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Could Your Friends Make Better Career Guides Than Your Mentors?

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Sep. 18 2015, Published 3:30 a.m. ET

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Two months ago, I lost my job.

Breaking the news to my family was one the more difficult things I had to do, but as always, they were supportive and encouraging.

When I broke the news to my friends, however, many of them replied, “Alright, so what’s the plan for you to make this next move your best move?”

Like many millennials, my friends and I thrive on communicating via Google Hangout throughout the day. We use this portal to converse about everything from work to plans for happy hour. But the one common thread I noticed from my friends’ responses to my sudden unemployment is this: they all wanted me to work for myself.

HUH? WHAT? HOW SWAY?!

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Now don’t get me wrong, I was flattered by their encouraging words. But the idea of working for myself seemed overwhelming, daunting and downright scary. So I did what any millennial would do when they think their friends have gone off the deep end – turn to my personal and professional mentors for some quality adult advice.

Similar to breaking the news to my family, it was tough to inform my mentors that I had lost my job. But they too were extremely supportive, and offered to serve as references for any positions that I applied for. As for advice on next steps? “Follow your heart,” one mentor said. “Do what makes you happy,” another one said. “Figure out what it is you want, and go for it,” a third one chimed.

Hmm…all sound advice. And while I love, admire and respect my mentors greatly, perhaps it was time to revisit what my friends had said and create my own path to success.

The thing I’ve learned to love about my friends is that they know me best. From what makes me tick to what makes me giggle like a schoolgirl, they are fully aware of the makings and constant evolution of Chasity Shantel Cooper.

As I actively continue my job search, here are three reasons why I think my friends have made great career guides:

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1. They aren’t afraid to call me out on my stuff, and challenge me to be better. Upon the dismissal from my last job, one of my friends candidly asked, “what went wrong?” And this wasn’t in any way to point the finger of blame in my direction or to make me feel terrible about losing my job, but it was to simply encourage me to figure out what I learned from this situation, and how I can take those lessons into the next position. With that, I wrote a long list of things I did correctly and incorrectly, and how I hope to improve upon them in my next position. This exercise allowed me to reflect and check myself in a major way.

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2. They have pushed me to pursue my purpose, which will then lead to my passionYes, I am passionate about the millennial generation, but that passion isn’t immediately going to have companies banging down  my door. “It’s important to position yourself as expert, and highlight the value you bring to an organization,” one of my friends said during one of our many Google Hangouts. “Social media strategy is your jam – being a millennial just happens to be the icing on the cake. So let your skill set speak for itself, and bring that millennial perspective to the table as a sweet add-on.” Looks like it may be time to pivot, huh? 😉

3.  Finally, they continue to recognize my potential to be great even when I can’t see it in myself. I can recall several times in these past few months when I’ve covered my computer keyboard in tears completely overwhelmed and frustrated with my current situation. And at my lowest moments, is often when one of my friends will send me a word of encouragement, or a job opportunity that they think will be a good fit for me. They have also reminded me this moment is only temporary. “Continue to do what you’re doing – it’s not going unnoticed,” one of my friends texted me a few weeks ago. Even when I’m down in the dumps, my friends (and family too) see a light in me that just can’t be extinguished, and for that I am forever grateful.

Have your friends been helpful in figuring out your next career move?  If so, be sure to share your story in the comments below!

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