How to Accept Good (and Bad) Advice as a Professional

Annette Stewart, Director, Royal Bank of Canada, shares where to seek out advice when you need input on a decision or situation. She also talks about the best and worst advice she’s received, and what you should do with feedback (good or bad) when it’s given to you.

Don’t have time to read this blog? Listen to it below!

Is asking for advice an easy thing for you to do?

Early in my career, asking for advice was very difficult due to an unwarranted fear of rejection. I told myself people were too busy to give me advice. As my career progressed, I met many people who gave me unsolicited and valuable advice that guided me throughout my career. With time, I grew comfortable asking for more advice.

Currently, I make a point of speaking to my network as much as possible on current trends and areas in which they believe I should grow my knowledge. I try to schedule two coffee chats a week—one to gain advice and one to give advice. Both are equally valuable to me and I always learn from the conversations.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received, and what is the worst advice you’ve gotten?

The best advice I’ve received was a “Why not you?” discussion with a previous manager. The point of the discussion was to ask for what you want and don’t be afraid. The key learning is that people cannot read our minds and we must be vocal in what we are seeking in our life and career. The phrase “why not you” is a reminder to ask for that promotion or raise, as someone else may ask  “why not you?” The worst case scenario is “no” and we can live with the response, learn, and reassess next steps.

The worst advice was “If you’re in a bad situation, just wait it out.” I have found that a bad manager or work situation needs attention and not patience. If the situation is not good, then start looking for new opportunities, internally or externally. It is also good to have necessary conversations with management to address issues and create a positive path forward. My advice to counter the bad advice is “Don’t be patient. Create a plan of action to address the issue.” Waiting it out is not the best option in a bad situation. We need to take action to care for ourselves.

If you’ve acknowledged you need guidance or advice on something, where are some good places to look for advice?

I am a strong supporter of mentorship. 4word has an excellent mentor program that brings people together to assess career and life goals. I am currently a mentor and highly recommend it! I also support the creation of your internal Board of Directors that you can lean on when you have a question on a career move. Take inventory of your network and think of the people who have supported you in your career and reach out. You will find people are happy to make time and assist in providing advice.

What should you do if the advice you receive doesn’t “feel” right?

I believe you should always get a second, third, or even fourth opinion. Hear from other people and ensure you are taking notes as you have these advice sessions to later reflect and review the feedback. Advice varies and you may find that you take pieces of people’s advice and create your own response to a situation. Also remember that people may be in different work situations that can vary from your own, hence creating a different mindset of advice. Keep an open mind, listen, and ask for multiple opinions.

How can someone prepare mentally and spiritually to seek and act on advice?

I begin my morning in prayer for guidance in my decisions during the day. I believe prayer and positivity can get you ready for a successful day.

Remember that we are all people who have a variety of experiences and that many people are willing to help if you simply ask.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Advice and feedback are a gift. Be open to listening and see if the advice can be applied. I also believe in paying it forward and helping others. Let’s create a community that helps each other grow.

Annette received her undergraduate degree from Texas State University and completed her Juris Doctorate at the University Of Iowa College Of Law where she participated in the University of Iowa’s international law program in France and London. She is also a graduate of the University Of Michigan Ross School Of Business Executive Program for her MBA. Annette has over 18 years of experience working on Wall Street, including companies such as Citadel, Goldman Sachs, Markit, PwC and is currently a Director at Royal Bank of Canada.

Annette has spent her career focused on Global Cyber Security, derivatives regulation, front‐to‐back trading process, overall firm process improvement, project management, legal trade confirmations and currently working on risk and regulatory initiatives that affect the Cloud environment and SaaS. Annette has enjoyed new learning opportunities and has grown her career through her love for learning and collaboration.

Annette is an active 4word Mentor, President Elect for the Financial Women’s Association, serves on the University of Iowa College of Law Foundation Board and participates as an advisor for several non-profit organizations.

Annette enjoys free time with her husband Jeff and daughter Paige.