When you’ve spent most of your career giving people advice about their careers, folks often assume that you’ve got it all together yourself – and that you always have. But the truth is - through the years my career has taken several twists and turns, and there have been many times when I’ve felt lost, confused, and needed some help navigating decisions and challenging situations. It’s normal to need to seek out help – so whether you call the people you connect with at these times your mentors, your tribe, your board of directors, or my personal favorite, your circle of influence, it’s important to seek out different perspectives. As a communications major in college, I originally wanted to have a career as a broadcast journalist. So as a sophomore, I interned at a local station near my campus and had the opportunity to experience working on an assignment desk, covering local stories with reporters, and writing scripts for the evening news anchors. It was a dream come true – but it also gave me a reality check about what life would really be like in this field.
Twenty years later, I can pinpoint the exact conversation with a reporter that made me second guess my commitment to this field, and this lifestyle. She made me think that this field was not what I had imagined for myself and did not align with my personal values. I was angry, devastated and confused at the time. I really felt that she had tried to discourage me from following my dream. But that tough conversation really forced me to look at what was important to me, and what I wanted from my work and personal life. At the time, I would not have considered that reporter to be a mentor – and she wasn’t in the traditional sense of the word. But she certainly had a major influence on my career trajectory, and she asked the tough questions. When I saw her on the news in the NYC market several years later, I smiled to myself knowing that she impacted my life in a truly positive way by forcing me to look at things from a different angle as she challenged my motivations.
Through additional career transitions, I’ve learned the value of seeking advice and insight from those who know me both personally and professionally, and balancing all of those viewpoints against each other to help guide my choices. Your personal contacts may not necessarily know your field, but they know you and your values and your personality. Current and former colleagues may be able to highlight strengths that you may not be able to see yourself, or as people who are knowledgeable about your field, they may be able to shed light on situations that you may not be able to see.
So, whether you are at the stage where you are choosing a major, interning, or starting your career after graduation, I urge you to be thoughtful about engaging multiple mentors, seeking out challenging conversations, and reflecting on the various viewpoints as your circle of influence guides you through your path.
Executive Director, Hofstra Career Center