Finding Mentors for a Career Pivot, with Kwan Segal

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 323:

Finding Mentors for a Career Pivot, with Kwan Segal

Airdate: November 24, 2021

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. 

Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume. 

Switching careers is never easy.

But mentors can give you insights into your new industry, introduce you to employers, and help you translate your skills for hiring managers. 

But how do you find someone like this? 

Kwan Segal is here to talk about how to find mentors for a career pivot.

She’s a human capital consultant and the founder of ICAway. It’s a career coaching company for international students and immigrants in the United States. 

Kwan joins us from Chicago, Illinois.

Well, Kwan, let’s jump right into it. Why does having a mentor matter when you make a career pivot? 

Kwan Segal:

That is a really good question, Mac, and this topic is so close to my heart because I am someone who went through multiple careers and life transitions myself. And in my early career, I changed a career path from working as a personal assistant to joining the world’s largest consulting firm,like Accenture as a management consultant, and then I moved to the US from Thailand, where the culture is completely opposite in so many ways, and finally got into a corporate America, which is Deloitte, also the top consulting firm, and then, now, I transitioned from working in the corporate world to having my own business here in the US. 

So all of these transitions, I, myself, needed mentors more than ever, as my career advocates, as someone who helped guide me through these changes of life and helped me reach my goals easier when entering into what we call “unknown territory.” 

Mac Prichard:

Can you switch careers without a mentor? 

Kwan Segal:

So switch a career without a mentor could be a challenge. There’s a way to do that. Right? But it’s like, instead of getting to your final goal in a short period of time, you might take a longer road to reach your goal, and mentors will help you reach that goal easier and quicker if you have the right mentor and know how to engage them as your career advocate. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about that, both in your own experience but also with clients you work with in your coaching practice now. What exactly are you asking mentors to help you with when you’re making a career switch? 

Kwan Segal:

I would say, when you reach out to someone for help, right, first of all, you need to identify who is this person that you really need to reach out to. Let’s say when you reach out to the top leader at the organization that you want to be able to work with in the future, like your dream organization, first thing that you can ask them is about their own path. First of all, don’t try to jump into what you need from them right away. So just show your curiosity.

Learn more about their path, and then ask the right question about sharing your goal with them, and ask the question like, “If I want to reach this goal, what would be the steps I definitely should take for me to be able to achieve the things that I want to achieve, to be like you in the future?”

You know, this is a great way to make people feel like they want to mentor you because you admire them.   

Mac Prichard:

Why do people, in your experience, Kwan, say yes to taking meetings like this with professionals or job seekers who are looking for mentorship? 

Kwan Segal:

Like for me, myself, when I got reached out to by a younger like, let’s say a student, let’s say, I normally say yes to meet with them when they really show that they are interested in what I am doing. So normally, if someone asks me to do something for them, like do a favor, right, something for a favor if they come to me and say, “Kwan, can you please review my resume?” and I have my hands full with my students already, it’s gonna be hard for me to set aside some time just for them for a favor. 

But if they show that they really care about what I’m doing for my students and want to learn about what I’m doing here through my life here in the US, and then through that conversation, ask for help, like, later on, that will prick up my interest in learning more about them and also ask them what can I do to help them in the future.   

Mac Prichard:

What are examples of ways not to approach mentors that might lead to getting a no? What experiences have your clients had, or have you seen in your own practice? 

Kwan Segal:

Absolutely. Let’s say, let’s take the first step. The first step is to reach out to someone, and then they will say, “Yes, I want to meet with you.” Right? So that is what we call like ice breaking. Try to connect with people.

So if you get into that round, have people accepting to connect with you, then the next step is, once you get onto the call with them and share with them that goal, that would be two scenarios. Right? Someone may just feel like, “Okay, I’m just going to do something for a favor for you,” or someone could feel really intrigued by your drive and your motivation. 

So for your question, asking about what will be something that makes someone don’t want to mentor you? Could be the feeling that you just want to take something from them. Just feel like, okay, this is something that you want to ask them to do for you, and once that relationship becomes transactional, then once they do that for you, then it’s like my job is done. I’m gonna, you know, that’s no more a relationship going forward.   

Mac Prichard: 

We’ve talked a little bit about what you might ask a mentor to do and how they can help when you’re making a career pivot. Let’s backtrack, Kwan, and how do you find these people? You know the industry you want to move into. Do you build a list of possible mentors, and how do you select the names that go on that list? 

Kwan Segal:

Of course, this is, you know, a really important step. Right? I would say, first of all, you need to start identifying. Identify your goals, like your dream industries, companies, and roles, and this doesn’t mean that you have to stick with that industrial company or role forever throughout your life. But if you would like to engage a business as a successful professional, you need to have that goal first and then answering your question.

Next is to find those professionals, and because I coach international students, immigrants many of them tend to limit their network within their own community, and I understand that is because, you know, it’s more comforting to speak your language. But all of us here need to get out of our comfort zone in order to land a great job here. 

So there are some places that you can start to look for mentors—first, a very easy one, LinkedIn. LinkedIn is also the place that you can find a network of professionals out there, and many of my students were able to engage top leaders of global companies and get referred directly to the hiring managers because of their efforts building mentor and mentee relationships through LinkedIn. And the next one is also my favorite channel which is the professional organizations.

There are lots of professional organizations out there that you can participate in by leveraging  your ethnicity, your interests, your career interests. For example, if you are originally from Asian culture, you can participate in the Ascend, which is the largest pan-Asian organization, or Prospanica , which is the place you will be able to network with Latino leaders out there. And there are lots of organizations that can support your specific career interests, like if you want to meet with professionals in HR business leaders, there are HRCI or SHERM or project management professionals like PMI, as well. So those are some of the professional organizations that you can even participate in their free webinars or events and get to know people within that community.  

Mac Prichard: 

Okay, I want to take a quick break, Kwan, and when we come back, let’s continue our conversation about how to find mentors for a career pivot. Stay with us. 

Mentors can be invaluable in a job search.

So can professional help. 

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Kwan Segal. 

She’s a human capital consultant and the founder of ICAway. It’s a career coaching company for international students and immigrants in the United States. 

Now, Kwan, before our break, we were talking about how to find mentors for a career pivot, and I love the point you made about the importance of identifying the industry and the companies that interest you and then, work from there to find people who could be helpful in making your career pivot.

I’m curious, how specific do you recommend to your clients that they get about the companies that they’re interested in and the sectors of the industries that attract them?  

Kwan Segal:

I would say it really depends on your situation because, let’s say if you are a job candidate that needs to get a job very fast, first of all, you need to do some research on the target job that is in high demand, and try to match with your skills and your past experience, in order to be able to market yourself to the employers in a short period of time. So if you don’t have much time, that is something I strongly recommend you to do.  

Once you know your career goal, by looking into the target job that you want to be in, for example, if you want to be a data analyst, right, for a top tech company, then you look into what I discussed before – LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great place for you to find those target professionals. Look into someone who’s are working in that role that you want to be in the future. Like right now, you are targeting, let’s say, target analysts, then you look for target analysts on LinkedIn and filter the top pick for tech, right, and Google, Amazon, and all that top tech companies you want to get into. After that, write a message to them, and look into something about them that you are really interested in. If they wrote a blog or have a podcast like Mac has, you can also mention about those resources that they shared with the public.

So if you don’t have much time in exploring your career and you need to land a job fast, that is something that I recommend you to do. 

However, some folks may have a little bit more time to look for a job. That means you can explore some career aspirations, like, let’s say we have a few listeners here who have four years till graduation; then you can participate in several professional events and then just talk to as many professionals who are successful in that career right now, and ask them about what is their day-to-day job like, and from there, you can reflect their experience with what your career aspiration is or is not. So that will be my recommendation.    

Mac Prichard: 

When you’re building your list of mentors, after you’ve identified the company and the industry you want to work in, are you looking for mentors with different kinds of skills? In other words, you’re probably not approaching just one person. You might be approaching more than one. How do you figure that out, Kwan?  

Kwan Segal:

I got that question all the time. Right? And although it’s great to connect with mentors in the career that you want to pursue, actually cross-industry mentorships can also be very helpful as well. Let’s say, for example, if you want to get into a product management role, but there might be someone in finance in that dream company that you met through a virtual event. So through that connection, just connect with them, and share your career aspiration as well. You never know, like maybe that person can maybe know someone in your target job in your target industry, and they can connect you with that person that they know. So be open-minded and just ready to grow.    

Mac Prichard: 

What do you do if you reach out to someone about being your mentor and they say no? How should you respond?  

Kwan Segal:

I will say, normally, people don’t exactly say no. But they might not really actively engage with you. It could be their own personal reason, like, their life is so busy right now, or some other reason that we never find out. However, never take it personally. Okay?

First of all, never take it personally. You can always show your appreciation for them to be on a call with you, keep them connected about your progress. If the chemistry doesn’t work out between you two, move on to the next person. That happens all the time. Sometimes, you really admire someone, but their life is too busy, and they don’t have time to mentor you. That can happen. Don’t take it personally. 

Mac Prichard: 

Someone does say yes and agrees to be with you, either for a one-time meeting or perhaps an ongoing relationship, but especially for if it’s going to be more than one meeting, what kind of expectations should you have for working with that mentor, or should you try to set? 

Kwan Segal:

I love this question. First of all, I would like to share this data with you. You know that mentees, normally the result of mentorship, mentees are promoted five times more often than those without mentors. And for mentors themselves, they have the chance to get promoted in the organization six times more than other people that never mentor anyone. So you see that relationship between being mentors and mentees – actually, the benefits that you will get from mentorship is on both sides. Right? 

So come to that question, how to make someone really want to, if they say yes, and then how you can utilize that resource and that relationship to the max. First of all, know that they will get the benefit from that as well, but you also number one, don’t waste their time. So before you meet with your mentors, identify what kind of goals and questions that you have for them, and then always do your research before that meeting. 

And number two, be a giver, not a taker. So besides showing them that you are really taking their advice, also find opportunities to help them out, as well. Think about ways that you can contribute to your mentor by learning about their goals. 

And the last point for me is be a go-getter. So take the time to follow up with your mentor and share with them your progress, show them that you really take their advice seriously, and at some point, also if you don’t agree with their advice, at some point during the call, you can also share that experience with them politely. Because actually, mentors like myself, I also want to learn from my mentees as well, and great mentors, great leaders, they are also hoping to learn from the younger generation, and mentors and mentees are two-sided relationships.           

Mac Prichard: 

And what does a relationship with a mentor look like over time? Is this just a one-time meeting in general, Kwan, or should someone seek out and try to cultivate a long-term relationship? And what would that look like?   

Kwan Segal:

It can be a long-lasting relationship as well, and actually, meteor and mentee can, you know, turn out to be a good friendship for a lifetime. Who knows? Right? It really depends on the chemistry that you have, you know, building out, and the relationship is work and everything. But, I would say, as long as you claim this mentor and mentee relationship here as a two-way street, trying to find a way that you can generate benefit, or help your mentors out, and at the same time, consistently share with them your progress, it can last forever, a lifetime.     

Mac Prichard: 

And once you’ve made that career switch, you’ve worked for the mentor, and you’ve moved into the position that you wanted, how do you recommend maintaining that lifetime connection? What’s the best way to stay in touch with a mentor after you’ve changed careers? 

Kwan Segal:

Like for myself, I would say, for myself, I also keep my, actually my first supervisor at BMWS, my mentors, and it’s just so easy because these days we have social media platforms that we can connect with each other, with LinkedIn, with Facebook, Instagram, and much more. So those could be a channel that you can maintain a relationship.

But on top of that, you know, in the US, there are lots of festivals and holidays, so find a way to send out a personalized message during the holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Send a card to them. That is also a way that you can maintain the relationship with your mentors. Just making sure that they know that they are on your minds, and you always think of them.    

Mac Prichard: 

Well, terrific. I’ve really enjoyed our conversation, Kwan. Now, tell us what’s next for you?    

Kwan Segal:

Of course, and thank you for asking, and what’s next for me is to keep growing my community of international students and professionals, and we are a close-knit community of 100+ mentees and mentors here, where we always help each other, as searching for jobs is not an easy task for anyone, but searching for jobs as an international student, you are experiencing like multiple barriers, like work visas and cultural differences. 

So if you are an international student or immigrant in the US, I would like you to stay tuned with our free career resources. I have monthly webinars, and podcasts, and articles where I invite professionals and leaders from different industries to share their insights on how to land a job as an international job candidate. 

And if you have any questions for me, you can also feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn as well and let me know you learn about me from Mac’s podcast.    

Mac Prichard: 

Great, I appreciate the shout-out. I know listeners can also learn about all the services you described and other things that you do by visiting your website www.icaway.com. We’ll be sure to include that in the show notes as well.

Now, Kwan, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to find mentors for a career pivot?    

Kwan Segal:

So one thing that I want you to keep in mind is that no one succeeds alone, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help is a sign of wisdom, and that is something that I got from learning from my mentors. And successful leaders will love to help you when you are determined to achieving your goals, and at the same time, not branding yourself as a taker but a giver. So just be authentic, and have a growth mindset, and if you are going through a career transition or life transition, please let me know. Always know that I am rooting for you because, to me, you are so brave, and all you need is the right strategy to make your dreams come true.  

Mac Prichard: 

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Next week, our guest will be Carol Parker Walsh, Ph.D.

She’s a career strategist, executive coach, and the founder of the Career Rebel Academy. Dr. Parker works with high-achieving women at midlife. 

When you apply for a job, you need to talk about the skills you offer and what you’ve accomplished. 

But because of modesty or other reasons, you may struggle with this. Join us next Wednesday when Dr. Carol Parker Walsh and I talk about how to stop selling yourself short in your job search. 

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletters. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Will Watts. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. 

Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

Switching careers is a challenge at best and can become overwhelming. What if there was a way to shorten the process and make it less painful? There is, and the answer is to find mentors to help you, says Find Your Dream Job guest Kwan Segal. Kwan suggests you start by identifying the industry and specific companies you’d like to work in. Be flexible and willing to meet with someone in that company, even if they’re in a different position than you’re seeking. Kwan reminds us that none of us succeed alone, so reach out to others who can become your mentors and help you make your career switch less overwhelming. 

About Our Guest:

Kwan Segal is a human capital consultant and the founder of ICAway. It’s a career coaching company for international students and immigrants in the US.

Resources in This Episode:

  • If you’re an international student or immigrant, Kwan wants to help you. Find out more by visiting her website at www.icaway.com
  • From our Sponsor: Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. Get a free review of your resume today from one of TopResume’s expert writers.