Careers have become decreasingly linear- as individuals have re-centered their focus on balance in the wake of COVID-19, they have found ways to make their careers work for them. Although a fixed career path has previously been seen as the standard, new tools and technologies have empowered career paths to fluctuate as priorities change over a lifetime. Mentoring can be seen as a tool through which to narrow down which skills and interests can transfer in a new direction. This blog will highlight just a few of the ways in which mentoring can be used to reveal skills, interests, and priorities and therefore perhaps push a career path in a new direction.
Although taking advice from those closest to you, such as family and friends, can be helpful, ultimately our family and friends are usually limited in their knowledge of a certain field or in knowledge of how to transition between fields. Likewise, friends and relatives often source their advice from their personal experiences, without taking into account the way that technology has empowered a less linear path. This advice can sometimes be limiting rather than empowering- for example, they may have never experienced a career change themselves or may believe that breaking into a certain field isn't feasible based on a misunderstanding of the current market.
A strong benefit of mentoring is that a mentor can be selected based on their similar experiences, and therefore can understand the challenges of breaking into a certain field or following a less traditional career path on a more intimate level. Ultimately, not only can mentoring provide more meaningful insight due to the shared experience of seeking out a less linear career path, but can also strengthen the mentee’s confidence through demonstrating that a career change into a certain area is possible due to the life experience and success of the mentor.
Sometimes, it takes a conversation to begin to grasp what our priorities and skills really are. Building relationships, such as mentoring relationships, can push us to grow and identify softer skills, such as interpersonal communication and emotional intelligence. While these skills are often discussed less when evaluating a career change, they are no less important. A “softer” skillset is often more transferable than a technical skill set, and therefore understanding and growing these skills through relationships can be integral to determining the best fit for a career change.
Additionally, discussing personal goals and priorities with a mentor- for example, spending more time with family and friends- can help to solidify these priorities and to identify which field will best enable the meeting of your personal and professional priorities. A mentor may be able to share their personal journey of identifying these priorities and making a change based on their newfound priorities, which can in turn pave the way for the mentee to do the same.
When in a certain field for a longer period of time, an individual builds up a network of references and connections, often through less formal interactions and environments. It can be intimidating to leave this network behind, and begin to make connections in a new field. Formalised mentoring relationships can allow quicker professional connection, and can be a central aspect of beginning to build that new network within a new field.
Likewise, mentoring connections can aid to improve access in a certain field. Many fields are heavily impacted by references through more personal connections, such as family connections, and thus have lower access to groups without pre-existing connections. Mentoring programs can widen access through formalising the mentoring process, and thus providing a route to build connections in a new area, without having pre-existing contacts.
In all, a career change is an exciting opportunity not only for personal reflection, but also to build a life based around your interests and needs with room for them to change overtime. Although mentoring can provide an abundance of benefits when evaluating needs, skills, and priorities for a career change, the ways showcased- having an example to follow, identifying a relational skillset, and making a connection in a new field- all provide a powerful place to start when determining whether or not a career change in the best decision for you. For more information about how COVID-19 has shifted career priorities, read below: