Career Change

Whether you're switching industries, pursuing a new field of study, or seeking to develop new skills, it's easy to feel lost and overwhelmed when embarking on a new career path.

Bill Wood

3/20/20234 min read

Making a career change can be an exciting but challenging time in your professional life. Whether you're switching industries, taking on a new role or starting a new business, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and/or confused when starting down a new career path. This is where having a Mentor can make all the difference. In this post, we'll explore the importance and benefits of having a mentor as you take on a career change and how they can help you take some of the uncertainty out of the transition.

Sounding Board

Sometimes a career change is made out of necessity or someone else is making the decision for you (congrats on the promotion!), but in many cases, the career change is likely the result of thoughtful contemplation of your options. The benefit of having a Mentor to act as a sounding board to help you weigh the pros and cons of the different options and provide you with objective feedback throughout the process is substantial. It doesn't guarantee that you will listen to this input and make the right choice, as I can attest to from when I decided to ignore the advice of one of my Mentors while considering a role that ultimately wasn't a good fit. However, it did mean that I had considered the concerns and weighed the risks before making the final decision. Once you have made a decision, they can add even more value by helping you develop a strategic plan for achieving your career goals--and sometimes just knowing that your Mentor is aware of this plan and put in the effort to develop it with you will help you hold yourself accountable for following through on your commitments to that plan.

Understanding the Playing Field

A Mentor can provide you with valuable insights into your new undertaking. For a new business venture or industry change, they can help you understand the landscape of the marketplace, opportunities, key players and recent trends. As a Mentor shares their knowledge and experience, you can create a roadmap to success that avoids the mistakes others have made in the past. In similar fashion, with a promotion or new role in the same industry or field, a Mentor can share their personal experience moving into a like role, common pitfalls, challenges they faced and highlight the keys to successful performance in the new role.

The Mentor's Network

Mentors typically have a well-developed network of resources in their field of study or industry that has grown over the course of their career. While having a Mentor doesn't automatically grant you access to their network, many times, an introduction from a Mentor can accelerate your transition. It's important to recognize that this network is very valuable to a Mentor and you must first develop a level of trust and demonstrate capability, professionalism and tact before they will be willing to make an introduction. Personally, I have given access to my network many times, but did have one situation where an introduction burned a bridge, which has made me even more protective of my connections.

Guidance & Support

Career changes are not a slam dunk and you will traverse peaks and valleys on this journey. The support and guidance of a Mentor when you are at a low point and questioning your career change decisions can be invaluable, but they can be just as powerful to keep you grounded and focused when things have reached a high point. Very early in my own career, I had a Mentor that delivered some hard-hitting feedback on "how" I was achieving some really great results on a large project I was leading. Without his feedback and ongoing coaching that changed my leadership style, I would likely have finished that multi-year project successfully, but hit a ceiling for my career.

Unbiased Feedback

Mentors are a great source of unbiased feedback. Just about everyone gets feedback on their performance. Whether from your supervisor, an investor in your business or your customers, there are plenty of opportunities to get feedback, but most of that feedback comes from an invested perspective and lacks objectivity. With a mentoring relationship, the focus is on you and the Mentor is looking at you and your situation from an objective standpoint. This objective feedback can often highlight gaps in your skills or capabilities that others have overlooked. Often, this overlooked feedback is not what you want to hear, but may be the best thing for you in the long run. For example, I was recently mentoring a service member that was preparing for the transition from the military to civilian workforce*. He has two core sets of skills that he could use in the private sector, but a significantly lighter resume in the one that he wants to pursue. In addition, there is much lower demand and corresponding pay for his preference, while the depth of his experience and high demand in the marketplace for the other function would mean an easier transition with higher earning potential. I felt badly when I suggested he should pursue the second role, because I could see from the look on his face that he was disappointed and had been hoping for validation, but a Mentor's role is to provide their best opinion on the situation.

This certainly isn't an all-encompassing list of the benefits of having a Mentor through a career change, but if you're considering a career change and don't have a Mentor, I hope it has convinced you of the benefit of finding one who can help guide you through this exciting and challenging transition.

*mentor2execs has a program that provides a limited number of free mentoring engagements each quarter to current and former members of the armed forces. If you are a Veteran and would like to know more, visit us at: or send a note (