A mentor is another name for a career coach. 76% of people think mentors are important, but only 37% have one.  That is a startling and important statistic. If so many people understand the importance of having experienced individuals guiding their career choices, why aren’t more people seeking out mentorships? Let’s explore some of the reasons why having a mentor is necessary in hopes that if you have a career coach, you will take full advantage, and if you do not, you will find one!
With over 30 years of human resources experience in a variety of industries, I’ve managed to develop a list of reasons why it is essential that you have a career coach. I’ve worked with people just starting a new job to experienced employees who have hit a wall for whatever reason. The reasons are in no particular order of importance because the reasons that are most important to you may be less important to someone else. So here goes!
# 1 You need someone skilled to help form and guide your job search. A career coach can help you because they are skilled. They have been trained to help you evaluate the options that best fit your credentials and your goals. You may have looked for a job a dozen times in your career. They may have helped hundreds, even thousands. It’s important to have someone skilled listen to what you want or think and give you their insight.
#2 You need someone objective. You may have clear ideas about the job or industry you want to pursue and how you want to proceed. On the other hand, you may be in a fog about how to go forward. Your career coach will use their expertise to help you think through and plan for the right job. A good career coach is emotionally invested in you, but not necessarily your opinions. That leaves them free to give you the best input, only because they want to see you succeed.
#3 As human beings, we have an almost irresistible need to be right, to do what we want to do, to make the comfortable decision. This reason is closely related to #2 but more pointed. One of my ‘favorite’ verses in the Bible is Proverbs 3: 5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” Verse 7 underscores this: “Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.” The reason it is my ‘favorite’ verse is that it’s one that confronts me so often and challenges the core of who I am. The often unconscious need to believe I’m right, that the way I’m going is the best way. Having a career coach gives us a hedge against a way of thinking that might be avoiding the difficult choices. A person whose reason for being there is to help us make the best choices – even when they are the ones that require the most work or require us to confront things we do not want to.
#4 Your knowledge about job search may be dated or incorrect. Maybe it’s been a while since you looked for a job. Or you may have noticed that a lot of things seem to be changing around us. The company you worked for five years ago may be vastly different after that merger. What worked well two years ago or even last year may just plain ineffective now. A career coach helps you ensure you are aware of current job market and workplace trends. What industries are hiring, which skills employers are most interested in. And even if you are on target, it is a big plus to have your approach confirmed, right?
#5 A career coach helps you recover from the detours or potholes in the road toward your goals. There’s a very good chance that your first interview won’t result in an offer. You may submit your application a number of times before you get a call. You may bomb some interviews – at least in your opinion. Your career coach stays focused not only on the end zone but how you’re doing throughout the game. They can help you re-prioritize if a strategy isn’t working, or maybe just affirm you’re on the right track and encourage you to keep at it. They can give you feedback on the strategies that don’t seem to be working and help you tweak them. But most importantly, they’ll help ensure you stay in the game and not let a disappointment get you off track.
#6 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.  Yes – back to Proverbs! This verse is advice from the man God said was the wisest man who ever lived. I don’t believe any of us can ever get so talented or knowledgeable that we aren’t more effective when we seek the counsel of others. Seeking counsel from a career coach should be a habit we cultivate throughout our careers. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to make every effort to ensure the person giving you counsel is a Christian, a Christ-follower. Because while we’re seeking the right job, nothing is more fulfilling than following the path God has chosen for us and doing so in ways that honor and glorify Him. And while we’re at it, notice it says, “iron sharpens iron.” So be prepared for God to use you to help others!
St. Augustine is credited as saying, “Pray like everything depends on God, but work like everything depends on you.” I think the Bible makes it clear God expects us to depend on Him. But it’s equally clear He gives us resources that He expects us to fully use. Career coaches are one of the greatest tools in the arsenal God’s given you to achieve your goals. But like every tool, their effectiveness will always be a function of how you utilize them. God bless you!
 From Leadership Strategy by Christine Comaford. July 2019 edition of Forbes Magazine.
 Proverbs 27:17
Author: Terri Alexander
Terri is a native Houstonian, a graduate of Jack Yates Sr. High and the University of Houston. Her career in human resources began at Houston Community College and includes leadership positions with Frito-Lay in Dallas, San Antonio and Atlanta. After travelling across the country for job opportunities, she returned to Houston and joined the tech start-up Compaq Computers in 1983, where she held a variety of leadership positions in their manufacturing divisions and corporate headquarters. She was selected to be part of the management team that coordinated the acquisition of Compaq by Hewlett Packard in 2001 and remained as head of human resources with Hewlett Packard until retiring in 2007. She immediately went to work for her church, The Church Without Walls, as director of human resources until 2010.
During her long career in human resources, Ms. Alexander sat on the boards of the United Negro College Fund, the Houston Area Urban League, and the Alley Theater. She also served for more than ten years on the board of trustees of The Church with Walls.
Her son Jeff and his wife Janetta have two adorable children, Jordan and Jazmine.
Since retirement, Ms. Alexander has volunteered with the Star of Hope Mission at the Women and Children’s Emergency Center, The WorkFaith Connection, and at her current church, Second Baptist Cypress Campus. She also serves as a member of the board of directors at the Mission of Yahweh, a faith-based shelter for women and children in Houston. Her volunteer interests are with Christ-focused organizations. She is a Dallas Cowboys fan – no matter what kind of season they’re having and an avid reader of murder mysteries.