Category Archives for "Career development"

Woman with cluttered brain
Jan 23

Clear mental clutter to gain career clarity

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Creativity , Motivation

Many of us tackle some clutter clearing from time to time, and often this is about getting rid of unwanted physical “stuff”.

But what about mental clutter? This could include outdated assumptions or ideas that could that be getting in the way of making beneficial changes or stepping up a level in your career or business.

I’ve recently carried out a clutter clear before moving into a new home office space. Getting rid of redundant papers, sorting out my files and disposing of some old boxes (including baby slings last used in 2009!).

Clearing outdated physical clutter set me thinking about the internal clutter we also hang onto for too long. Are any of these things clogging up your mental shelf space?

Redundant qualifications

It can be difficult to let go of hard-won qualifications. If you took a law degree for example, does that mean you always need to work in the legal field? Of course not, but sometimes it’s hard to let go of a past achievement in order to follow a career path that is right for us now.


It’s so tempting to judge ourselves against our peers or even some external imagined standards. We may metaphorically beat ourselves up for not reaching a certain level in our career by a certain age. Or compare ourselves against other people. But everyone’s life path is different, and some of the most interesting and accomplished people didn’t find their vocation until quite late. The bestselling writer Mary Wesley published her first adult novel at the age of 71.

Too many ideas

Ideas flowing Making a clear decision about a career, or a business niche, can be scary, because it means letting go of all the other ideas of things we “could” do. It means closing down possibilities, at least for now. In career or business planning, there is a time for generating lots of ideas and possibilities, and this can be valuable. But to make things happen you have to take action. And to take action means making a decision. And making a positive decision to follow one path means letting go of another direction, at least for a while.

I say for a while, because it is perfectly possible to build a successful portfolio career with different strands and income streams. But there is a danger in trying to do everything all at once, and power in making a decision and staying focused on one thing for a while, to give it a chance.


Perfectionism can hold you back. Trying something new involves risk, whether that’s going for a promotion or starting a business. You will make mistakes, and that can be painful. If perfectionism is one of your traits, take some time to work out what it’s costing you. Wanting to do a great job, and putting in the graft is well worth it. But expecting perfect results when you do something for the fist time can set yourself up for disappointment and a sense of failure.

In his book The Chimp Paradox, Dr Steve Peters suggests that if you set your bar for success as “doing your best”, then this is always achievable. You may not do something brilliantly first time, but you can always gain satisfaction if you know that you gave it your best shot and did the best you could at the time.

Outdated dreams and visions

Creating a vision of where you want to go to in business or life is valuable and important. It can give you a sense of direction, a compass to navigate the choices and opportunities that come your way. But we change and what matters to us can change. If you made a decision some time ago to follow a certain direction, it may be time to check in and make some adjustments. And be mindful of differentiating between a setback along the way, and a true change of heart.

Find a listening ear

If your mind feels cluttered with ideas, concerns or judgements, then it can be invaluable to speak to someone. A chat with a friend can help clear the mental cobwebs. And do think seriously about working with a coach too. A few sessions with a good coach can help to shift outdated thinking, and clear space for fresh new ideas to come in.

And if you would like some help, email me to request a free telephone consultation.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Do more of what makes you happy
Sep 12

What does success mean to YOU?

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Motivation

What does success mean to you?

I often explore this question with people who are contemplating career change.

It’s important to distinguish between what really matters to you, and what society tells us is important.  But it’s not always easy to differentiate between our own definition of success, and that of others, such as family or wider society.

Success and status

We’ve evolved to be social animals and status is an important motivator for many people. At times in human history, failure or a loss of status in society could be a matter of life and death. And it can feel like that sometimes. Especially if we pin too much of our identity and self-worth to the concept of success and status.

Yes, externally validated success can give you a sense of power and self worth. You may enjoy recognition and respect from others. But what if it’s far more important to feel successful in your own estimation?

What do you value?

One key to being able to work out what really matters to you is thinking about your values. What do you truly value? What’s important to you?

For example, I’ve worked with clients who were successful in career terms. But they were unhappy about not having enough time and energy for their family.  If you feel you’re not being able to live out your values, then it may be time to re-evaluate your priorities.

When it comes to feeling a sense of power or empowerment, this can be an inside job. You can shift your mindset, and choose not to see yourself as powerless or a failure. This is true, even if your career isn’t yet where you’d like it to be. Choose to empower yourself.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

When it comes to respect, choosing to respect yourself and others, makes you less dependent on others people’s validation. And you are more likely to see that respect echoed back to you in the way people treat you.

Money and success

Financial success may be partly linked to status. It’s not just about status, of course. It’s miserable and stressful to not have enough money. And it’s vital to think clearly about your financial situation. Work out how much income you need to live a comfortable life, and to invest for the future. However if you want money in order to give you status or to feel successful, this can be a trap. How often have you seen people caught on a treadmill of having to earn even more money, to buy more things, to display more status.

So it’s helpful to take a step back and ask yourself: how much money do you actually need to be happy and feel financially secure?

This may mean increasing your income. Or it may mean cutting expenditure. The FIRE movement, for example, practices a radical reduction in spending, so that you can save enough money to give you freedom. FIRE stands for: financial independence retire early, and there are plenty of blogs online with advice on this.

Pride in achievement

None of this is intended to take away from justified pride in your achievements and celebrating success.  Instead, it’s about being clear abut what you truly want to aim for in your life and work.

For me success at work is about enjoying what I do. It’s about feeling I’m learning and growing as a person. It’s knowing that my work has a positive effect on others.

And it’s also about allowing myself plenty of time to rest, to read and to dance (my personal passion). By allowing time for relaxation, I replenish my energy for work. This enables me to show up with enthusiasm and energy, and do the best job I can.

What does success mean to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Unhappy at work
May 01

How to make a career decision when you’re unhappy at work

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Motivation

If you feel unhappy at work, it may be a sign that it’s time to move on. But feeling unhappy at work can make it difficult to assess your best next steps. You may feel more driven by moving away from your current situation than by what comes next. You may not yet have a clear vision of where you want to go.

So before you make a move, it’s worth asking yourself what you really want. Is it a new career in a different field of work, or a similar job, but in a different company or sector?

What is the cause of your unhappiness?

Allow yourself some time to consider the root cause of your dissatisfaction. It may be that you don’t feel at home in your organisation; perhaps the company culture or purpose of the business doesn’t feel like a good fit.

Or it may be about the way you’re being managed – a common reason for unhappiness. This tends to happen when you’re either micro managed or not given enough support and direction. Either situation can lead to you to doubt yourself; it can knock your confidence and sense of self.  You may find that you would thrive in a similar role under a different manager.

Signs that you might be in the wrong job are when the elements making you unhappy are more about the culture, environment or management than the work itself.  Do you feel that you’re not getting enough positive feedback?  Are you not allowed to get on with tasks that you are perfectly capable of doing? Do you find you have little in common with your colleagues?

It’s also worth thinking back to what attracted you to your job in the first place.  What were you hoping for, were the job to have worked out?

Are you on the wrong career path?

Signs that you are on the wrong career path might include a lack of enthusiasm for learning more about your field of work.  The skills you enjoy using may not be a good fit for the job, and you may not be playing to your talents and strengths. You might feel a lack of satisfaction. You might not want to tell people what you do for a living.

Or it may be that the career you’ve chosen doesn’t fit with your other priorities. For example if you value family time and weekends with your children, you might need to rule out a career that always involves weekend working.

Recognise what makes a good fit

Ultimately finding the right job or career involves a range of factors. It’s partly about recognising your strengths, and being honest about your weaker areas. And it’s also about tapping into what interests you. Do you want to learn and progress in your current field, or do your interests lie elsewhere? What will give you a sense of purpose at work?

And it’s recognising the type of company culture that would be a good fit. Do you like a structured environment, or a more relaxed flexible ethos?  Do you enjoy a team environment, or is it more important to you to have autonomy in your work, and perhaps the opportunity to do some work from home? Do you like to be office or site based, or to be out in the field?

Some lucky people have known what they want to do from an early age. But for most of us, finding the right career involves a certain amount of trial and error.

And sometimes the only way we can gain an understanding of what we want, is to have an experience of what doesn’t work for us.  Accepting that you’re in the wrong job or career can be positive step, if you then use this knowledge to reflect on what you’re really suited to.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Dream job
Mar 28

Is finding your dream job realistic?

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Motivation

Is there a job that you would love to do? Or a business you would love to start? But you don’t yet have the experience, and are not even sure if achieving your dream job is realistic.

Let’s face it, most employers are risk averse. They want to be certain that you are up to the job. And the easiest way for them to be sure, is to hire some who has actually done it before.

Even if you dream of running your own business, you will soon run up against reality. If you don’t offer a product or service people want AND find a way to tell them about it through your marketing, then you don’t have a business.

So how do you bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be?

3 steps to bridge the gap

There is a 3 step process that can help you navigate through change.

A. Have a vision of where you want to go.

B. Get crystal clear about the reality of where are you right now.

C. Work out the steps needed to get from A to B and turn these into an actionable plan

Start with a big dream

I’m a big fan of realism when it comes to reviewing your career options, but only at the right point. The right point is after you have identified your absolute ideal job. So start off by dreaming big!

What do you love doing so much you would do it for nothing? What difference do you want to make in the world through your work? What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?

Then get real

But after forming the big dream you must ask some reality-checking questions about it. Do you know exactly what this work involves on a day to day basis? Try and speak with people who are actually doing this type of work to get a sense of what is truly involved.

A reality check of your perfect job or business may throw up compromises and barriers. For example more status and money may mean working longer hours. You may need to gain new qualifications or experience. Your may need to make sacrifices to reach a higher level.  Is this what you really want?  Or you might identify fears of not being good enough – can I really make it? Isn’t it safer just to dream?

Or it might reveal that even if there is a long way to go and sacrifices to make along the way, you are absolutely committed and willing to do what it takes.

The reality check means you are starting to turn your dream from what may be pure fantasy into a vision of something you might actually end up doing. You may find yourself making changes to your original dream job at this point. To start with a big ambition and adjust it after a reality check is far more powerful than to limit your thinking initially with too much “realism”.

Make it happen

Once you’ve identified a job, career or business idea that resonates and feels right, then you can start to work out how to make it happen.

And this is where it’s important to come back to the present and focus in detail on where you are now. This includes digging down into all your strengths and transferable skills. And be honest and specific about any gaps between where you are now and where you want to be.

Then you can start to formulate an actionable plan.  If there’s a big gap between what you want and you can’t see the end point, then set a mid point. Identify something that would give you a lot of what you want and then work towards that.

The truth is that successful career change can involve a fair amount of good fortune and serendipity as well as careful planning. But the great thing about planning is that it is within your control and something that you can do NOW to take you a step closer to achieving your dreams.

Like some help?

A career coach can help speed up the process of career change. Contact me now for your FREE 30 minute career consultation. REQUEST YOUR CONSULTATION HERE.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

Woman at a job interview
Apr 29

How to dress for an interview

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development

I’m delighted to welcome guest blogger Nicola Davis. Nicola is a multi-award winning colour and style consultant. Her professional background includes interviewing, and she knows what impresses employers. Read on for some terrific advice from Nicola on how to dress for an interview, and for a promotion!

Nicola Davis - Style Consultant

Nicola Davis

Like it or not, people form instant opinions about us based on how we look. Given my background in human resources and sales management, I know first-hand how true this is when it comes to interviewing candidates for jobs.

A survey conducted by The Ladders management careers company found for senior executives conducting interviews, 37% had decided against hiring a candidate due to the way they were dressed. Therefore to maximise your chances of getting the job you need to make sure you dress appropriately for the role and the company.

Research the company

When deciding what to wear for your interview, research the company to gain an understanding of its dress code. If possible, get along to their premises when you can see employees coming and going and take a look at what they’re wearing. At the very least, check out the images on their website. Are staff conservatively dressed in suits? Or, does the dress code appear to be more relaxed? If in doubt, always err on the side of caution and go for a formal, tailored look.

In any event, an interview is not the time for high-fashion or quirky statement dressing – unless of course you’re looking to work within the fashion or creative industries. You want the interviewer to be focused on you, not distracted by what you’re wearing.

Go for smart colour and style choices

A classic dark suit (navy or charcoal are good options for most people) teamed with understated accessories suggests authority and professionalism whilst a touch of red (perhaps in a tie or blouse) gives an impression of confidence and dynamism. Less structured clothes in softer colours tend to look less professional but could be appropriate for those seeking work in areas where they need to look approachable and empathetic. On the whole though, it’s safest to avoid pastels and florals for interview, unless teamed with something dark and tailored to add some gravitas.

Whatever the role you’re applying for, your clothes should be clean, current, well-fitting and appropriate. Good grooming is also essential. Surveys consistently show that women who wear make-up are perceived as being more professional and in control of their lives than those who don’t, so even if you don’t normally wear make-up, applying a little mascara, blusher and lipstick for the interview is worth considering. Do make sure you practice applying and wearing it well ahead of the interview day though to avoid last minute panic and disaster!

Dress for a pay rise with personal touches

Once you’ve got the job and demonstrated your competence in the role, you can afford to express more of your personality in the way you dress, whilst still adhering to any company dress code. Indeed, as Fortune Magazine noted “Personal style has always played, and still plays, a crucial role in the career trajectories of leaders’’(March 2015) Similarly, injecting some colour into your working wardrobe could enhance your career prospects according to an article in The Telegraph (November 2015) – “Colourful clothes lead to pay rises and promotion.”

The key to dressing for business is to convey the right sartorial messages whilst remaining true to your innate personal style. This can be done by adding personal touches to your professional “uniform”. For women this might be wearing your signature red lipstick or statement earrings or carrying a brightly coloured bag, whilst for men it might mean wearing a natty waistcoat or bow tie or perhaps using a messenger bag instead of a formal briefcase.

Seek advice on career and personal style

Finally, if you (or your boss!) really feel that your personal style is at odds with the company dress code and culture, you may well find that this is not the right organisation for you. In which case, I would thoroughly recommend that you get advice from Felicity regarding the type of work and style of company which will suit you best and enable you to fulfil your true potential.

If you would like to find out more about how to dress in a way that is flattering and appropriate and also reflects your style personality, I would be delighted to help. Please email or visit my website

Nicola Davis, 2016

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.



Jan 31

Are you an imposter?

By Felicity Dwyer | Career development

Do you ever feel that you’re not as competent as other people seem to think you are? That you’re going to be “found out”?  This feeling is quite common and is sometimes referred to as Imposter Syndrome.

Last year I attended a conference about inspiring women in business. As you would expect from this type of event, it included talks by business women who were undoubtedly successful. This included a talk by a massively impressive 29 year old CEO. Yet two of the speakers expressly talked about this “imposter” feeling, and they had clearly chosen to do so in the hope that it would help other women in the room.

And it’s not just women. I remember working with a man on this issue, quite early on in my coaching career. And in my own field of training and coaching I know the feeling of coming home from a training course that has received excellent feedback, yet focusing on the one slightly less positive comment.

If this resonates with you on some level, then what can you do about it? Here are some ideas that can help you build up your inner confidence, so it matches the outer.

Keep a record of strengths and achievements

Build up a foundation of belief in your own skills and strengths.  If you receive some positive feedback – write it down.  To kickstart the process of recording positive feedback, take a paper or online notebook, or open up a document, and write down everything that you are good at.  Think back to all the comments you have received in recent months. Go back over positive emails or messages and gather them in one place.

And record your achievements too, big or small, whether or not anyone else acknowledged them. If you know you did a good job, recognise and note it. As you do this you might feel some “yes buts” creeping in…  “Yes, it was a successful meeting but that’s because everyone else was so involved …”  (forgetting that it might have been because you planned and chaired the meeting so well).

We sometimes overlook our strengths because they may feel easy or effortless.  I now find it easy to facilitate a meeting, because it’s a strength. It’s something that I’ve learned to do, and it’s only when I notice that not everyone can do it so smoothly, that I realise it’s a strength and not a given.

This exercise of writing down strengths and achievement is well worth doing.  And then when imposter syndrome strikes and your confidence wobbles, go back and read what has been said.

See mistakes as part of learning

If you do make a mess of something, that doesn’t mean that you are incompetent as a person. It means that you have something to learn, and by recognising that, you can talk steps to change it.

Stanford University psychologist Carole Dweck has researched the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. If we have a fixed mindset, we assume that our intelligence and personality are hard to change.  If we have a growth mindset, we believe that we can change significantly throughout our lives.

If we tend towards a growth mindset, we are more likely to enjoys challenges that stretch and develop us, and view mistakes as an opportunity to learn, rather than confirmation that we are lacking. So a step towards greater confidence is developing the ability to genuinely see our mistakes as a part of learning and growing, and believe that we can change as a result.

Notice and let go of thoughts

I love the quote: “don’t compare your insides with someone else’s outsides”.  Other people see how you speak and behave, but they don’t know about the doubts that might be going through your head. And we all have doubts at some point in our careers. There is a time and space where it is appropriate to share these thoughts and feelings, with a friend, a coach or a supportive line manager. But in professional situations, we do need to learn how to manage them and not let them get in the way.

A thought that you are “not good enough” is just that, a thought. It’s not true unless you are trying to perform a job that is clearly outside your capability or skillset, which is something different. I’ve written before about meditation, and a daily mediatation practice can help you recognise that during the course of the day many thoughts pass through your mind, and you can learn to get better at noticing them, and letting them go.

Measure success by doing your best

In The Chimp Paradox, consultant psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters has some interesting things to say about confidence and success. “If you measure success in life by effort and doing your best, then it is always in your hands to succeed and be proud of yourself.”   So if you prepare well for a meeting and give it your full attention, that can count as a success, even if the outcome isn’t quite as you would have wished.  And if you identify one thing you can do better next time, then this is useful learning.

Need a boost of confidence?

Confidence is an area I can help with through my coaching service. If you feel a lack of confidence is holding you back in your career or business, then why not book in a free consultation call and find out more.

Career Change Toolkit Report

Career Change Toolkit

Contemplating career change or job search can feel daunting. Download this free toolkit full of resources and tips to help you feel more confident about your next steps.

LinkedIn on a mobile phone
Nov 30

Is your LinkedIn Profile up to scratch?

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Networking , Small Business

If your career or aspirations can in any way be described as “professional”, then you need to be on LinkedIn. And if you are on LinkedIn, your profile needs to represent you effectively.

LinkedIn is THE professional social network

Unlike other social media networks, LinkedIn is purely professional. And it’s huge, over 20 million people in the UK alone are on LinkedIn. You can use it to share what you do, and to build up credibility with endorsements and recommendations for your work.Continue reading

Felicity Dwyer
Oct 31

Find out what your dream job is REALLY like

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Networking

Starting a new career or business can feel like a shot in the dark. But there is a technique which can greatly increase your chance of success.

As part of a magazine feature, I met with professional photographer Sean Malyon to have my picture taken. Sean is very easy to talk to, and the hour spent being snapped among autumn leaves flew past.

We talked about career paths and Sean told me he is sometimes contacted for advice by aspiring portrait photographers. Many of them focus on the technical side of photography such as lighting. They want tips to help grow their expertise in this area.

But in reality, the portrait photography business is all about people. If you are not comfortable relating to different types of people and putting them at their ease quickly, then you are unlikely to be commercially successful.

Do your research

This example demonstrates the importance of doing your research when choosing or changing careers. It’s easy to build up an idea in your mind about a particular line of work, but you may find the reality is far removed from what you imagine. And the best way to get a true picture of a line of work is to talk to people already doing the job.

The process of deliberately speaking with an existing professional about their career path and working life is known as “informational interviewing”,

Dos and Don’ts of an informational interview

Do some initial research before seeking out people to interview. Do you believe a career within a specific profession or sector could be a real possibility for you? And have you discovered enough background information to prepare well for the conversation? You will get the best value from someone’s precious time by hearing about their personal experience. How did they get to be where they are? What are the most important skills and qualities needed for success? What challenges and drawbacks have they experienced? What are the downsides to the job? What advice can they give you?

Don’t try and use an informational interview to pitch for a job. The purpose is to discover more about a line of work and if it might suit you. It can help you figure out career paths, and to identify ways into an industry or section. Sometimes a conversation may result in job leads or opportunities, but don’t expect this and certainly don’t push for it. At the end of the conversation, ask your interviewee if they can suggest anyone else you could speak to. Getting different viewpoints is invaluable.

Find people to interview

Felicity Dwyer in AutumnThe first port of call is your existing network. Work out the type of people you need to speak to and reach out through friends, former colleagues and contacts for a friendly introduction. Don’t do this too soon, you don’t want to waste your best contacts by rushing in before you’ve done your research. But nor should you be shy about approaching contacts. Explain briefly what are looking to do, and ask if they know anyone who might be able to help. They can always say ‘no”, and that’s fine – not every request will get a positive response.

You can also approach people “cold” by writing a friendly email, explaining your situation, or by picking up the phone. Twitter and Linked In are good places to find relevant people. You might ask for a specified amount of time, perhaps 20 minutes. If you don’t hear back, you could consider sending a polite follow up email (but not more than one!)

If you are receiving a warm introduction via someone you know then you might ask for a face to face interview. My tip from being on the receiving end of requests for a interview is that if you’re approaching someone cold, ask for a telephone conversation. In all honesty, I’m unlikely to want to take time for a face to face meeting with a stranger. But I have been happy in the past to spend a few minutes speaking on the phone.

Follow up

Do follow up with a thank you message. Don’t send your CV unless you’ve been asked for it – nobody wants to receive an unsolicited CV.

Know when to act

Investing time in research will make it far more likely that you make the right career choice, based on reality not fantasy. And when you go in with your eyes open you are much more likely to be successful. There comes a time however when you need to take action. You can only know for sure that a job is right for you once you start doing it.

Photo credits: Sean Malyon

find a niche advice
Jul 30

How to find your perfect niche

By Felicity Dwyer | Career change , Career development , Small Business

Do you earn your living as an expert in your field? You may offer professional services or advice. Perhaps you’re a consultant, trainer or coach. If so, one of the most valuable thing that you can do to grow your career or business, is to commit to a niche.

People often resist choosing a niche because they think it might be limiting. But you can’t be everything to everybody. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you may have heard this message before from a marketing perspective. And it’s also true when it comes to finding satisfying work.

Your niche is where your expertise and your purpose come together. It’s where your unique set of knowledge, skills and interests interacts with the needs of others. Here are a few questions to help you identify this sweet spot.

What difference do you want to make?

Ultimately the value of your work is in the difference you make to others. The beneficiaries of your work may be other people, it may be animals, it may be the environment. Finding something you care about will give you satisfaction at the end of your working day, and your working life.

Who are you best placed to help?

Your starting point is where you are now. What does your background and experience bring to the table? What networks and contacts do you already have? And if you want to make a break with the past, then you can look ahead to find the answer to this question. What areas interest you? Where are you prepared to put in the work needed to learn new things and make new contacts?

Who do you most enjoy working with?

Do you enjoy being with young people, older people, animals, creative people, entrepreneurial people… the list goes on. What values and ideals does your perfect client or customer hold? Who have you most enjoyed working with in the past? The people we work with are often the single biggest contributors to our happiness at work

And when you do find your niche it just feels right. It’s often something that ties together your unique mix of interests, skills and experience from various stages in your working life.

And yes, you can have more than one niche. In my coaching business,  I use my experience and skills to help mid-life career changers to work out what they want to do. I have always been fascinated by career paths, and why people do what they do. When I discovered this coaching niche, it immediately felt right. It doesn’t feel restrictive at all.

I also run a training business with a colleague. Our main niche is helping people who manage volunteers to gain skills and qualifications. I came into this field partly through my own experience of volunteering and managing volunteers in a community theatre. And it also draws on my professional background working in the voluntary sector.

Niches can be quite different. For example a part time accountant who helps sole traders with their book-keeping, and also sells quirky jewellery at craft fairs. Or niches can relate to each other. My niches are both around helping people develop their careers – but in different ways. And in last month’s blog, artist Rhian John describes how her painting and graphic design are complementary. A good niche is neither so narrow that you become blinkered, or so wide that any meaningful level of expertise is impossible.

Need some help with finding your niche? This is the type of enquiry I can help with, so please have a look my free consultation offer.

May 29

Why you need a mentor

By Felicity Dwyer | Career development , Networking

Do you have access to someone who has experience in your field of work, and who is happy to give you some help to develop yourself and your career? In other words, do you have a mentor?

A mentor can support your career progression. A good mentor will see potential in you that you may not be able to recognise, and help you to make your ambitions a reality.

Research from the CIPD (1) demonstrated that mentoring can be very effective in helping us gain knowledge, increase skills and act more effectively. It can lead to better management of career goals, and helps with developing a wider network of influence. And being mentored can increase confidence and self-awareness which leads to better performance at work.

A mentor would normally be someone in the same line of work as you, so they can offer you guidance based on experience. They can also help you to access networks and opportunities. A good mentor may also coach you where needed, helping you to clarify your own ideas for a way forward.

How can you find a mentor?

There are various ways to find a mentor or mentors. Some employers can help set up formal mentoring arrangements, so it’s worth asking about opportunities. Sometimes a manager can also act as a mentor. By which I mean they can help us to grow professionally and often personally, beyond the demands of our current job. I experienced this from one of my managers. Janet was an expert at developing her staff. She was willing to delegate and trusted me to take on extra responsibilities and to represent her sometimes at events. She also encouraged me to work towards a qualification which proved invaluable in my later career.

Mentoring BenefitsSometimes a mentor is someone outside the management structure. Someone we meet and connect with in the workplace, who teaches or inspires us. When I first met Maggie, she was a wonderful role model and helped me discover a career direction that finally felt right. Maggie was hugely encouraging, she could see potential in me and helped me develop it. And a few years down the line, we ended up working closely together.

Sometimes you might look for a mentor externally to your organisation, particularly if you want to change direction. You may be able to find a mentor by asking within your professional and social networks. There are also individuals who offer paid mentoring services.

We all need mentors, even if they are only informal ones. And we need different people at different times or in different areas of our lives. Sometimes a simple conversation over coffee can prompt a change, and that is all the support we need at the time. Sometimes we might need a lot more in the way of handholding and be willing to invest in a professional mentor or coach.

The value of being a mentor

When you have established some success in your career or business, it might be time to look at giving something back and offering some of your own time as a mentor. This can be very rewarding. The CIPD research shows mentors also benefit from the satisfaction of developing their colleagues and from passing on their knowledge, skills and expertise. And it can help develop your skills too. Sometimes it’s only by sharing what we know that we can hold a mirror up to ourselves and recognise the depth of our own knowledge and skill. And mentors can also learn from mentees, from their questions and perspectives.

Have you been inspired by a mentor? Or are you a mentor? Please share your experiences in the comments box.

(1) CIPD Learning and development survey 2008.