Ask someone for help and they’ll be glad to help you out, but don’t tell me what to do. There’s a reason our parents taught us to say please and thank you. As kids we grow up being told what to do by our parents, teachers and other authority figures. Once we become adults, we want to be independent and make our own decisions.

My bother-in-law was a family therapist, and he once told me that the word “should” is a very divisive word. You’re making a judgment and telling me that what I’m doing is wrong. Excuse me. Take care of your own business and I’ll decide what is best for me.

Ironically, I’m in the business of giving advice. Whether it’s in this column or as a business consultant, I offer advice to lots of people, and I struggle to find that delicate balance between giving advice and offering alternative options people should consider before they make a decision.

Forget about it — today I’m going to break that rule. I believe there are some absolute things you “should” do as you plan your career. If you think I’m wrong please send me an email and I’ll listen. But today, this is my must “to-do” list.

No. 1 — You must develop a well thought-out career plan at least five years before you retire. Start reading books, watch videos and even consider hiring a life coach, but you need to start planning for this event years in advance.

We have a friend who constantly complained about her job. After a particularly bad week, she decided that she couldn’t take it anymore and it was time to retire. Six months after making this dramatic decision, she learned she didn’t have enough money to do all those things she’s been dreaming about doing for the last decade. Now, at the age of 62, she was unable to find a job that paid as well as the job she just left. In all likelihood she’ll need to work until she’s 70.

No. 2 — Never assume your job won’t be eliminated. Have a backup plan just in case you find yourself unemployed because your company closed or your job was unexpectedly eliminated.

There was a medical stenographer who believed her job would never be eliminated. Technology might reduce the number of positions, but they would always need a few good stenographers. She had the most seniority so her position was safe. Two years later voice recognition software eliminated all of the stenographer positions.

No. 3 — You really should practice your interviewing skills. Find a professional or have a good friend ask you interview questions and practice your answers. Practicing out loud is like learning how to sky dive. Nothing can prepare you for the stress of standing at an open door at 10,000 feet getting ready to jump. You may think you know what you’re going to say when they ask you: “Describe a verbal argument with a co-worker that upset you.” But, you will be more confident and significantly improve your chances of beating your competition if you practice.

No. 4 — Learn how to use the internet and social media to advance your career goals. I continually run into people in their 50s, 60s and 70s who don’t like social media and refuse to use it. For better or worse, it is a necessary evil to protect and advance your career. I’m not suggesting you need to use Facebook and publish family photos, but there are many resources like LinkedIn and other professional organizations that will help you be active in the business community. We can make jokes about the President’s tweets, but the way we all communicate has changed and you will be left behind if you don’t learn and adapt.

Well, I took a risk and decided to tell you what you should be doing to survive in today’s job market. At the end of the day you will decide what’s best for you and that’s the way it should be.

Bill Kaminski is president of Stone Associates Training. He is an HR consultant with 35 years of experience in the employment field, teaching managers the art of hiring great employees. Bill is also an adjunct instructor at Keuka College. You can contact Bill with questions, suggestions or comments at