Finding a trusted mentor is a must for all women, in all stages of their career. Mentors are an invaluable resource for learning how to negotiate your way through job politics, forge industry connections or determine how to progress your career to the next phase. But the importance of mentors is never greater than when looking to make a change.
Importance of Mentors When Changing Careers
Deciding to make a career change can be overwhelming. You will likely vacillate between feeling crazy and wanting to rush forward full speed ahead. Often, a mentor may be the first person you discuss your ideas with. These ideas may still be in their infancy and not be fully fleshed out yet. Bouncing your ideas off a mentor can help focus your decision-making and help narrow in on the right choice for you. A qualified mentor will be able to rein you in or push you further based on their experience and industry knowledge.
Use your mentor to refine your plans and zero in on the career change
that suits your skill set and lifestyle requirements.
How often do you find yourself being your own worst critic? Good mentors take the time to get to know you. They assess your skills and your weaknesses. They ask questions to gauge your interests and learn what you want to avoid. Many times a mentor will be able to objectively view your skillset and identify areas that you should focus on, whether from an industry opportunity or a personal challenge.
Work with your mentor to identify whether your skills translate into
any opportunities or gaps in the marketplace.
Mentors truly have no skin in the game. Their role is to be objective and supportive. Regardless of what decisions you make, they are not personally affected. This frees them to give impartial, and oftentimes, hard advice. Whereas a partner, spouse, parent or other family member is invested in your career. You may get feedback tinged with rose-colored glasses. Or you may be held back by understandable fear and uncertainty.
Second opinions are always a valuable resource that can offer new insights,
identify issues or concerns that you may have missed, or help you take the
most direct route towards your goals.
Connections Connections Connections
The mentor relationship offers many benefits. Leveraging established connections can help make transitions simpler or more streamlined. A mentor may know someone who is in the same industry that you are looking to enter. Or they may have a contact that has started their own business. No one person will be able to provide all the answers you need, but your mentor can introduce you to a network of people that can help.
If your mentor doesn’t have experience in the areas you are interested in, ask for introductions
to relevant people that can help you make the right decisions. You will get further by using a
connection than just blindly contacting people.
Quitting your corporate legal job to open your own candle-making business may be something that has you excited and eager to pursue, but should you rush into it? The job of your mentor is to encourage you, but also provide a much needed reality check. Passion and life-balance are essential, but they need to be carefully considered with real-world demands. Mentors will ask you questions about your risk tolerance, safety nets, short- and long-term goals, business plans, contingency plans, timelines, career and life goals, and more.
Not all ideas are great ones, especially when you have financial and familial responsibilities. Having a mentor that will be honest, no matter how painful, will be well worth it in the long run.
Finding a Mentor
Mentors can be found anywhere. They can be senior employees at your current job, acquaintances in an industry that you are looking to enter, contacts from a mutual friend. There is no one type of mentor that is right for everyone. The importance of mentors lies in their experience and their willingness to help.
Don’t be shy when looking for a mentor. Search for people doing things that you admire and reach out to them. Ask them if you can talk to them about their experiences, when they have free time. Be respectful of a mentor’s time and make sure you put in the work. Always be prepared and focused, with specific questions and ideas. Do your homework and learn about them and their career before you meet.
As your career grows and changes, connecting with multiple mentors in different areas can be very helpful. Just look at Jamie Hanley, who Shannon talks to in her second episode. In her 14 year career, she has had four impactful mentors that helped her through each stage of her career.
No matter what you are looking to do, someone has done it first. You don’t have to go it alone. Take advantage of your mentor’s knowledge and experiences to make finding your second career easier. Making a big change is already scary enough – seek and take as much help and advice as you can along the way.