A career change mentor is an essential part of your plan for a successful career change at any stage in life.
Whether you are a mid-life career changer or are younger or older, having a mentor (several is better) will help to ensure your career transition is successful.
What is a career change mentor?
Ideally, a career change mentor is someone who has been through the same type of career change that you plan to do. They have walked the path, made the mistakes and can advise you of the potential pitfalls. A great mentor doesn't tell you what to do, but asks really good questions so you can figure things out for yourself and can warn you if they see you moving in the wrong direction.
How to find a career change mentor
When doing your research (steps 2 and 3 of my step by step process ) you will come in contact with many people who may be potential mentors. One of the reasons to do your research is to begin to build a base of support and connections in your new field. Not everyone you meet will be a good mentor for you but if you find someone that you admire and respect don't hesitate to ask . Most people are more than happy to help others along the way as they may have been helped on their way.
More than one career change mentor
It is often beneficial to have more than one mentor , or trusted advisor. Each mentor brings a unique combination of experience, personality and values and can offer a different perspective for you. (For example, I have business coach who helps me in general ways to move my business forward. I have an SBI mentor who helps me with specific website related issues. I have a mentor for my public speaking career.)
Even though I said earlier that your career change mentor should be someone who has made the same type of career move that you are planning, one of your mentors does not even have to work in the same field you are exploring. In fact, it is often helpful to have an "outside the field" perspective when it comes to certain issues.
Career change timing
One of your career change mentors should be slightly ahead of you in the process. For example, I want to develop my public speaking career and I have a mentor who is developing her public speaking career as well, but she has been at it about 2 years now. She is just far enough ahead of me that her experience is recent and relevant, yet we are close enough to share some of the same struggles. She is a great support for me.
Other mentors should have extensive experience in the field you are pursuing. Ideally this is someone with decades of experience who can give you a comprehensive, seasoned viewpoint. Sometimes though, when people have been in a field for so long, it becomes second nature to them and they don't realize all of the things they do and think that are automatic so don't relate the same way as a novice. But they have ridden the ups and downs of the industry and can give you a broad historical as well as strategic view.
Success is a team effort
No one succeeds alone. Ask any accomplished person in any field and they will tell you that they rely on a support team, each of whom lends their specific talent. Think of Steve Jobs, Oprah, Eli Manning, James Cameron or others you admire. Your friends and family may want to support you but may not understand your goals. Perhaps your friends and family don't support your career goals? If so, your career change may be more difficult so it is even more important that you create a strong support network for yourself.
A mentor can help you see your blind spots
We all have blind spots. Blind spots are things we don't know we don't know and it is impossible for us to see them. A really great mentor will not only see what we don't see, but will point it out to us. This is a HUGE benefit of an outsiderâ€™s viewpoint . A great mentor doesn't just give you "rah-rah" speeches and build you up. They also point out your weaknesses and help you to improve.
The bottom line is that a variety of mentors, with little to extensive experience, both within your field and outside of it, are ideal.
Have you had any great mentors in your life? How did they help you? Please share your story here.
What do you think about this story? Do you agree? Disagree? What's your opinion?