Women in Business: Career Coach or Mentor: Who Best Suits Your Needs?

Thinking about a career change? Check out the Women in Business blog, "Career Coach or Mentor: Who Best Suits Your Needs? It looks at the difference between a Career Coach and a Mentor and the benefits of each. Lauree Ostrofsky provides tips for making the best choice for you.

Now that we understand the difference between business coach and mentor, Lauree Ostrofsky, CPC, Communications Consultant & Certified Coach gives us these tips to make the best individual choice:

Choose 3-5 things you want from this expert. For example, to be promoted, to switch industries, to learn a new skill, to be seen as a leader within your organization. Then, put a star next to the one you want the most. Yes, these should be in writing. That way the list can be posted as a visual reminder. Also, the act of writing makes this more of a commitment.

It's easier to determine who fits your requirements by knowing what they are. The list you start out with and the one you end up with by the time you speak to the expert can change drastically. Getting down your thoughts now helps determine what you really want to put your energy towards, so when you begin working together you both are focused on the same thing (and therefore are more successful).

Talk to at least 1 mentor and 1 coach. There are lots of gray areas between mentors and coaches. And while skill sets are important in choosing one professional over another, it really comes down to a personal connection. This is true of relationships, even sales, of any kind.

Take the number one thing that you want, and ask the mentor and coach how they would each help you get it. Pay attention to your gut reaction to what they say. Which one really understands you and your needs? Which one asks the right questions to learn more?

Even if the conversation is just about work, keep in mind that you may share private or personal information with them at some point. Who do you feel the most comfortable and are able to talk openly with?

Be prepared. For this relationship to be fruitful, your participation is mandatory. What you bring to it—those 3-5 bullets for instance and a main goal for your time together—will go a long way. There may be homework, things for you to consider or activities to try in between meetings. There may also be challenges to the way you think about things, especially how you see yourself. All of this is in effort to get the goal you have mutually agreed on at the start of your work together.

As you can see, it's not a cut-and-dried situation. The solution to finding the right help is defining your needs and then seeking out the proper person to provide you guidance. Expecting results from someone without the qualifications, experience or resources to get you there is a recipe for disappointment. As the professionals advise, find the right person for the job and you'll attain your goal.