When you were younger your parents would warn you not to talk to strangers. My warning is for when you’re all grown up: don’t take unsolicited advice from strangers.
One of the scariest things I see are unqualified individuals offering advice to young minds based on their own, personal experiences. It’s not as much the advice that troubles me as the delivery. Rarely do these advisors qualify their pearls of wisdom with “this may not apply to you”, or “based on MY experience, which may differ from yours”, or “my market is X, and it may not be the same for your market.”. That’s wrong, and I’ll provide two very good examples that I have experienced just over these last two weeks.
I attended an event with over 400 high school students. One speaker gave a presentation about his coding school and, without a disclaimer, told all the students in the room that “college is not for you, you should be going to coding school instead”. Whether he is right or not, it shouldn’t have been said or at least not without a disclaimer. Students should feel empowered to make their own decisions, and whether or not you as a speaker feel that college is not the path they should take, this doesn’t mean you should tell them to absolutely avoid it. I’m on both sides of the table on this one. I believe that college can be useful for many people, but I also feel like for some it may end up being a waste of time. Yet I’m not about to lecture 400 easily-influenced kids on what they should do with their lives after High School.
Last week I attended a marketing workshop from someone so unqualified to speak that I was angry when I left the room. She spoke about marketing as if there was a singular approach for every type of business, without disclaimers. I’m hoping this speaker was a last minute addition, but I’m disappointed so many attendees had to endure such a disingenuous presentation.
There are many at fault here, but instead of blaming anyone, I want to help the younger generation by giving probably the most important piece of advice I have; ironically, it’s to Be Cautious on Who you Accept Advice from. That’s not to say don’t accept advice from anyone, but that it’s more important to acquire it from someone you know and trust. Someone whose background relates to you and what you’re wanting to learn. So many times, as demonstrated in my preceding examples, students or younger entrepreneurs go to conferences that they feel will relate to them and, instead of critically questioning what they are told, take the words as gospel. They’ll typically sit back and listen next to their friends, who they talk to afterward about how great the speaker was, and how they will put to use all the information they’ve absorbed. Young minds are a sponge, and you should be careful what’s absorbed by that sponge.
In closing, it’s ok to go to these events that present rookie speakers, just be cautious that they may not be speaking to you. It’s ok to question advice you receive if you’re unsure. It’s necessary that you ask questions if you do not understand, and it’s absolutely fine to challenge someone if you disagree — just make sure you know your shit if you do.