Beware of Advice from Meta Careerists

The most successful e-marketers sell products about…how to become a successful e-marketer. There's a trend here.

Writers who write books and articles about…how to be a published writer.

Entrepreneurs whose entrepreneurship is about…entrepreneurship.

The networking guru who uses his network to…sell books about how to network.

The personal branding expert whose personal brand is about…personal branding.

These are what I call "meta-careers." Generally, it's best to not seek advice on the topic from people involved in a meta career.

The best advice on networking will come from someone who is not a professional networker. The best advice on entrepreneurship will come someone whose entrepreneurship is not selling books and workshops about entrepreneurship. Writers who write about anything other than writing for a living usually have the best advice on writing.

18 Responses to Beware of Advice from Meta Careerists

  1. Ryan Holiday says:

    So what would you say about a career website written by people too young to have had a career?

  2. Zoli Erdos says:

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.
    :-)

  3. john says:

    LOL touche

  4. Ben Casnocha says:

    This is kind of a separate thing…. But “people whose career is offering
    advice about careers” would fit the box.

  5. Mike McCabe says:

    Like the business professor who can talk about theory all day but has never actually run a business in his life, while college dropouts are running billion-dollar companies.

  6. DaveJ says:

    Ah, a meta-post in which you are probably aware (and self-aware) about its self-referentiality. But your blog is really not about careers (only 13 posts), it’s about a lot of things (see category list), and many posts are just relating someone else’s view that you found interesting. You are at risk for a meta-career but not there yet.

  7. (Having visited his blog, I like the way Ryan Holiday wields his sword and the homage he pays to the ancient Greek philosophers.)

    The best advice on networking will come from someone who is not a professional networker.”

    This may be true vis–à–vis the bullshit realm of web 2.0, but I have a different take.

    My dispiriting experience:

    There was this loudmouthed redneck guy who would consult my professional expertise regularly. I’d always been willing to advise a rank amateur, if he was sincere in his desire to learn.

    Unfortunately, most of these people turn out to be douchebags who really don’t give a goddamn how I do things, they’re just looking for an excuse to tell me how they do it.

    Imagine.

    As if I, the old pro, should listen to them.

    And their gall is boundless– they have no qualms about interrupting me in the middle of my work and wasting my time.

    But this guy was different. He listened, and adopted my methods. I thought, how refreshing.

    I should have known.

    One day I was Googling the keywords of my business, and lo and behold, he had a personal blog on the subject, titled:

    “Do it like a pro.”

    And it was in the top ten results!

    I couldn’t believe my eyes. There before me were all the tips I’d given the guy, with no acknowledgment that he was most definitely not a pro, and minus even a hat tip to me.

    Salt in the wound– his site wasn’t badly done (I had no idea the ‘dumb’ motherfucker even knew html).

    To add insult to injury, a month later, he sold the article to a magazine.

    I admit that I contemplated murder.

    I got my revenge though.

    His neighbor turned out to be a crackhead, and ran off with his wife.

    Then the crackhead called the slimy bastard up and told him how much he enjoyed fucking his wife.

    So there is justice, sometimes.

    But I still can’t abide the statement, “The best advice on ____ing will come from someone who is not a ____er.”

    That’s saying the best advice on fucking will come from someone who is not a fucker.;-)

  8. This is why I suggested that you shouldn’t respect rationalists who only talk about explicit rationality and don’t seem to use their rationality for anything else. But I got a surprising amount of negative reaction to my suggestion of “mandatory secret identities” and I’m still not sure if it was a nitwit good-on-paper idea, or just an uncomfortable one.

  9. I love this post.

    It’s so true for career advice. If you want great career advice don’t ask a career’s advisor. Find someone that has a great career and ask them for advice.

  10. Ben Casnocha says:

    I think it was a good one! :)

  11. Reader in Sweden says:

    What are some good texts, books, DVDs, audiobooks, whatever, on _advanced_ social networking? I already know the basics from Keith Ferrazzi and Steve Pavlina and so on…

  12. Ben Casnocha says:

    I don’t think such a thing exists beyond the basics — after that, it
    involves going out into the world and building relationships….

  13. ElamBend says:

    In regard to writing advice, that’s part of what made Steven King’s “On Writing” so good. Here was advice from a guy who started writing and trying to sell his writing when he was the weird teacher at the local high school. It was a book he couldn’t have done well early in his career, but came after years of learning and seeing.
    AND, it’s very enjoyable.

  14. I agree but I disagree at the same time.

    I agree because like someone else said, “those who can do.” Therefore, a lot of these people who are meta careerists probably cannot “do.” Thus, they write about the “do.”

    But I disagree because I look at someone like myself or other people I know in my field, which is public relations. A good chunk of us blog about well…public relations.

    Some of us have jobs in PR, some of us are on the job hunt, but we are still in PR. We spent a lot time, energy and money going to school and learning about our industry. Some of us didn’t just wake up and decide to write about a field because we thought it looked fun.

    In essence, we are PR people writing about PR.

    That being said, to a certain extent, I think this more of a “buyer beware” kind of situation. Be aware of who gives out the information and their background.

    I don’t think it is fair to generalize like you did because there is an exception to every rule.

  15. Ben Casnocha says:

    Of course there are exceptions. It doesn’t mean a general rule is not
    useful. I agree with your comment though — thanks for it….

  16. ElamBend says:

    Actually Sasha, I think what you do is also a great service and one of the great things about the internet. It allows an ongoing discourse across geography. Sometimes we learn by talking about what we do, isolation can breed stagnation.

  17. Seth says:

    When people blog about blogging or sell ebooks about how to make money selling ebooks, I’m reminded of a creepy multi-level marketing seminar I got dragged to a few years ago.

    The difference is the meta-bloggers usually don’t give me a twisty uncomfortable feeling in my stomach.

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