Mentor, Coach, or Therapist - Who Can Help Me In My Career? And How?

Updated: Sep 3

Mentors, Career Coaches, and Therapists are invaluable to help take your professional career to the next level. Learn how each can help you get where you want to be in your career and about the importance of reaching out for professional help.




Since I could remember, I always wanted to be a lawyer. It was not until my first job at an advertising start-up that my career plans changed.


Advertising was a new field for me, and I quickly fell in love with the innovativeness and untapped career opportunities in the industry.


I was one of the only Black employees at the company and one of the only two Black women. I had to quickly adapt and navigate the new space on my own.


The journey to becoming a leader and expert in my industry became much easier after discovering people in my network who have had similar experiences and connecting with professionals trained to help guide me through tricky situations in my career.


As a Black woman or woman of color, it is essential to lean on your network to help guide you through all aspects of your career: new positions, becoming a manager, or transitioning into a new role or job.


Mentors, Career Coaches, and Therapists are invaluable to help you transition and take your professional career to the next level. Read on to learn about the importance of reaching out for professional help and how each can help you get where you want to be in your career.


MENTORS & SPONSORS


Typically, a mentor is an experienced advisor in your field that offers you guidance in your career. Mentors can be a sounding board when an issue comes up at work, or when you need help navigating your company structure.


They give you advice, share personal experiences, and help expand your network. If you happen to work with your mentor or your company has a mentorship program, they can help bridge the gap between you and your company's senior leaders. Unlike career coaches, therapists, or sponsors, mentors do not typically hold you accountable for decisions that affect your career.

Think of a sponsor as one step up from a mentor. In her book (Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor, Sylvia Ann Hewlett states rebuilding connections with the "right" people in your organization to get things done. A sponsor expects you to be a high performer and will hold you more accountable in your professional life than a mentor.

When should I look for one?

Having a mentor during the early stages of your professional life can make your career journey easier to navigate.

When you start a new job, it's a good idea to find a senior employee willing to advise you on how best to navigate your new position. They can offer guidance on the best way to ask for a promotion or how to get involved with your various company's projects or groups.


If you are having trouble finding a mentor within your company or in the advertising, media, or tech industry, check out organizations like SheRunsIt and FirstRound who support mentorship programs within these spaces.


CAREER COACH


A professional who identifies your career goals, any potential risks or issues that may come up, and provides action-oriented solutions that help you reach those goals. A career coach understands what motivates your career and will keep you on track by holding you accountable. They can help you get to the next leadership level at work or effectively manage a team.

When should I look for one?

Career coaches will be most valuable during a transitional period in your life. Maybe you just started a new position, and you are unsure of where it can lead you - a career coach can help you identify how to leverage this new position so you can take advantage of all the opportunities it has to offer. Or suppose you are thinking about leaving your job and you want to pivot into a new career - a life coach can help you take the most appropriate steps to navigate the obstacles you might face when switching industries while motivating you towards your goals.


THERAPIST


A therapist - also known as a psychotherapist - is a licensed professional who helps to improve the mental health, lives, and cognitive and emotional skills of their clients. They offer unbiased, empathic, objective, and nonjudgemental guidance to help you achieve your desired results and authentic self.


When should I look for one?

Therapists concentrate on reworking values and beliefs, potentially holding you back from being successful at work.


Although therapists typically may not offer professional guidance or career-planning advice like coaches or mentors, they can help you in your career when you are:

  • Feeling stressed or overwhelmed

  • Experiencing insomnia or trouble focusing, socializing, or relaxing

  • Having a decrease in your appetite or hygiene

  • Struggling with unusually low self-confidence

  • Experiencing signs of depression or anxiety

Being a Black woman or women of color in corporate spaces can leave us unsatisfied, pessimistic, or burnt out. Meeting with a therapist can help you get to the core of understanding these feelings, ultimately helping you bring your best self to work.


This article was written in collaboration with Chinyere Oti. For more of her readings, check her out here.

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