Category: work

3 Pieces Of Mentor Wisdom + Their Unlikely Sources

Looking for mentor advice? Sometimes finding a mentor or professional advice comes from surprising sources. Click through for work tips we all need to hear!

This post is brought to you by career-improving wisdom, accidental mentors the world over, the letter F, and the Forté Foundation.

What do you picture when you picture a mentor?

For a long time, I pictured someone a couple of decades into their career, beckoning me to join them in their corner office for a chat. In this fantasy, they’d push a tray of tea and snacks towards me and ask me about my “passion” and where I saw myself in ten years.

And sometimes that is what a mentor is like!

But just as often, the best career advice we might get – some of the best ‘mentoring’ per se – comes from peers, a just-for-the-summer bosses, or someone you meet in passing at a backyard barbecue.

Today, I’m partnering with the Forté Foundation, a non-profit that helps more women enter the business world and pursue their MBAs. Forté’s MBA Launch program is a valuable mentoring resource that supports women as they apply to business school.

Because let’s be real: navigating educational and career choices can feel overwhelming. Who wouldn’t want some support and experience in their corner?

3 Pieces Of Mentor Wisdom + Their Unlikely Sources

1. “You are good enough to do this”

Professor Dwight Purdy was the hardest, most intimidating teacher in the English department. In fact, when I found out I needed one of his classes to meet a requirement for my degree, I appealed to the Registrar to get out of it.

I tried to convince them that a class I’d already taken (with, let’s be honest, a much easier professor), met those requirement. No such luck.

Professor Purdy required every student in his upper level classes to meet with him once a semester to discuss their work. I steeled myself for our meeting, emotionally prepared for one million red ink edits.

Instead, he handed back my essay and said “This is really good. Have you considered graduate school?” And I yelped “Professor Purdy! I tried to get out of your class because I thought it would be too hard!!!”

He chuckled – I imagine I was not the first student to say this – and said “Sarah, you are good enough to do this.”

Sometimes I still try to get out of doing hard, scary, challenging things. It’s so much easier to just do things I already know I’m good at!

But then I remember how I was once needlessly frightened about something I was, in fact, pretty good at. And maybe I’m good enough at this other thing, too.

(P.S. That thing YOU want to do? I bet you’re also good enough to do it.)

2. “They’re not all going to be home runs”

Starting your writing career at a newspaper is a mixed blessing.

Pros: you will learn to write on tight deadlines and get all the good gossip first.

Cons: you will have to write on tight deadlines and maybe you can’t produce The World’s Most Moving Article when you’ve only got 25 minutes.

The first summer I interned at my hometown newspaper, I spent spent 70% of my time writing as quickly as possible and the other 30% of the time worrying about the quality of my writing.

Sometimes my articles were met with praise and glowing letters to the editor. Sometimes it was crickets and a terse note from Edna in Tamarack, MN pointing out that I’d used a semicolon incorrectly.

Whenever the latter occurred, I’d fuss and sulk and edit and polish my next piece. I  hoped to avoid Edna’s wrath and attract more praise. Because if a piece of writing is published and not met with immediate adulation, what is the point even???

One day, my editor happened up me doing a third round of edits on my write up of the city council meeting. “I think if I rewrite the lede it’ll be really good,” I sighed.

My editor tilted her head and smiled. “They’re not all going to be home runs, ya know,” she said before headed towards the breakroom for more coffee.

I realize now that what Ann probably really meant was, “Sarah, no one expects your city council report to win a Pulitzer. Stop obsessing about it and just hand it in; the proofreader is sick of waiting.”

But what I took away from her comment was the fact that – simple by the law of averages – not everything we create or attempt is going to be amazing. The pitches we write, the applications we send, the professional relationships we try to develop – they won’t all stick.

All we can do – if we want to continue with the baseball metaphor – is keeping going up to bat and swinging our hardest. Eventually you’ll hit a homerun.

  3. “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable”

When you’re a 21-year-old P.R. intern at an ad agency you are usually given the less fun tasks.

One of the tasks that fell to me was placing follow up calls to everyone we’d sent press releases to.

I spent hours every day calling newspapers and magazines, asking very busy, important people if they’d received our press release about the new molded hull of that speedboat and if they were planning on writing about it.

It was, in a word, uncomfortable.

I felt like I was bothering people! Nobody particularly wanted to talk to me! They all had things they’d much rather be doing!

After a week of watching me flinch and squirm at my desk, my supervisor called me into his office for a “How are things going?” lunch.

I told him that I liked the part where I wrote press releases. I loved the part where I got free tickets to all the events we were promoting. I didn’t particularly enjoy the part where I called strangers every day and nagged them; it made me uncomfortable.

He nodded with understanding and tilted his head. “I get it. But you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more once you get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Geoff was just saying I needed to grow a thicker skin and get used to placing follow-up calls. But his advice is applicable to, oh, PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING.

Most things worth doing make us uncomfortable! Sending an email to that cutie on Tinder, applying to graduate schools, negotiating for higher pay, or standing up for your beliefs.
The sooner we can be okay with being uncomfortable, the sooner we can start moving towards what we want. Click To Tweet
But I want to hear from you! Have you ever worked with a mentor, ‘official’ or otherwise? What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

4 Career Change Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Looking for career change tips? I wish someone had shared these with me when I was leaving my career as a teacher! Click through for 4 work tips that you might not hear elsewhere!

This post is brought to you by a job you actually like, a decent paycheck, the letter F, and The Forté Foundation

I knew it was time to change careers when I found a cockroach floating in my coffee cup.

At the time, I was working as an ESL teacher at a non-profit. I worked in a not-particularly-great neighborhood in a crumbling building that, apparently, had a cockroach problem.

Now, I should tell you that I loved the teaching part of being a teacher. I loved sharing insights, leading conversations, finding new ways to communicate an idea.

But there is SO MUCH MORE to being a classroom teacher than, ya know, teaching.

There are curriculum committees and budget issues and test prep. There are concerns about students’ safety and well-being. In my specific situation, there were concerns about cockroaches in the break room (!!!!)

When the cockroach appeared in my coffee cup, I’d been blogging for a few years. I’d been getting a slow but steady trickle of emails asking for help with writing, social media, and marketing.

It was the turning point when I decided that it was time to get serious about changing careers. I knew I needed to learn some new skills and make the leap from education to self-employment.

Many of us have had our own cockroach-in-the-coffee moment.

Maybe yours is working at 2 am on a Sunday or having a boss who belittles you. Maybe it’s 200 travel days a year or discovering you earn 60 percent of what your male counterparts earn.

Whatever it is that’s turning your eyes towards greener career pastures, I want you to know that changing careers is totally, totally possible—but you want to be smart about planning your next move.

4 career change tips I wish someone had told me

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True Story: I’ve Had 35+ Jobs (And I’m only 35 years old)

Have you had lots of jobs? If you have, you're not alone. Click through for career tips and work advice from someone who finally found a career she loves after trying 35+ jobs!

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hello! I’m Claire and I’m 35 years old. I’m originally from London, England, but moved to Vancouver, Canada five years ago.

I’m trained as a life coach, and am currently setting up my business as an accountability coach (supporting and cheering people on via email with their projects: setting up a business or side hustle, achieving personal goals, writing a book, etc…) For fun I like to travel, swim and run. I’m also obsessed with stationery!  

Could you give us a bullet point summary of 15 of your 35+ jobs?

I’d be happy to!

  1. Assistant at pottery workshop
  2. Cashier at grocery store chain
  3. Delivering IKEA catalogues
  4. Working in a jam factory
  5. Communications Assistant, ELLE HQ, Paris
  6. Editor at Bloomsbury Publishing (publishers of Harry Potter)
  7. Parliamentary and Events Officer, UK Disability Rights Commission
  8. PA to Director at UK Charity Commission
  9. Fundraising team at National Deaf Children’s Society
  10. Events Planner at law firm
  11. Events Manager planning fundraising gala at Big Sisters, BC
  12. Event Assistant at interior design exhibition
  13. “Extra” (background actor): The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, The 100, Okja movie and others
  14. Admin Assistant for wedding planner
  15. Usher at local theatre

Growing up, how did you think about your career? 

When I was little, I wanted to own a candy store (so I could eat the candy), or be a newsreader (I thought someone else wrote the news for them!).

When I was about 10, we had to give a talk in class about what job we wanted to do when we grew up. I remember feeling panicked – I had no idea. In the end, I said I wanted to be a lawyer, just to have something to talk about!  

My parents have very structured, “standard” jobs: my mum’s a teacher and my dad’s a realtor. They’ve had the same jobs their whole life… they find my career path very unusual!

My mum loves her job; it’s a real vocation. She couldn’t help with my career dilemma, as she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. My dad’s job is stressful at times, but there’s no way he could work for anyone else – he’s a born entrepreneur (and I’m now heading down the same route!)

When you entered University what did you major in? What did you say when career counselors asked you about your plans? 

I studied French and Russian at university. I love speaking and learning languages, so it was an easy decision. I don’t remember talking to a career counsellor at university… back then you were expected to figure it out on your own! There was a careers centre, but I remember just feeling overwhelmed in it.

The problem was that languages didn’t narrow down my choices – they opened them up. I knew I didn’t want to be an interpreter, translator, or teacher… but that left many other options! Languages are useful in so many industries that I felt lost and confused when I graduated.

What did your professional life look like after college?

It can best be described as “bouncing around”! I love reading, so I thought publishing might be my thing. I worked for two publishing companies, but never felt like I “fit”. I volunteer regularly and wanted to do work that made a difference, so I thought working at a not-for-profit might be my thing. I contracted for a few charities, but became ground down by the lack of money and resources available.

A friend put me forward for a job at her boyfriend’s law firm working as an events planner – and I loved it! I gained tons of confidence, which enabled me to take the leap to move abroad (a long-time dream of mine). There I worked in a few more roles before deciding to tackle the issue once and for all… until I finally found my purpose 🙂  

How did the people in your life react to your career path? 

My friends were supportive, but couldn’t understand my situation. I remember feeling embarrassed by my career path/choices. Why did I keep leaving jobs? Why couldn’t I stick in one job? What was wrong with me?! My friends knew what they wanted to do and had steady jobs.

Some of them have worked for one company their whole life. My family despaired of me! My uncle tried to get me a job in a financial institution (my fear). My parents didn’t know what to do with me. I felt confused, alone, and like a failure.

The thing I’ve learned now is that I’m not necessarily flighty, but I need variety, flexibility and independence – I get very down without it.

[Funnily enough, many of my peers are now having a career crisis, but feel trapped or unable to leave as they’ve been in their jobs for so long!]

Have you ever taken one of those career predictor tests or worked with a career counselor?

I’ve taken many career predictor tests, but didn’t find them that helpful. I saw a great career counsellor a few years ago (who suggested life coaching to me).

Personality tests were also helpful, especially Myers-Briggs. It says that my type may have many jobs and seem directionless, because we need to live in line with our values. Hearing that gave me hope, and made me feel like I wasn’t a failure!

What does your professional life look like now? Do you think you’ll still be doing this in 5-10 years?

I currently work two part-time jobs while I set up my business. I love the flexibility this brings. With my business, I can’t believe I get paid to do something that feels natural and brings me so much joy.

It’s really cool to see my clients make progress on their goals and dreams – I just had a client who sold her first place at her retreat, which was awesome. I certainly hope I’ll still be doing this in 5 or 10 years! (without the part-time jobs 🙂

I’m striving to create a work environment that complements my dream lifestyle – the ability to travel and work when I want, on what I want, doing work that helps people and moves them forward.   

What tools/resources/books/websites helped you navigate all this?

Live Your Legend was my main resource (their TED talk, blog, and courses). It was key to me figuring out my passion/purpose. I’m so grateful for their work. I read What Colour is Your Parachute and How to Find Fulfilling Work – which helped to explain why I kept moving from job to job.

And I did a lot of self-reflection. I like to question things, so I would ask myself: what did I enjoy about this job? What is my ideal job environment? I kept asking questions and taking notes on what made me happy or what were my deal-breakers.


What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that ANY of us could apply to our lives, regardless of our employment status? 

It’s okay to be you, and be individual. So what if you’re different? You will find your tribe/thing, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. For some people, it might be clear from the outset. For others, it takes more time. This is totally fine!

Also, don’t worry about the people who seem to have it all figured out. They have their own struggles to work through – or they might hit their own block at some point in the future. Be you. Be curious! Be proud of your skills and strengths, and know that there is a career (or partner, etc.) somewhere that needs what you offer.

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Claire! Can any of you empathize? Do you have any questions for Claire? 

P.S. Are you required to find  + follow your calling? 

True Story: I work for NASA

NASA Jobs
What’s it like to have a job at NASA? To work AT MOTHER LOVING MISSION CONTROL?!!! How do you not get one million ulcers? How often do people make ‘rocket scientist’ jokes at you? Today, Sarah Ruiz is telling us all about her 14-year career at NASA and the truth about weightlessness. Obviously, Sarah’s interview answers are her own and not some official statement from the National Aeronautics And Space Administration.

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True Story: I write erotic novels

Interview with an erotica author

What’s it like to spend your workday coming up with euphemisms for sex acts? How does that affect your own sex life? And do you tell your parents? Today, erotica author Linda Mercury is telling us all about it!

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