Business

Profession trainer as opposed to mentor: Which do you want?

Welcome to The Broadside, a careers newsletter for professional women.

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Here’s what to expect in the latest edition of the newsletter.

Broadside writer Kristine Gill offers advice from career experts about whether a mentor or career coach might be able to help you take your career to the next level. Then, scroll on for job opportunities from Apple, AXA Group, Magellan Health Services, and more. (Many of them are remote positions!)


If you’ve ever felt stuck in your 9 to 5 or struggled to connect with a new boss, you’ve likely found yourself complaining to someone. Complaining is one of my fortes, but while it usually feels great, it’s not always productive.

Instead of venting about what’s not working in our jobs, spinning our wheels about how to level up, or trying to decide whether we’re even happy in our roles, why not just ask for help?

Not from HR—not even necessarily from a coworker, friend, or former professor. But from someone whose job it is to help you define your career path and follow it. And during this time of precarious employment, that might be more useful than ever.

I reached out to a professional career coach and a workplace mentor to understand what they’re able to offer women.

Decide who’s better suited to help you.

Listen to yourself the next time you complain about work. Are you focusing on office politics? Hung up on something rude your boss said? Struggling to run meetings now that you’re the new team lead? Stressed about this year’s round of promotions?

These kinds of concerns can usually be addressed with a mentor.

“I’ve had mentors throughout my whole life,” said Erica Lockheimer, the VP of Engineering at LinkedIn Learning. “In college I was struggling with one of the more advanced calculus classes, and my professor tutored me after school and gave me different times to come by her office. And I didn’t ask for it, she just realized I needed it.”

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These days, Lockheimer said, mentorship has become a bit more formalized. At LinkedIn, she helped to start a mentorship program for women. It’s not the kind of after-work happy hour you might be picturing. Instead, it’s an all-day conference in which leaders from across the company meet to give women the lay of the land.

“We get everyone together and have vulnerable conversations. They’re introduced to several coaches at LinkedIn, and it’s pretty interesting,” Lockheimer said. “We have them put their phones and laptops away, and it’s a pretty rigid process we’ve perfected.”

Lockheimer said that women who go through the program are more likely to stay onboard at the company. In fact, surveys show that millennials who planned to stay at their current company for five years were twice as likely to have a mentor.

Of course, you can benefit from a mentor even when everything is going swimmingly. That’s because mentors are folks with similar skill sets who agree to share their insights with you to help further your career. They’ve been there and done that, and they can tell you how to achieve success the way they did. Studies show women are more likely to earn a pay bump when they’ve had a mentor than if they go solo.

“Mentorship can happen in every level,” Lockheimer said. “To be a mentor is really a sense of just showing compassion and listening to the person and genuinely caring.”

But say you’ve been feeling tired, uninspired, and worn down. Maybe you’re realizing your attempts to start new programs, change workflows, or adopt new practices are being impeded by higher-ups. It could be that you’re in the wrong field altogether—or at least the wrong office.

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That’s where a career coach can help you shine.

SoFi’s resident career coach, Ashley Stahl, said the word that comes to mind for her when she thinks of a coach is momentum.

“If you have a goal that you’re trying to reach, if you’re stuck in some way, how do you create momentum?” Stahl, who has an upcoming book on the subject, said. “That’s when I think of getting a coach. Most clients come to me and say something is missing, and they don’t know what’s next. And after our sessions they have much better clarity.

“My focus is helping people get clarity on what their next career move should be and what the best path is for them given their skill set,” she said. “My expertise is helping someone make a career pivot, but there are also executive coaches for people who are a little more seasoned in their career.”

Having a career coach can be a privilege. Stahl said you can expect to pay by the hour for the coach’s time, in the range of anywhere from $200 to $1,000 an hour. The national hourly average is $90 to $150. Most coaches charge based on service packages.

But for many, it may be worth the cost. Studies have shown that a fifth of female millennials haven’t yet identified a career path, and over two-thirds of them don’t feel like they have as much control as they would like in shaping that path. Are you one of them?

Find that coach or mentor.

Unless you work at a major company such as LinkedIn, you won’t likely have in-house career coaches or formalized conferences for women at your disposal.

Can’t find a woman in your field or office to ask to mentor you? If you’re comfortable with the arrangement, research shows that employees can financially benefit more from having a male mentor, especially if he’s white.

Lockheimer said it’s fair game to ask someone in your office whom you look up to and respect. If that person doesn’t have time for coffee or a more formal arrangement, he or she might recommend someone who does.

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If you’re looking for a career coach, the process is a bit easier, as many work remotely with clients.

“I have a client in Atlanta, a client in London, and a client in the Middle East,” Stahl said.

Stahl recommends word of mouth. But if you don’t know someone who’s used a career coach, you can also try to search online for someone whose message and branding you identify with. Many coaches have developed a robust Instagram presence with free resources. Don’t judge based on their number of followers, though: Instead, Stahl recommends reviewing testimonials or asking to speak with a former client to get the scoop.

And remember: A career coach is different than a therapist.

Give back.

If you’ve benefited from having a mentor or career coach, you’re probably suggesting friends and coworkers to do the same. But you can also become a mentor yourself. In fact, women are more likely to be mentors if they’ve had one themselves.

Lockheimer said becoming a mentor to someone can be as simple as asking them how they’re feeling and whether they want to have coffee. To be more precise, you can tell a coworker that you’d love to get coffee to talk about something specific they’re struggling with, if you’ve sensed workplace tension.

“And then have a check-in and say, ‘I’m going to hold you accountable,’” she said. “You need to kind of push people in these moments and check back to say, ‘How’d it go?’ That’s where I find that these relationships are the most meaningful.”

If that seems too formal or time-consuming, don’t sweat it. Much of mentoring is an organic process.

“You have to want to do it,” Lockheimer said. “Some people don’t realize they’re doing it. I like it because it helps me to be a better leader.”

— Kristine Gill

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