If your mentor is unable to help you meet a specific goal, it’s time to work with someone who can says Julie Perrine

For an executive assistant, pursuing professional development is an important part of your job. It is crucial that you continue to hone your skills and stay on top of current industry trends and technology if you want to remain relevant in a competitive field. For many assistants, that means securing a career coach or a mentor – oftentimes both.

Mentor versus Career Coach – What’s the Difference?

A mentor can be virtually anyone: A current or former executive, a leader in your professional association, another administrative professional, etc.

A career coach is someone you hire with specific goals in mind to guide you in the right direction. They can often help you fast-track your objectives, offer you the benefit of their experience and expertise, and hold you accountable as you perform the concrete steps necessary to get you to where you need to be.

A mentor helps you focus on consistent development. They are typically in it for the long haul, journeying along with you as you climb the ladder and offering support, encouragement, and advice on every rung.

A career coach helps you focus on your current performance. Once you’ve met your stated goals – for example, gained a promotion, secured a job, etc. – their job is done.

A mentor typically has experience in the field you’re in or the one you’re transitioning into.

A career coach likely won’t have experience in your field, but will have expertise in coaching.

A mentor will work to foster a long-term relationship with you, which can last a few years or the duration of your career. They may help you with interpersonal concerns, such as self-confidence or personality conflicts in the office.

A career coach is someone you’ll likely work with for a few months or a few years. “Remember that coaching is not the same as therapy,” says certified career coach Chrissy Scivicque. “It’s a forward-looking, solution-oriented, action-based practice.”

When Is a Career Coach Beneficial?

You might want to seek out a career coach if any of the following scenarios apply to you:

  • You’re Changing Fields

Change is always hard. A career coach can help you navigate a new world, offer suggestions on ways to tailor your resume to your new field, and strategize ways to get that resume to the top of the pile.

  • You Need to Improve a Certain Skill

Does interviewing terrify you? Does the thought of networking send you into fight or flight mode? Is your resume not gaining traction, no matter how many times you revise it? If so, a few targeted sessions with a career coach can get you where you need to be.

  • You Don’t Know What Your Next Move Should Be

A career coach will look at your resume, professional portfolio, and skill set and make specific recommendations based on what they know about you and your chosen field, and then provide you with the tools and information you need to make your next move a positive one.

How to Find the Right Career Coach for You

Not all career coaches are created equal. Some specialize in certain fields, such as job hunting or career changes; others have a broader spectrum.

Ask for recommendations from your colleagues and professional networks. If a coach’s name comes up enough, it’s likely that they’re worth the investment. Barring that, do your research online. Most coaches offer a free introductory conversation, so take advantage of this opportunity to make sure your goals and personalities align before you commit.

Julie Perrine is an administrative expert, author, speaker, and all-round procedures pro. She is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, a company dedicated to developing innovative products, training, and resources for administrative professionals ... (Read More)

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