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Mentors Can Help Decipher Free Advice


by Mary Smith, associate consultant at IA Business Advisors

You’re fresh out of school and starting at a new job, or perhaps you are starting your first company and entering the world as an entrepreneur, and one of the first experiences you have is people offering you unsolicited advice. Not all advice is meant to (or should) be taken to heart. Advice that is given, unsolicited and unpaid for, can be misleading. Most individuals don’t intend to mislead us; they might honestly think they are giving great advice and their intentions are typically in the right place. Sifting through this bombardment of advice can be difficult but becomes easier when using a trusted mentor or industry influencer as a sounding board.

There are multiple reasons why advice should be carefully analyzed before applying it to your life, team, or business. One being that implementing free advice and then having the situation turn negative is the opposite of what you want. We don’t want to give the impression that you can’t trust people, because there are many credible and knowledgeable people worth listening to. We only suggest fact checking advice and information you receive with a mentor.

To make the best decisions for yourself and your business, you need to know what you’re getting into.

Free advice can come from anywhere.

Advice can come from experts (in blogs, articles, podcasts, or even someone you hire), but advice can also come from your great uncle at a holiday party or some eavesdropper who heard you talking about an issue in line. While these people may be educated and experienced, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily educated and experienced in your industry or on your topic at hand. While their intentions may be good, it doesn’t necessitate that you take and act upon the free advice.

Because free advice can come from anywhere, it’s important to find a mentor or influencer in your industry that you can trust. This doesn’t mean all their advice is going to be perfect. Find someone whose opinion you can trust who can act as a sounding board for the other free advice you receive. Again, not all free advice is bad. You just have to consider how the advice worked in other situations and how it might work in your situation. Having someone experienced in your industry to discuss this with you may be best.

Free advice has no accountability.

Most advice is usually delivered with the presumption that it will be easy to implement; however, advice and change in the workplace takes time and patience to take an effect. Accountability is important when implementing advice because what if the advice doesn’t work or you misinterpret it? If the advice came from a stranger, how can you ask follow up questions days, weeks, or months later? People can’t always be held accountable for free advice because it’s not advice that you paid for.

If you can find a mentor or influencer in your industry that is trustworthy and you get along with, they may be willing to serve as your accountability. After using them as a sounding board for either theirs’ or others’ free advice, once you begin implementing the advice, they will be there with you to answer any questions and brainstorm solutions around any hiccups. They communicate with you, follow up, allow for questions to be asked, and ensure you are utilizing the advice to the best of its ability.


The best way to sift through all the free advice you get on a daily basis is to do your own research, fact check, and find a trusted mentor. As a leader, it is your job to protect your team from bad advice that could negatively influence your company. It is your job to fix issues and come up with solutions. This doesn’t mean you need to do it alone. In fact, you shouldn’t do it alone. Look for a mentor in your industry to help and guide you as you grow. Mentors are necessary for all growth but can be especially important when discussing the intricacies of business.


Mary Smith is an associate consultant with IA Business Advisors and is a Kolbe Certified Consultant. Her and her father, Dr. Brian Smith, developed The I in Team Series to help leaders find, be, and build their positive influence. The newest title in the series is “Individual Advantages: Be the “I” in Team“.