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Mentor or Career Counselor: Which One Do You Need?

St. Louis Post Dispatch career column

Below is an excerpt from my latest St. Louis Post-Dispatch career column. Read the whole column here.

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A trend I’m seeing a lot right now is that of business associations providing free mentorship programs, designed to deliver more value to their members.

I’ve been asked to conduct mentorship training for a few associations in town and one question is always asked (as it should be!) — “What are the key differences between using a mentor vs. a career counselor?”

There are indeed distinct differences between the two you should know about.

Let’s start with a mentor. In short, a mentor is someone whom you desire to be like. It could be someone already in a career position you aspire to attain or a professional with a skill set you desire to match. This is the same premise that drove the practice of “apprenticeships” throughout history, where younger individuals worked alongside more senior professionals in order to gain hands-on training in a skill or craft.

Colleges now promote acquiring internships more than ever. Why? Because combining education with real life application and experience (apprenticeship!) gives the student added benefits over others who apply for the same job. The important thing to remember is, once you do have a job, a major key to developing your career is embracing the fact your education is never over. Consistently calling upon a mentor can be immensely helpful, as long as you are clear about your goals and building accountability in your relationship.

Now let’s look at a career counselor. This is someone you work with in order to understand the techniques and methodology of developing your career within an organization (which could include mentoring as a step) or to strategically reposition yourself in the job market to find new employment. Although…

Read the rest of this column at STLToday.com.