Chances are we’ve had that person who was trying to lend us a helping hand, but it didn’t feel that way. As an adult finding her way through the world, it’s common for other adults to offer advice so I can have an easier time navigating my life. Here’s the kicker: it doesn’t feel like help most of the time. More often than not, the help feels more like pressure since it comes off as projected expectations.
Let’s begin with figuring out what kind of help I’m talking about. Not all advice can be categorized as useful, but at the same time not all advice can be categorized as useless; there’s a balance. Everyone means well, but sometimes meaning well can feel like pressure. If someone is offering you a job and follows up with you, then that would be considered great and useful help. On the other hand, if someone tells you about a job direction and doesn’t really explain or guide you, it’s almost pointless; which way do you go after someone supposedly says take a right? Do you go straight ahead, left, or right again? Perhaps, go back?
Here we go with a case study!
You are a fresh graduate from university—undergrad or not, and you’re thinking of taking a break to find yourself again. You’ve known studying all your life, so you figure it’s best to take a year off and find out what you want to do.
You’re on the verge of taking your year off and you meet with family, family friends, and other older adults who know you. You don’t necessarily meet them on purpose, but you still see them because of special occasions or simply passing by. Everything is fine and dandy (yes, dandy) until they ask about what you’re doing in life after graduation.
This is where the struggle begins.
You’re on your way of taking a break and everyone is asking you about your future. It’s inevitable, but it’s frustrating because if your answer to everyone’s questions are “I’m not sure”, then the advice begins. Sometimes, the advice is unwarranted, simply because you want a break. You know they mean well, but it feels like they’re doing more than just help.
What do they do and say? They give you advice by telling you to certain places for a job. They offer to take your resume and help get you into a job. They offer advice on how to get into the job market. You think it’s great because they’re helping, but sometimes there is no follow up. Then, you meet with the same people again, they ask you the same questions, you get the same advice and it’s a cycle.
Is their help still help?
This is pretty universal when you’re a fresh graduate either from high school or university. People are interested in helping and giving advice, but often it’s unwarranted. It’s okay in the beginning because it seems like a one-off comment, but it only occurs again and again later on. You feel pressure because the questions keep piling on and it’s almost a miracle for everyone to stop asking you about the future.
When does it stop?
Everyone has great intentions in this situation. Other people do want to help, but sometimes it feels too much. You want to do your own thing, but with everyone asking you questions you begin to feel burdened and maybe anxious. It sounds like everyone has their expectations of you and then you’re left trying to at least live up to them.
When did being helpful become a struggle for the other person?
I say, if you want to ask questions about the person’s future, tread lightly. Look for signs if the person is interested in talking about it, otherwise segue the way out of it. For help to be help, add guidance instead of simply a direction. Young people, especially, lack the guidance into the real world, so please offer it. Giving them all the direction in the world can only be so useful if they know how to use it and interpret it. Help lead the way and make what you say matter.