Meeting your Heroine

Your meeting with your heroine is going to be exhilarating, enlightening, challenging and fun… but it needs to be instructive. You want to come away with an accurate picture of your dream and a clear idea of whether it is the career for you. That means you need to go into the meeting prepared. You already have done a lot of research, and while searching for your mentor you thought through what you hope to accomplish. Now it is time to fine tune that thinking a little more. You don’t want to get home and realize that half your questions went unanswered.

What is most important?

Stat by thinking seriously about what is important to you. You are pursuing a dream career because you want to live from your heart. What exactly does that entail? Does it mean working fewer hours? Or working closer to home? Does it mean making a difference in the world, or working with a particular population? Do you want to be indoors or outdoors? In the city or near the ocean? What are the elements that have to exist in your new career in order to make it your dream? Make a list of them because after your meeting with your heroine you will compare what you learned on site to what you said you really want. In your meeting your heroine induced euphoria, you may be inclined to overlook the fact that you said you wanted to work fewer hours yet your dream job requires round the clock attention. Your questionnaire can help you stay grounded. You might decide later to forgo some of those essentials but at least you will do it eyes open.

What Will Help You Decide to Pursue this Career Further?

So get out some paper and a pencil and think concretely about what you need to leave your meeting with your heroine with. Your questions are apt to follow in the following categories:

  •  Skills.  What skills do I need to learn or strenghten? Can I master them enough to truly succeed?
  • Money: How much money does it cost to become qualified for my dream job or to set up my own business if that is part of the dream? How much can I expect to earn initially and down the road?
  • Time. How will I spend a typical day? How many hours will I have to work? Will that change with time? Will this job afford me the lifestyle that I want?
  • Technical issues What do I need to know about equipment, purchasing, location, suppliers, processes, etc.?
  • Pitfalls; What are the biggest hazards in this work?
  • Career path: How can I break into the field? What can I expect my path and timeline to be?
  • Family: How would pursuing this job affect my spouse and partner? Our kids? Our extended family?
  • Support: What organizations provide ongoing support to people in this field?
  • Contacts: Whom else should I talk to?

Get Personal: Getting the Most from Your Heroine

The answers to your questions are going to come partly from living your dream job, seeing what you do and noticing how it feels, but they come equally from talking with your mentor. You will get to learn from your mentor’s personal experience and that experience may vary considerably from the more public information you have already received. Though your research may have delineated a specific route up the career ladder, your mentor may tell you a backdoor path to the same destination.  Your mentor may in fact have wisom to offer beyond the job itself. Many people who do work they love have actively chosen their careers. Many have made the switch from less satisfying jobs. They have stood in your shoes. They know the fears you are facing, they have dealt with the financial insecurities, they know what is involved in giving up the security of a regular job and moving into something new and most will be happy to discuss this aspect of the dream job as well. So don’t feel that you have to restrict your questions to the specifics of the job itself. Obviously you need to respect your mentor’s privacy, you want to ask respectfully, but give your mentor a chance to discuss her full experience. You are apt to learn important ‘off the record’ information, and you may deepen your relationship as well.

For the same reason, you also want to tell your mentor about your fears and concerns. Are you secretly terrified that you don’t have what it takes to make it in this field? Speaking the fears out loud will disempower them. It will also give your mentor a chance to tell you how accurate, or inaccurate they are.  Are you nervous about simply being out of your comfort zone? No shame there: most people are nervous when they are doing something new. Telling your mentor how you feel will help you relate to each other as person to person instead of simply as professional to student. It will strengthen your relationshiop before you even arrive at your mentor’s door.