something. AAM and others, do you know if there is any truth to this tale?

      1. Long Time Admin*

        It certainly is true! My first resume (done by a “professional”) looked like a 9th grade typing exercise. I was unemployed at the time and had to go to the library to retype it and then pay to have it printed up. We used to type cover letters to go with the resumes when we mailed them in, but when we cold-called on Personnel Managers we just took a few copies of our resume with us.

        Yes, the olden days. Neither better or worse than today, just gone forever.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yeah people would pay big bucks (in ye olde olden days bucks) to have a bunch of resumes printed with the exact same information. They would then walk around and physically hand out copies of these profesionally print resumes with the pretty objective that would match up to the positions they were actually applying for. Not having an objective meant you were just going to give the resume to everyone.

      1. class factotum*

        Kind of related story:

        When my dad retired from the air force, he was in his late 40s: too young to stop working and besides, he couldn’t afford not to work. He asked me, who was in college at the time, to proof his resume. I thought I’d found a spelling error and crossed out the word.

        Only the word was spelled correctly. But because I had marred the resume – which was otherwise ready to go to the copy shop – he had to re-type the entire thing.

        I don’t think I’ve misspelled “maintenance” since.

  5. Tax CPA*

    I used an objective in college when I was passing out resumes to accounting firms at meat-market college job fairs. I learned at my very first one (when I was a sophomore) that they asked if you were looking for an internship or full-time and then whether you wanted audit or tax. So when I went the next year, as a junior, it made sense for my resume to have a short objective that I wanted an internship in tax. There was no way I was going to customize a couple dozen resumes for very similar firms, then sort through a stack of resumes with a recruiter right there.

    If an objective is just going to say something like “I want a challenging career in blah blah blah where I can demonstrate my skills and this, that, and the other”, there’s no real point.

  6. Nichole*

    That’s an excellent way to handle that. Since the aunt does it as a job, it’s perfectly reasonable to present other POVs as articles in her field of expertise and ask her opinion-after all, she’s the expert, right? She may agree and start seeking those sources herself, or you may get explanations that calm your fears such as “In general that’s true, but in our area including a reference list right off the bat is useful because personal reputation has so much currency in our town” or “I agree that the objective is outdated, but XYZ Corp and ABY and Associates expect them, so I tell all of my underwater basket weaving job searchers to include one.” At worst, she’ll ignore it completely, but you’ll have done all you could. Any professional should be constantly on the lookout for information and trends in their industry, so questions about those trends should be welcomed, or the aunt probably won’t be making money on it for too long anyway.

  7. Anonymous*

    I guess I’d say what is it that as a career counselor she is doing? Really a lot of people who do that are just giving people hope. Yeah sure they go thru and make a pretty new resume or they do whatever else. But unless they are sharing their personal network with you, what they are really doing most of the time is giving hope and encouragement. I think that if the asking for her opinion thing just leaves you feeling down then really look at it like this. Most of her clients are coming to her for some hope. She is doing that. As long as she isn’t telling them that you should never network and you should never follow the directions that the company gives to apply for a job then she is doing a pretty good job.
    And every employer is different and some will like her style. And her clients have enough hope to keep moving forward to apply for all those jobs they need to.

    Sometimes when family comes into play the best thing to do is change your perspective a bit.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d be pissed as hell if I paid for a career counselor and they saw their main function as just to give me hope!

      But then I am skeptical of career counselors as an industry.

      1. Kelly O*

        Yeah, me too. Maybe it’s my not so great experiences with counselors in high school and college, but I really don’t have to pay someone to tell me “keep on plugging, kiddo” or whatever.

        Heck, it’s hard to get a recruiter, who is ostensibly being paid to place people in a position, to give any direction.

      2. Anonymous*

        I’m not saying they should see that as their main function just that skepticism is justified and maybe for the sake of familial peace viewing hope as a critical factor is a good way to look at it.

        I also think that you paying for a career counselor is very different that some of the other career counseling out there. (I say this as someone who wants to keep my job, well not really but until I find something sexier, as a gvt career counselor.)
        Most people who can afford to pay are going to have the basics. Reading skills, basic writing, an idea of what a resume is (that it is a list of jobs and skills, not should there be an objective or not), and such. Those clients who need those skills? Well if that is the clientle here that’s a whole other ball of wax.

  8. Kait*

    Alison I think your recommendation is right on. As a freelancer, I’d definitely want to know about new approaches that could potentially improve my success rate for my clients. I think if your reader approaches it from the perspective of asking his/her relative’s opinion, they can take it or leave it. Either way, they’ll be informed and can choose what they’re comfortable with. When I hear something new, I can then incorporate it into my recommendations to my family & friends who ask for job search/resume help and let them make the call how they want to respond. Ultimately, whatever the recommendation- the job seeker must be comfortable with it in order to successfully implement it with a potential employer.

    That said, as a former recruiter now 6 years ago, I still try to keep my skills sharp and love it when someone shares a new tip/trick/trend in hiring with me. It’s easy for people to forget that both technology and the economic climate are forcing the job market and job seekers to evolve. What used to work, may not in the current climate (however at times industry practice trumps job market conditions- job searching tools/approaches can dramatically vary across job levels and industries) so it’s always good to have more than one tool in your toolbox. You can’t always know about every new trend the moment it happens, so I really appreciate others sharing new information with me.

  9. Bob G*

    My suggestion would be to point your relative to this site and let her read through the various articles and see what her opinion is. If she is committed to helping people find a rewarding career then she should be thrilled to find all the resources AAM has on her site.

    I also think you need to take any advice for what it is, a helpful suggestion. Even though I generally agree with this site 99.99% of the time there are differing opinions. Take all the advice/help you can find and then mold all of that information into something that works for you and your particular situation.

    If your relative writes up a resume that you simply find horrible or if it is not getting results then you will know that it is not the answer for your particular job search.

  10. Clobbered*

    Pointing the relative to this site would have been a great idea – until this letter was published in it :-)

  11. Kevin*

    This sounds more like a family-related personal issue than a professional one – and that’s probably how a critique will be received, no matter how well-intentioned or honest. I would think that if they weren’t very self-confident and open to suggestions that it would be received negatively. A junior rebuffing the advice of a senior, especially after they took their offer, sounds like a recipe for hurt feelings. I would assess the family dynamics, maybe ask a family member that wont “spill the beans”, before I tackled that topic – if it was even tackled at. If it were my family, I wouldn’t touch that topic with an ELEVEN-inch pole.

    As far as the resume, AAM says “trust your gut”.

  12. Kelly O*

    Back to the original topic (crazy, right?) I will give you the super-secret tip I still use when someone provides me unsolicited, unwanted advice that I know is not applicable to what I want or need to do. I perfected this during my pregnancy.

    “Okay, thanks. (Acceptable alternatives – You really shouldn’t have. Thanks. or, Mm-hm.)”

    Then you just forget whatever they said. Or you put what they gave you in your “waiting to be tossed” file and move on. I used to feel bad about that until my former mother-in-law kept trying to tell me things in the kitchen that probably would have gotten us all food poisoning, and someone suggested I needed to eat a red onion every day while pregnant to make sure my baby had hair.

    (In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not eat the red onion every day and my little girl is just now starting to get a decent peach fuzz. I’m not crystal clear on any correlation.)

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