Guys. I am so excited. In this blog post, I’m about to share one of the biggest secrets I share with my clients. If you want career advice for women and the personal secret to my small business success, get ready.
Back when I first started my business, I was intoxicated by the level of control I had over my creations, but I was totally overwhelmed by all the options out there. Have you ever been totally excited and totally overwhelmed at the same time?
“I could write about anything!” I thought. I could choose whatever brand colors and images my heart desired. I could design coaching retreats at the beach or keep my business entirely online! As exhilarating as this boundless opportunity was, I didn’t know how to move forward or where to focus, so I ended up wasting a lot of time by trying to reinvent the wheel.
Then I learned that many of my ideas had been done before…….and this, my friends, was a glorious, glorious thing.
As a business coach, I often see entrepreneurs freaking out about not being original enough. While it’s totally normal to have fears around originality (we all do, and it’s easy to fix), having a well-forged path could be the key to your success if you want to make money doing something you love.
Ready for my top piece of career advice for women? Here it is: Find a Career Role Model and learn from their path.
The best part about having a career role model is that it works at all stages of the game and for all types of creative ladies. Whether you’re in a traditional J-O-B and trying to plan your next move, or a baby business owner trying to launch, or a seasoned entrepreneur doing her thang, having a career role model is the best way to avoid mistakes and find the right path for you.
What Is a Career Role Model?
A career role model is basically someone whose career or business you’d love to have some day.
Side note: even if you own a business, you still have a career trajectory you’re following. Entrepreneurs still have career paths!
My personal career role role is Marie Forleo. Marie is a life coach who’s built an online business empire, speaker at Oprah’s Super Soul Sundays, and philanthropist: she donates a portion of her earnings to an organization that supports education. In addition to having really great hair, she’s someone I generally look up to, and even more importantly: she’s someone whose business I admire.
Her specific career path appeals to me because she started coaching clients one-on-one and then scaled her business by creating a signature course that her clients adore. Even when I was nowhere near the point of creating my own courses, I was able to look at Marie and think, “That. I want that. I want what she’s having. How did she get there? What can I learn from her?”
I don’t know Marie Forleo personally….like, we’re not best friends or anything. But, I have watched her from afar (online) for a while and learned a few valuable lessons from her path that have guided the way I run my business and think about my career path. Namely, keep your customers front and center….and, community over competition. Always.
My career role model shares my business values (she takes excellent care of her people and is really available to them) and she is the type of entrepreneur I want to be. I’ve even watched her make mistakes and learned from those.
Who in your life (real or online) fits this description for you? Who do you really look up to? Whose career would you be stoked to have?
How is a Career Role Model different from mentoring for professional women?
Mentoring is amazing, but you can have a career role model even if you don’t have a mentor. A mentor is someone you actually work with, usually one on one. It’s someone you have access to. While you can have access to your career role model, you can admire your career role model and learn from them from afar. You can even have several different career role models for your different hustles!
How a Career Role Model Improves Your Business or Side Hustle
Having a career role model is necessary if you have any discomfort with the unknown. And, I mean, who doesn’t? For a Type A, stability-loving entrepreneur like me, it can be really scary to go with the flow and trust that things will work out. I like a little more control, so having a career role whose path I can study helps me make strategic decisions.
Even if you have a traditional job, you may not always know what’s next on your career path, so having a template can be invaluable when you’re not sure where to focus. For example, with my career role model, I learned that a key to her audience-building success was delivering content via video. While it’s not necessarily something I have to adopt, it’s something for me consider when I’m focusing heavily on building my audience.
You can even have several career role models. For example, though Marie Forleo is my general career role model, I also look up to Nisha Moodley’s creation process and visual branding. You can actually have as many career role models as you want for different parts of your business or different aspects of your job.
Whatever your field, having a guide helps. For example, if you’re an up-and-coming human rights lawyer who wants to make partner at her firm, it’s smart to look at an established partner in the firm to see what kinds of things she did to get the attention of the higher-ups. Or maybe you want to get into politics? Find an established, successful Congressperson and ask them how they got started.
How to Find a Career Role Model
Maybe when you picture where you want your career to go, someone immediately comes to mind. If not, that’s okay. It’s time to do some research. Make Google your friend. Do a little light internet stalking. Ask your community for connections. See who you admire at work.
The only criteria for a good career role model are: a person who’s successful in the field you want to be successful in……in the way you want to be successful in it.
This means finding someone who, more or less, shares your values. For example, if you’re a mom who can’t imagine working 80 hours a week and never seeing her kids, you probably don’t want a hard-hustling workaholic as your career role model—not because there’s anything wrong with her choices, but because she is making choices from a very different value system than you are.
Once you’ve identified this successful person who shares your values, approach them and ask for an informational interview if it’s feasible. If they have several million followers and you’re sending them a DM, the answer will likely be no, but if it’s someone who you know personally or through a friend of a friend, offer to take them to lunch and learn from them. Caveat: try not to do this if teaching/mentoring/consulting is actually their job. That’s asking for free labor, and that’s not cool.
If it’s not feasible to sit down and have a conversation with them in a cafe, make Google your friend again and see what you can learn about their path from LinkedIn or other places online. Follow them, join their newsletters, comment on their blogs, and be an active member of their communities.
What to Look for in a Career Role Model
someone you admire and respect
someone successful in the field you want to be in (in the way you want to be successful)
someone who cares about what you care about in work (ie shares your work values
someone who, when you think about living their life, you go, “damnnn, that would be so cool to do every day!”
someone who’s experienced adversity in their career and come out on top
someone who has a vibrant community of colleagues and genuinely wants others to succeed
Questions to Ask Your Career Role Model
If you do find yourself at lunch with your new career role model or attending their “Ask Me Anything” online, here are a few great questions to start with:
How did you get started with X?
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
What is the biggest career or business mistake you’ve ever made, and how did you handle it?
What’s your biggest advice for dealing with (whatever you’re struggling with here)?
If you were back in my shoes, what’s the biggest thing you’d be focused on?
What big changes in our industry are you most excited for?
What do you wish you could tell your younger self?
What’s next for you?