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Professional Advice: Opinions Versus Recommendations
Growing up, my mother told me that the reason why it’s called “talking behind your back” is because you are too busy moving forward for people to talk in front of you. Even as adults, we have always been told not to let what other people think about us get under our skin. Outside opinions and unsolicited comments can completely derail professional ambition, focus, and momentum. But what about the solicited comments and opinions? What do we do when we ask for professional advice from others? It is our responsibility to decide if this is their recommendation or their opinion. Too often these words are used synonymously, but they are actually significantly different. Opinions have the ability to professionally derail us in the same way as the unsolicited comments we read online or hear from complete strangers. Recommendations aid us in developing even stronger industry voices and professional ambition by taking ownership of our own professional goals.

Opinions are like…
Opinions are subjective. That means that although they may come from the best place (sometimes), opinions are based and influenced by the person’s beliefs or judgements. Opinions are not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. It is also important to remember that just because a large group of people has the same opinion, it doesn’t make the opinion any less based on their views. Opinions do not automatically become recommendations just because a lot of people are echoing the same words.

On the other hand, recommendations offer a different approach. These are suggestions or proposals that offer the best course of action based on credible information gathered in a variety of ways. Research, facts, data, and hypotheses contribute to the formulation of a recommendation. This is why recommendations can become guidelines and standards. Recommendations are created around the primary purpose of offering advice and counsel, whereas opinions are more a projection of the individual’s bias, perception, and limitations.

When opinions become recommendations
Differentiating between the two can be difficult, especially when you hear the phrase “in my professional opinion.” There is such a thing as a professional opinion. The individual is offering you their opinions about the topic and they formulated that opinion through professional experience. There is nothing wrong with listening to professional opinion; however, when we take someone’s professional opinion as a recommendation, our own frame of mind can become convoluted. Opinions become recommendations in this instance when we hold the advisor in a position of authority.

Recommendations are indicative of an authoritative body. This happens easily and often. Take me for example. I opened this article with an anecdote from my mother. I have remembered this phrase my entire life. I couldn’t see that this was the projection of her opinion. There were some events that must have led her to come to this conclusion and create this point of view. Because I view her in an authoritative role, I took it as fact. She did not offer it to me with ill intentions, either. She saw a chance to offer me a life experience that I determined was valuable because it came from her. So ask yourself, who offered you the advice to not worry what other people think? What was your relationship with that individual and how did you view them?

The value of opinions
Opinions do offer a form of support and serve a purpose; however, to purposely pursue our professional goals, we must search for recommendations. We begin to move away from the subjective opinions and seek counsel. We do this by determining why we seek the advice and what resolution we are looking for. But if we knew the resolution, why would we be asking? Take a step back from the literal meaning of resolution. What is the undertone of your search for guidance?

Let’s use this common professional scenario. We don’t know if taking a new position in a different facility is a good idea. We have been in our current role for a long time. Even though we want more challenges and maybe more money, we are unsure what to do. The reason we begin to seek advice is because we have never done this before, are nervous to leave a familiar role, or we are facing some imposter syndrome. The uncertainty, anxiety, and fear are the catalyst for guidance. We do not know what to do because these are the factors that convolute our train of thought.

Action in guidance
Recommendations are crucial in these types of scenarios. A recommendation will offer us a source of information to make our own decision based on our goals, not our feelings. If you ask, “what should I do” or “what would you do,” you will always get an opinion. To achieve a recommendation, we must first decide our stance. We would not have applied for the position if we didn’t want it for one reason or another. What was that reason? Money? Responsibility? Better hours? That is your stance. Whatever it is, own it.

Next, we have to seek guidance instead of a solution. It is normal to want to determine the outcome before any of the work takes place. But as we said earlier, if we knew the answer, we wouldn’t be seeking recommendations in the first place. Clarification questions asked from an advisor are good indications of recommendations. They will want to know the who, what, when, where, and why you decided to apply somewhere else. Refer back to your stance and discuss your decision process.

Finally, be ready to hear their conclusions and recommendations. Opinions usually come unsolicited when we put ourselves out there for interpretation. Unlike with opinions, you are seeking guidance, not solutions. An opinion usually starts with the expression, “Well, I would…,” whereas recommendations are seldom direct answers. They are more apt to offer you self-evaluation opportunities, further points to consider, and an outside perspective on your professional situation. This is your professional life. Why would you want someone else’s lists of shoulds and ought tos?

Trust yourself
There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking the assistance of other professionals, family, or colleagues when we are faced with a difficult decision or situation. All CS technicians are bound to face some type of professional moment where we need help. The type of help and advice you get is determined by you. If solutions for your situation are sought, expect to receive opinions, even if they are from the best of places. Expect to be oversaturated with them, because everyone will have one. If you seek advice that offers clarity and an outcome that demonstrates your professional goals, seek recommendations. Know who to ask for an opinion and who to ask for a recommendation. Know why you are seeking counsel and receive advice that will help you determine your outcome. Not someone else.


Sarah B. Cruz is a certified sterile processing technician with a passion for the profession. Starting out as a veterinary assistant, she wanted to learn how to reprocess instruments in order to be more beneficial to the neurology team. She attended a CSS certification program through her local community college and it changed her life in so many ways. After leaving a profession she had for years, Sarah acquired her first job in central sterile processing. It couldn’t have been a better decision! Sarah’s professional ambition is to take her job in CSS and forge her career. The profession has opened numerous doors and opportunities for her that she feels compelled to inform everyone of their own ability to do so. Sarah is looking forward to relaying some of the goals, ambitions, and hurdles that CS technicians face in the trenches, while relaying compelling solutions that will promote patient safety and field growth.

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